The Devils Tea Table Kingwood Township NJ. (So yeah as a small boy the Tea Table really etched its self into my little brain.)

The Devil's Tea Table

Devils Tea Table Kingwood Township, Hunterdon County, NJ.

The Devils Tea Table  

By Richard G Smith Jr  

© RICHARD G SMITH JR 
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED NO RIGHTS GRANTED UNLESS IN WRITING BY RICHARD G SMITH JR 
RECKLESS PIXEL & LENZWIZARD ARE REGISTERED TRADE NAMES OF RICHARD G SMITH JR. © COPYRIGHT 

So, let’s talk about this curious place called “Devils Tea Table.” Also let’s clarify that we are talking about the tea table located on a ridge above the Delaware River in Kingwood Township Hunterdon County New Jersey. Yes, there is more than one Devils Tea Table and we’ll get to that a little later on. I am writing this article for a few different reasons and there will be a few shorter versions of the article that will focus on specific things such as; How the tea table area transitioned from a hiking destination to a partying hangout and to its current state of an “off limits” area controlled by the state of NJ. There will also be an article about the moronic legend of the Indian chief who was supposedly killed there and I will also write about the settlers who first came to that area and the Lenape who were there before the settlers. At the current time of this writing the State of New Jersey is proposing plans to rework the Devils Tea Table area into a safer place for visitors. While this sounds good on the surface, I personally feel this would certainly ruin the pristine beauty and natural setting that has been there for hundreds if not thousands of years.     

I have actually spent a lot of time over the past several months researching the tea table. Being a local and having grown up in the area I have always known about the tea table and as a child in the late 60s and early 70s I would hear adults talk about the place, so I thought I knew a lot about the tea table and really, I did. However, when I dived in to my research, I learned so much more than I expected. I must also say that what really lit my fire about doing all this research was when I read about the so-called legend of the Indian chief killed there by other Indians (his enemies).1 As a kid I never heard of this queer legend and then I see that even Kingwood Township had it attached to their municipal website, so I set out to debunk the legend and I just kept digging further and further into everything about the tea table.   

The research started with reading countless newspaper articles dating all the way back to the early 1800s. I also read books written about the settlers of the Raven Rock area (located a few miles south of the Tea Table area), I followed family genealogy lines along with stories of wealthy settlers, stories of love and stories of bastard children born out of wedlock. There were also many emails and a few phones calls to various people or organizations. I contacted the Delaware Nation in Oklahoma2 (former Lenape Indians) and they were very helpful with the Indian legend debunking. I contacted the New Jersey State Police and we talked about what happens when trespassers are caught and how the location is patrolled today. I contacted geology professors for proper terminology and clarification about tea tables and I of course captured video and photos of the location. Yes, I must say it has been quite a trip to say the least.  

Every aspect of this research was very interesting, however reading countless newspaper articles from almost 200 years ago to the present day is what I think was the most interesting because it really showed a vast change in our society. I’m essentially researching a rock formation and who knew that the research would show how the location went from a wonderful natural landmark (and it still is) that people would hike eleven plus miles to see and cherish the memory of, the day and of the scenery, to a place where people would hide guns, possibly a dead body, paint graffiti, have beer & drug using parties and of course in the end it becomes a place where people either become severely injured or die from falling. And oddly enough not all the fall victims were drunk or high.   

Other odd things are; nowhere nearly as many people died there as people think, most all the deaths and sever injuries occurred in the 70s, the name Devils Tea Table is used to raise the value or add prominence to real estate listings, the place caused distress to township road department workers who were constantly replacing “No Parking” signs3 and the list goes on and on of odd little facts associated with a beautifully odd & quirky rock formation located on a ridge next to a river. I even went back as far as to find the life story of the original land owner, from where he grew up and how he met his wife and came to the area to start up his homestead. I also learned a great deal about the area just South of the Tea Table where Byram lies on the Jersey side and Point Pleasant on the PA side and the area further south known today as Raven Rock4.  

At this time, I am still researching, however I am coming to the end. I think the most interesting detail in the end is how the tea table became known as “Devils Tea Table” and lost the name “Warford’s Rock.” Even with all my searching there still are a few missing pieces to the puzzle. Some of these missing pieces I am waiting on. They are either people who have info and haven’t found it yet or just haven’t gotten back to me yet. Other pieces are thing I may never find. Interestingly, all along the way I have mentioned this project to many people and I am very surprised by the response I get. Some people have great information and others have personal stories about day trips and the fun they had hiking up there. Then of course I would get the people who wanted to tell me pure BS, most of which is debunked by newspaper articles.    

  

“Tea Table” is a term used in geology to describe “A tea table is a type of rock column comprising discrete layers, usually of sedimentary rock, with the top layers being wider than the base due to greater resistance to erosion and weathering.” Tea tables are a “freak of nature” I guess you could say and we have one of them right here in Hunterdon County New Jersey. To be specific it is located on the south end of a ridge overlooking the Delaware River in Kingwood Township. The intersection of state highway route 29 and Warsaw road sit at the base of this ridge. On top of the ridge is moderately dense forest that give way to more open land as you move east away from the river.   

I grew up in neighboring Delaware Township (late 60s through the 70s) and can remember my parents occasionally talking about the Devils Tea Table.5 I always loved when we would ride along route 29 because there was always a chance, I would see a train chugging away on the tracks that were located so close to the road. And in some areas the road was above the tracks and you could look down on the top of the train as it cruised along. What could be more enjoyable for a small boy but to see a train so close up and moving at the same time. Sadly, though there was not always a train and we didn’t really travel route 29 that often. However, there was another very interesting thing about the ride along route 29 and that would be to get a glimpse of Devils Tea Table. If we were traveling north and I was on the passenger’s side of the car I would be able to look up and see it. I would see it for about three or four seconds, I had to twist my neck and look almost straight up and there it would be. Unlike the train, the tea table was always there. My father said it was there when the Indians were here and again, to a small boy in 1969 that was the coolest thing. It really is funny how times have changed so much. As a child the word Indians opened up visions in my mind of western movies where cowboys and Indians would fight and there were good Indians like Tonto6 the Lone Ranger’s faithful side kick and Chief Halftown7 the host of a tv show. Just imagine; I am now 54 years old and when I was small kid there were still a few “real live Indians” around, they were far and few between but there were a few.   

So yeah, as a small boy the Tea Table really etched its self into my little brain. Then there was the fact it was called “Devils Tea Table” and the word “devil,” well that just made a little boy’s ears perk up and cower down all at the same time. I had visons of the Indians sitting up on that rock smoking a pipe and worshiping the devil. After all Indians were savages right? That’s what they called them in the movies when the army or cowboys fought with them. But Chief Halftown seemed cool, I mean he was the host of a children’s tv show. Man, I was really confused as kid, but Indians were cool and the Devils Tea Table was cool.   

As time passed and we moved into the 70s I would start to hear different things about Devils Tea Table, things about “people going up there to get high.” I heard a friend of my father’s saying about how “the hippies8 go up there to get high” and I was confused because after all the tea table is over 300 feet above the road, so if somebody went up there, they certainly would be “high.” Right? Seriously, I had no idea what he was talking about, all I knew was “if I’m down here and you’re up there, you are higher than me and you would be high. I’m confused again, I was just a young boy.   

I knew what hippies were or at least I knew what my father told me hippies were. My father not being of the hippie era would talk about hippies as if they were a blight on society. Any time he talked about hippies it would always start with “ah them damn hippies…” And then there was the local hippie biker (kind of) gang that roamed the roads on their loud motorcycles, but they seemed pretty harmless, actually stupid would be more like it.   

All I knew was times were changing and hippies were causing problems at the tea table. Then a hippie fell off the tea table and the cops came and it was the talk of the night as my father and his friends gathered to work on a car and drink beer in our driveway. And then for the next few years (1972-75) I would hear stories about wild parties that took place at the tea table. I was getting a little older and wiser and I now knew what “getting high” was and knew that it wasn’t just hippies that were the problem. Turns out “hippies” was a broad stroke of the brush that was painted to label anyone who smoke pot or marijuana as it was officially known. Beer played an even bigger role I think and I’ll tell you why soon.   

So now I find myself in 9th grade at Hunterdon Central High School and until now I have only ever heard stories about the Devils Tea Table and of course those 4 second glimpse of it as I would pass by in a car. However, 9th grade turned out to be a pivotal point because Mr. Ransavage’s science class would take a class trip there every year. It seemed rather odd that we would be going there on a class trip, but hey Mr. Ransavage was a cool teacher or at least I thought so. 9th grade science class was actually very boring to me; I mean all this talk about rocks and dinosaurs did not fit in with my ideas of fun. I was interested in dirt bike motorcycles and BMX racing, rock music and dirt track racecars. But when Mr. R mentioned a class trip to the Devils Tea Table, he had my attention.   

So, as I remember that day our class trip had several other stops but, one stop was at the Devils Tea Table. I remember the bus stopped right along route 29 and most students disembarked out the back door of the bus. The hike was very steep although the path was well worn and for 14-year-old kids it was pretty much like a hop, skip and a jump to get to the top. And that “hop, skip and a jump” thing changes with age lol. Once at the top we were told not to go on the table it’s self however a few kids did.   

At that time, I remember standing there and thinking of all the times I had seen it from the car window and now  

here I am looking at it close up and it didn’t look like there was any kinship to an “Indian place” at all. There was graffiti painted on almost every part of the rock and the surrounding rocks too. I remember thinking “I guess that is what hippies do.” “They get high and paint on rocks.”  Also, there were pieces if broken glass on practically every inch of ground. I remember standing there taking in the whole scene and thinking “I can see how this could be a cool place to come and chill out for a while.” I am standing there with a whole bunch of kids and there is talking and laughing but, imagine this place without all that noise, it would be a really peaceful place and, in my opinion, it would look a whole lot nicer without all the graffiti.   

Our trip back to the bus took us down a different direction, instead of going down the steep climbing trail we headed away from the Tea Table following a trail that took us past a cave like formation in the rocks where there was even more evidence of a fire ring, broken beer bottles and beer cans. Perplexing my mind were other things I seen, like broken lawn chairs, a tire, broken badminton racket and other odd things. “Somebody carried a tire up here?” We walked not too far and headed down toward the creek that runs parallel to Warsaw Road, we crossed the creek and walked to the bus and onto the next stop.   

After the school trip it would be many years before I would revisit the location. The class trip was in 1979 and I left Hunterdon Central High School after 9th grade and finished out my high school years in Virginia. Upon returning to New Jersey in 1983 and meeting up with old friends everybody pretty much was saying the Devils Tea Table is off limits because too many people had died from falling off the Tea Table and that the police were watching it like a hawk. My friend Dean said “don’t go, you’ll get arrested.” Now aside from the people falling and some being killed, the large 150 person drinking parties where upon kegs of beer9 were carried up to the nearly 350-foot-high Tea Table area, there enters in the search for a dead body. May 5, 1994 New Jersey State police head to the Devils Tea Table and surrounding area to search for Gina Marie Gallo’s body.10 She had went missing in 1981 from a Bordentown motel room, she was 22 years old. In 1993 new leads and information had been uncovered that pointed to her body being somewhere at the Tea Table area. So now this just adds to more mystery about Devils Tea Table as the news of the search makes for a great new headline. However, nothing about Miss Gallo is ever found there and her skull is found by hunters on a trash heap in Hamilton Township Mercer County in December 1997.11   

Ten years later in 1993 I was living in a small apartment located in the tiny village of Brookville just south of Stockton about 8 miles south of the Tea Table. One day my girlfriend Sue and I decided to ride our bicycles to the Tea Table. For a few weeks we had been talking about going there. The huge parties seemed to be a thing of the past, although there were still “No Trespassing” signs and people were still being injured. But, one day while I was riding my bike along the river trail, I noticed a few hikers walking along route 29 and they quickly just ducked over the guardrail and headed up the trail to the Tea Table so, I thought “hey, why not.” The next weekend Sue and I rode up, parked the bikes in the drainage tunnel that runs under route 29 right at that location and headed up to the Tea Table.   

It was a lot of fun and I had flashbacks to the 1979 class trip. Once at the top things were pretty much the same as I had seen them in 79 with the exception some of the graffiti had been washed away and the broken glass wasn’t as prevalent. The trail was still very well worn and you could tell people were still visiting the place all the time. There were small signs of fresh visitors, signs like fresh cigarette butts, a small camp fire that looked only days old, a few beer cans and food wrappers. But it was nothing like the well-worn days of the 1979 class trip. While we were there a few other hikers came up and stayed a while, then a few more came.   

Sue and I stayed for a few hours and headed back the same way I did in 79, walking away from the Tea Table and heading down the easier trail to the creek, back to the bikes and headed home.   

As years passed, I visited the Tea Table as a solo hiker a few times. Usually on a weekday and again riding from Stockton on my bike. It wasn’t until a few years back I got the idea of the Tea Table back in my head however, this time it was about photography, I wanted to capture a nice photo of the Devils Tea Table and then I got to thinking and realized how many people have captured photos of it. But I have a drone now so, why not get a nice drone shot. Then I got interested in the history of the Tea Table, “how many people did die up there?” And “did Indians really go there?” Geez, today we have internet so, I can find the answers to all my wonderments I have had over the years. Also why not write about it? And really the reason for writing about it is to kind of show that not as many people died up there as I was told or lead to believe. I guess it was one of those things where a few true things did happen and soon stories get exaggerated and facts get mixed up or misconstrued and soon the real stories and facts are lost in the mix. Even today I will hear people say “yeah they found a woman’s body up there one time,” certainly a testament to people haphazardly reading paper headlines and not the whole story.   

Irony is woven through the fabric of history and Devils Tea Table is no exception. As I was digging into the newspaper articles from the 1970s the running theme is that it was a place where people went to party, drinking beer, smoking pot and using illegal drugs. But this reputation was something new to the Tea Table, for not so long ago it was a very prominent hiking destination.12 13  

Remember how I said earlier that I was bothered by the legend that a famous Indian chief was killed at the Tea Table and that this really in my opinion was absurd. So, to debunk this idiodic story I had to dig back further, back to when there were actually Indians roaming this location. As I dig back year by year, I find that during the early to mid-1900s there were many times advertisements in Philadelphia area newspapers inviting day hikers to journey up to the Devils Tea Table.14 Boy scouts, girl scouts and other outdoors and nature groups15,16 frequented the Tea Table on a regular basis and this seems to have continued right up to 1968 or at least that is what newspaper articles show.   

The first incident of illicit activity shows up in a Courier-News article dated February 1, 1947, when it was discovered a 16-year-old parolee from the Jamesburg Reformatory broke into a Kingwood Township home and stole guns a flashlight and a piece of salami (really?).  New Jersey State Police recovered one of the stolen guns at Devils Tea Table.17 However other that this lone incident no other bad things appear in the newspapers until we get up into the 1970’s.   

So, the irony lies in the fact that this once popular hiking destination that seemed to be loved by nature & hiking groups, now becomes a place that is loved by partiers who go there and get arrested. Then in the 90’s it is tagged as a place you could hide a dead body. For what it is worth only two people appeared to have lost their life from falling at the Tea Table however, there were numerous injured and several tactical rescues. For the most part if you fall from the Tea Table or a surrounding rock you will not fall to the highway. Instead, you drop about 70+ feet where you land (or bounce off of) trees or more rocks. Needless to say, the result of falling from the tea table is going to; as Tommy Boy would say “leave a mark” if not kill you first. Oddly (or maybe not) in all the stories I read about the (1900s) day hikers I could find nothing about anybody falling or being hurt in anyway while visiting the Tea Table. I even uncovered a photo of boy scouts of long ago standing on the edges of the rocks below the Tea Table where it would be more likely to slip and fall. Did society really get more stupid in the 1970’s?   

The only two deaths listed at the Devils Tea Table are December 24/25 1978 when Thomas Dienes fell18 and October 1979 when 17-year-old David Giordano fell.19 Trooper Irving MacConnnell (Flemington State Police Barracks) recalling to the Courier News about Dienes’ fall saying; it took over two hours for rescue to locate him and while still alive at that time but, frozen from the cold he was found lying there staring at the sky and scattered about was debris of beer cans & bottles. The rescue involved a helicopter and grappling irons.  He was later pronounced dead upon arriving at Hunterdon Medical Center.20   

As for Giordano’s fall his friend John Gale claimed that while they were camping around 3:00am it started to rain and they were looking for a dry place to sit when Giordano slipped in mud and fell.   

Aside from those two deaths by falling I could find no other news articles that listed anyone dying for any reason related to the Tea Table. There are numerous listings of arrests and injuries. As I stated earlier; growing up in neighboring Delaware Township the local stories were that “many people died by falling” and there was even a story about a woman’s skeleton found in the early 70’s, although my searches revealed no stories of that. If true I think I would have uncovered that event for sure but, maybe not.   

So, let’s talk about Devils Tea Table in real estate listings.21,22 Same as today people will try to embellish a listing as much as they can. Neighbor’s houses if real close are always cropped out of a photo and location are often times overstated. Such would be the case in real estate listings that would describe property as being “in the Devils Tea Table area” as if this would be a good thing. Of all the listings I read some even claimed to have the Tea Table on the property however the property sizes would range from 50 acers to over 100 acers and it is a far stretch of the imagination that one could by the Tea Table property one year and sell it the next year at a different size. Not to mention for the number of listings it would mean the Tea Table property was being bought and sold like kid’s trade baseball cards or comic books. One listing even goes as far as to advertise “Dining at The Devil’s Tea Table”23 visitors will be taken by a van to the location.   

Indian Legend  

Chief Big Mountain is believed to have been killed by his enemies at the Tea Table. His killers supposedly rolled a big rock on his head crushing him to death.24 And to some people; when viewing the profile of the Devils Tea Table from the south side looking north the rock formation is said to have the appearance of an Indian with a crushed head. Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good legend, I really do. However, a good legend has to be believable. Let’s take a second here and find out what exactly a legend is.   

As per todays listing on Wikipedia;  Legendis a genre of folklore that consists of a narrative featuring human actions perceived or believed both by teller and listeners to have taken place within human history. Narratives in this genre may demonstrate human values, and possess certain qualities that give the tale verisimilitude. Legend, for its active and passive participants, includes no happenings that are outside the realm of “possibility,” but may include miracles. Legends may be transformed over time, in order to keep them fresh, vital, and realistic. Many legends operate within the realm of uncertainty, never being entirely believed by the participants, but also never being resolutely doubted.  

 Essentially a legend is a story that is somewhat believable and could have possibly have happened, it could be a mix of truth and fiction but, if all fiction it should be able to have realistically have happened.   

So, the legend claims an Indian named Chief Big Mountain was killed by his enemies when they rolled a big rock, boulder, stone or whatever on his head (I’m assuming while at or near the Tea Table) and then some renditions claim his spirit lives at Devils Tea Table and blah, blah, blah… So, this whole thing seems so hokey it isn’t even worth discussing but you know I will lol. First question; who the hell is Chief Big Mountain? Second; How do you roll a boulder on someone’s head when they’re at the top of the mountain or in this case a 360-foot ridge? I think the second question answers itself. While researching the first question I was led down a quite interesting rabbit hole. Actually, my research leads me down two rabbit holes. See, I wanted to also know how this rock formation got its name but more about that later.   

I was born and raised in this area and while I am no expert on Lenape people, I do know a fair amount of history and Chief Big Mountain does not appear in any of what I know. But, hey maybe there was a Chief Big Mountain who roamed the Delaware River region. Well, who better to ask that the Lenape Indians themselves (or what’s left of them)? The Lenape are now called the Delaware Indians and the Delaware nation is located in Anadarko Oklahoma.25 Upon contacting the Delaware Indians and explaining the legend my query was handed off to the language director who (like me) knew Chief Big Mountain is not a Lenape name. The language director contacted a friend in New Jersey who knew the name right away. Turns out there actually was a Chief Big Mountain and believe it or not he lived right here in New Jersey.26 Matter of fact he is buried in Sparta New Jersey.27 But don’t get your hopes up to quick… He was Comanche and not Lenape although some newspapers call him Navajo and all newspapers say he is from New Mexico. Chief Sabastian Big Mountain was a real person who traveled with (info a little sketchy here) Either Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show or Ringling Brothers Circus or maybe both at different times in his life.   

After finding out Chief Big Mountain (born about 1877) was real, I became interested in who he actually was and how he ended up in New Jersey. After the Wild West shows started to lose their appeal, he shows up in a news article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle newspaper February 19, 1933 whereupon he walks into a New York City police headquarters in “tribal costume” with his wife and two children and announces he is “destitute” and can no longer pay his rent. Then just before being sent to the municipal shelter he was taken in by a friend, who would try to find help for him and the family.28 He then shows up in many different newspaper advertisements over the next several years. Seems that while the live Wild West shows had lost popularity, people still wanted to see a “real live Indian” and he would appear at grand openings and other like events. He was essentially paid to attract people to events and sometimes his wife and children appeared with him and they would be billed as “come see real life Indian family.”29 Then we find him as a gate keeper at Lake Mohawk where he resided in a “thatched” house with his family.30 He passed away in Newton Memorial hospital in 1954 at the age of 77.  

So, yeah, a bit of a rabbit hole I ran down following info about his life however in the end I think (but not positive) that this is where the “Chief Big Mountain” name comes from that got attached to The Devils Tea Table legend. I am thinking because this man lived in New Jersey and he was most likely known for his days with the Wild West or Circus shows and he appeared at grand openings and other events his name would come to mind if you wanted to make up a legend about a rock on a ridge. As time goes by younger generations have no idea what a Wild West show is and I have personally met teens just last year that think “while Indians were once here, it was like two thousand years ago.” (True story right there.) Yes, as time goes by people forget or history gets warped and distorted. Given the fact that the Wild West show era ran from 1870 to about the 1920s and Sabastian Big Mountain being born around 1877 puts a decent time frame for his named to be known enough in the back of people’s minds to be used for this legend.   

So, I think it is safe to say “no Indian got his head crushed at Devils Tea Table.  

Now that we have put that whole not-so-believable legend out of the way it was time to conquer the Tea Table name. “Devils Tea Table” or “Devil’s Tea Table” or “The Devil’s Tea Table,” which one is the proper and I’m not really sure because depending on how you look at it or how you say it changes things up a little bit. The name appears in most places as being “Devils Tea Table” however, many people refer to it as “The Devil’s Tea Table.” But I wanted to know why? Why Devils Tea Table? Afterall it was known as Warford’s Rock. So, to get a further understanding of where the word “devil fits in and to explore some history of how the location went from a beautiful and wondrous natural rock formation to a party place where people fall to their death, it is worth a side trip back into history.    

John Wharford or Warford31 was the man who purchased 204 acres of land June 6, 1734 that was located on a plateau above the Delaware River. At the Southernmost corner of the property is where there was a unique rock formation that stood as a pedestal like stone with a flat wider shaped stone on top giving the appearance of a one-legged table. Given the fact that many settlers where tea drinkers and old English tea tables were often times (but not always) round with a pedestal like base, one can easily see how this rock formation could arrive with “tea table” as a description. However, “Tea Tables” can be referenced in geology, a tea table is a rock formation that is a remnant of newer strata that have eroded away. A tea table is a type of rock column comprising discrete layers, usually of sedimentary rock, with the top layers being wider than the base due to greater resistance to erosion and weathering. Sometimes these occur just beyond bluffs or cliffs at the end of a ridge; sometimes they are the only rock formation remnant on top of a ridge or even in fairly level ground. Tea tables are a variety of hoodoos. This Wikipedia description 100% describes the formation. So, tea table formations can be found elsewhere and amazingly enough there are others that have the word “devil” placed in front of the word’s tea table but, why?  

But how did it get the word “devil” added? So, before we get to the devil part let’s first look the time of John Warford’s arrival.   

There are very easy tracings of John Warford (Jr) though internet genealogy sites and it is a very interesting little rabbit hole to run down.   

We know he was born in Eastchester, NY between 1683 & 1689, at age 19 he is found in Middletown New Jersey and marries Elizabeth Stout in 1708.32 Elizabeth is from a prominent family although she is considered a “tainted” woman for a having a bastard child at age 14 in 1705. Giving birth to a child out of wedlock has serious complications during this period of history. She was sentenced by The Grand Jury of Monmouth County to receive 10 lashes upon her bare back or pay 10 pounds fine. Her father paid the fine and spared her the 10 lashes of the whip.33 Although many internet sites have their marriage listed as Kingwood Township this is 100% incorrect because John & Elizabeth do not arrive in Hunterdon County until 1729 and Kingwood Township did not exist at the time they were married.34 In 1734 John Warford purchases the 204 acers of property overlooking the Delaware River.35 Elizabeth being a Baptist becomes part of the Baptist community of Kingwood/Baptistown and there is much well documented history that can be found about that.   

Now back to the matters of the Tea Table rock formation.   

  

It appears that John Warford purchased the land from William Biddle Jr whose father had acquired 43,000 acers in West New Jersey in a deal made with William Penn (and others) in 1676.36 The older Biddle sealed the land tract deal with William Penn prior to setting sail to New Jersey. Once here Biddle Sr made his home in Burlington, NJ. With this being said; it would appear that John Warford was the first long term resident of the property because in due time his name was given to the rock formation and to the creek that runs down from the highlands to the river. The creek is located a little north of the Tea Table location and follows a southwest path to the river. There are no other formal names that I could find for this rock formation prior to it formally being named “Warford’s Rock.” I did however find a few references that the rock was used as a navigational land mark for those traversing up and down the river, both before and after being named Warford’s Rock.   

What would life be like in the area of the Tea Table in 1734? Well as for the Lenape; at this time, they would have been very scarce in this area. Most Lenape had started to leave several years earlier and as a note; one has to know there were not as many Indians in this area as one might think, depending on how much you know about Indian history in NJ. Speculation puts Lenape population at around 2000 when the Dutch arrive in the early 1600s. By 1700 is about 500 mostly due to wars, disease from white contact and other problems like alcohol consumption.37   

But nonetheless 1734 would have been a very primitive life by today’s standards in this part of New Jersey. At the time the land fell under Bethlehem Township (later to become Kingwood Township). There would have been a settlement and ferry crossing north of Warford’s property where what is now known as Frenchtown,38 although Frenchtown is still 130+ years away. There is no mention of a road leading up river past what would now be Warford Creek however, 3 miles south of his property would lie Bull’s Island and at the time would be known as Saxtonville and or Raven Rock. The area is mentioned by all three names in various writings of that time period. The area had what appears to have been a Lenape name “Mauanissing” and in the book “Stories of Raven Rock” the author speculates this could have meant “Raven Rock” however it appears Mauanissing has no English translation.39 Either way this area 3 miles south of Warford homestead was an up-and-coming settlement that would soon see a lot of activity in the years ahead.   

About a mile north of Raven Rock there would have been a ferry crossing, if not before, then shortly after 1734. Ferry crossings always brought about other businesses like taverns, trading posts and stores. In those days there were two kinds of lifestyle, there were those who stayed close in small communities, villages and growing towns and then there were those who ventured off for the rural farm life. One could only imagine that this Tea Table rock formation back at that time was a place of pure pristine wilderness that saw very few people.   

In my research I find no other writings (worth noting) about the Tea Table other than at some point after Warford’s homestead is established and the population is constantly increasing the formation becomes known as Warford’s Rock. Also, his name is given to the creek running from his property to the river. In addition, I find nothing of the era that has a legend of any Indian (Chief or not) being killed at the rock formation.  

How did the Devil lay his name to this rock?  

As we leave behind the hard-colonial life of John & Elizabeth Warford we move to over 150 years later and things have really changed. Warford’s homestead now lies in the relatively newly founded (1798) Kingwood Township. Frenchtown has been founded and there is a railroad that connects Frenchtown to Phillipsburg & Trenton.  Long gone are the days of ferry crossings that have given way to bridges connecting New Jersey to Pennsylvania. At this time lifestyles have advanced from the harsh working life to weekend get-a-ways. Essentially people are more active in the daily and weekly travels. This is also a time when we see the rock formation being called “Devils Tea Table.” The newly formed Boy Scouts camping becomes very active in the area up and down the Delaware River as does other outdoors and nature groups. I could not seem to pin-point an exact year the rock is given the name Devils Tea table but, it seems to have arrived at this calling in the late 1800s.    

Seems the Devil had not only stolen Warford’s Rock, actually it appears he had tea tables in many other locations. Various forms of tea table formations can be found in several location throughout Pennsylvania and other states. West Virginia seems to have a lot of these eroding wonders. In my searching I find what seems to be the most likely reason these formations would be somehow associated with the Devil and that reason is… superstition. Sure, why not! Superstitions are an amazing thing to me personally and I am not a very superstitious person. They amaze me because for the most part they are not real and like the fake Chief Big Mountain legend; something that is not real just seems so corny. I’ll admit when I was younger, I would somewhat buy into a superstition however as my years have passed I have not much time for fake corny stories. Now don’t get me wrong, I love things like Santa Clause and what it adds to the enjoyment of children and I too love a good Halloween horror story. But when I look back at some of the most idiodic superstitions it really makes me wonder about why people think what they think. The Salem which trails where fueled by superstitious people who burned their own at the stake and this is just one of literally hundreds of times throughout history people were out of their minds because of superstitions. At one time people though tomatoes to be poisonous and wouldn’t eat them. Not due to Superstition but rather to ignorance and look at tomato consumption today. Superstitions are usually spawned from fear of the unknown, lack of understanding (or interpreting) evidence or just pure ignorance.   

So, while the lonely rock formation standing high upon the ridge remains unchanged through the centuries the names associated with it, just like society they are ever changing. And now we find that for some rather odd reason we need to attach the devil to it. Why? Because it looks different and odd therefore there has to be something spiritual or supernatural about the rock. Right?   

While I was digging through search after search I one day come upon this rather odd blog site40 that had photos of Tea Table formations from West Virginia. Amongst the photos was an image of the Tea Table in Kingwood Township New Jersey. In the paragraphs of that page, I found the following that more or less hits the nail right smack on the head in regards to the Devil laying claim to Tea Table rock formation.   

“People refer to these formations as “The Devil’s Tea Tables” not only because they look like giant stone tables but also because some believe that the devil himself visits them. It is said that when the devil is around a heavy mist will shroud the tea tables and hide him. The stories associated with these rock formations are yet another example of West Virginia’s wild and wonderful folklore.”  

This is content I found about other tea tables;  

The Legend / Folklore  

“One day two men were traveling down the Elk River in a boat. It was a beautiful day and they had finished work, so they took their time. A magnificent tea table formation that they had often passed came into view. One of the men wanted to stop and hike up to it. Since they had time, the hiker’s friend was happy to stop. He agreed to sit and wait with the boat.  

  

When they reached the tea table, they saw that it was hidden by an odd mist that clung on it and nothing else. The man’s partner didn’t give the mist a second thought and jumped from the boat as soon as they got to shore. The one started scrambling up the slope, while the other sat back and kicked his feet up. He figured it would take his partner a half an hour or so to get there and back. The man waited and waited and waited.  

  

Hours later his partner stumbled back down the hill, climbing into the boat without a word. His eyes were empty, devoid of life. He never recovered. He spent the rest of his life an empty shell of a man for he had stumbled upon the devil himself.  

  

He’d had the horrible misfortune of interrupting the devil having tea. The devil had loomed before him and looked at the man with cruel and merciless eyes. Then the devil had reached down and, with a mere pinch of his finger, he pulled away the man’s soul. He crumbled it up and sprinkled it into his cup of tea like a bit of sugar. Then the devil waved the man away and returned to his tea. This was not the first time someone unwittingly stumbled upon the devil, and it sure won’t be the last. So, take heed. If you see a devil’s tea table, admire it from afar. If a mist surrounds it, look away and run!”  

  

  

Huh… who knew the Devil is tea drinker.  

Unlike the Chief Big Mountain legend, I rather like this little story about Satan and the Tea Table. There was no author listed. Following that story was also a poem that I will share here.  

  

The Devil’s Tea Tables Poem by James Ball Naylor41  

O monster rock! Firm-poised it stands  

  

Upon a base of crumbling shale.  

  

‘Twas shaped by Satan’s cunning hands  

  

In ages past- so runs the tale-  

  

And served Hell’s demons, great and small,  

  

As table to their banquet ball.  

  

Though countless years have rolled away  

  

The Devil’s table stands today  

  

As firm as when, with hellish glee,  

  

The black imps held their revelry.  

  

It seems the feeble flut’ring breath  

  

That issues from the lips of death-  

  

The faint and fickle summer breeze  

  

That stirs the blossoms on the trees  

  

Could shake the great rock’s slender base  

  

And hurl it from its resting place.  

  

And yet the strongest gales that sweep  

  

Across the torrid Indian deep,  

  

The Polar winds- the fierce cyclone-  

  

Are all too weak, combined alone,  

  

To cast the monarch from its throne.  

  

Beyond the blue Muskingum’s bed  

  

It rears its gray and wrinkled head.  

  

Though aged, still erect, sublime  

  

It gazes on the march of time,  

  

And towers above the verdant sod,  

  

A monument to nature’s God.  

  

When years on years have hurried past  

  

Until God’s dial marks the last,  

  

Oh! May the grim old rock still keep  

  

Its vigil on the stony steep.  

As always… Thank you so much for reading and have a great day.  

  

Rich  

 

Why I do not leave feedback for Amazon purchases. (…look at the ass raping that took place when I tried to purchase a product on Amazon)

Why I do not leave feedback for Amazon purchases.

Who hasn’t purchased something from Amazon.com? Kind of a dumb question at this point in the year 2020. I have been buying from Amazon all the way back when Amazon was just selling one thing and one thing only… books. In fact, when you tell a millennial “Amazon used to be just a book dealer”, they’re in the same shock and disbelief as when they hear that “cool ZZ Top” song and then find out that they’re great grandparents seen ZZ Top live.

As we moved into the era of online shopping there needed to be a way of knowing a website or merchant was reputable, honest and had merchandise that lived up to the description. It wasn’t long before the “feedback” system appeared with star ratings or positive vs negative feedback to put customers at ease and feel confident about making an online purchase. At least with a brick & mortar store you have the ability to return your unsatisfactory product and confront someone in person.

However, the day the feedback system was created it was most likely the very next day merchants like Amazon started creating a system to fuck customers over with fake feedback, fake reviews, false or misleading reviews and of course fake star ratings. If you follow this post through to its entirety, I will describe to you how people create fake feedback on eBay and other sites as well.

But, first let us look at the ass raping that took place when I tried to purchase a product on Amazon and was totally mislead. Then when I tried to leave a 1-star review of the product because Amazon refused to change the wording of the product, Amazon would not post my review. Amazon claimed that my review did not follow their guidelines. All I did was submit a review that stated I received the wrong product, I showed a photo of the product and the wording of my review was rather mild, coherent and to the point.

That was the day I stopped reviewing products on Amazon.

I am a photographer/videographer and PolarPro Filters sells higher end gear for cameras & drones. I fully believe they are a good honest company. The dealer on Amazon was listed as “Polar Pro Filters” and not PolarPro Filters. I did not catch this detail in the misleading spelling and this would account for the reason the dealer was a fake.

The product I purchased was a counterweight for a DJI phone gimbal. I wanted a counterweight for a DJI Osmo Mobile 1 and I received a counterweight for an Osmo Mobile 2, despite the description clearly stating the product was for the Mobile 1 and not for the Mobile 2.  Not to mention the fact that when I received the product you could tell the box had been opened multiple times and re-taped shut. I mean this whole ordeal was as preposterous as any thing could ever be. It was almost as if it was a prank, sadly it was not. So, after going back & forth with Amazon I decided to just give up, keep the product, which I gave to a friend who had an Osmo Mobile 2 and just put the whole thing behind me. I truly believe the product I received was not a fake (just the wrong one) and I don’t really hold anything against the maker of the product (PolarPro Filters). However, to this day I have never submitted another review for any product I have purchased from www.amazon.com . Prior to this I almost always left some sort of a review on just about every purchase, I believed in the feedback & star rating system. Sure, I could usually tell which reviews were the fake reviews that were created by the dealer of a product but this time I was done with it all. Now I know some people reading this post will say “hey what about all the honest dealers” that sell on Amazon. And to that I say “screw’em all.” Harsh, brash, rude… call it what you will, I really don’t care. If I get a product I don’t like I return it and as for my camera gear; if I am making a high dollar purchase I will head on over to www.bhphotovideo.com/ . For low quality camera gear, I use Amazon for what it actually is; A place to buy cheap junk made in China.

So, what about the fake positive feedback on eBay? Ok, so I have been on eBay since August of 2000. I have purchased on eBay and I have sold on eBay. I realized from the get-go that maintaining a 100% feedback rating was paramount. I have listed my own sales for eBay and more so I have helped several friends sell on eBay. I have sold items as small as a vintage postage stamp and as large as a Caterpillar Bulldozer and everything in between. I have sold items that seemed worthless however, somebody in Argentina or Italy or Germany or where ever thought it was a value and purchased it. I made a fair amount of money selling gas masks during the Anthrax scare in 2001. I never over charged sole. I merely listed a gas mask at $1 and let the bidders fight it out. Was I proud to sell gas masks to people on eBay? Not really but, the Anthrax scare appeared right after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and my catering business died because nobody wanted to have a party. Ironically, I had been surfing eBay weeks before the terrorist attacks and seen industrial lots (pallets) of gas masks listed for a very low price. When the Anthrax scare hit, I jumped and took what few dollars I had and bought gas masks. I cleaned them (they were new but filthy) and packaged them, listed them and received positive feedback for every transaction.

The reason I tell you all this is I want you to know I have put my time in on eBay and I would be on there every day, all day looking for the next big thing to sell. After that winter had past my catering business resumed to normal and I rarely went back to eBay.

While I was putting in my long days on eBay looking at trends, I was always perplexed at how some dealers had these huge positive feedback ratings and then all of the sudden their feedback ratings took a huge dive into the negative and then the dealer kind of disappeared or became inactive. What was going on to cause this? Was I the only one to see this? So, here is what I uncovered.

A dealer registers with eBay as a new user. The dealer then starts making purchases of stupid little things like stamps or hex nuts, bolts or even string. Like, just a piece of string. The purchases would be for a very small amount of money, most times a few cents. The seller would be new to eBay and likewise the purchaser was new to eBay. Both were leaving positive feedback for each another. The transactions would number in the hundreds per week and in no time at all they would both have huge positive feedback ratings. Then the dealer and the customers would go dormant for a while with no transactions being made. After not making transactions for so long the product links in their feedback ratings would be unavailable. So, if you (the unsuspecting) buyer went to look at their feedback all you would see is that they had a high number of transactions (over 1000) as a seller and their rating was 100% leading you to believe they were a reputable dealer.

So, by this point I think you have figured out the dealer and the seller are the same person using two different eBay accounts. Nobody is actually buying anything; they are just conducting transactions to create feedback. Of course, eBay is making money on the transactions and essentially the dealer is buying a feedback rating.

Then the assault took place. The dealer would list a bunch of items all within about a week and sell products that were much more than the pieces of string or hex nuts they had been selling several months ago.  Sadly, the items they were now selling were receiving a lot of not so good feedback. Essentially, they were ripping people off with fake or misleading products. Many times, the descriptions would have the item listed as “location Brooklyn, NY” when in fact it was being shipped to the USA from various places like Hong Kong, Singapore and other places in Asia.

Now, you do have to know this was many years ago and it was long before PayPal had their “Buyer Protection” as they now have today. Nonetheless, I had seen what I have just described played out time and time again during the winter of 2001-2002. I had contacted eBay multiple times about what was going on and not one time did I notice the usernames involved stop their actions. Most times eBay never responded and if they did it was a BS email from low level peon. Therefore, it led me to believe eBay knew what was happening and just did not care at all. Since then this same scenario and others that are similar have played out on many online selling/shopping platforms.

To conclude; in my opinion I take the whole feedback/star rating thing with a grain of salt. This blog post has only scratched the tip of the iceberg, not to mention the vast concept that you have dip-shit people who leave negative feedback on good products. People who buy something and have no idea how to read and understand directions (if they read them at all) and then claim the product to be defective or not as described. Sadly, it is not a crime to be stupid.

Thank you for reading and have a great day.

Best of luck shopping online.

 

Yesteryear. (I’m just waiting for the app that delivers your food and pours it down your throat and three hours later sticks a tube up your…)

Old Polaroid Photographs & Memories.

Those scratched and blurry old polaroid’s take us back to yesteryear… to a time when life was much simpler however, we never knew it was simpler at the time. Of course, some things seem simpler today, after all just the act of creating a photo is so much easier than in the days of our youth. So, it begs the question; was life really simpler?

In my opinion; no, life was not simpler in a technical sense. So, is our sense of yesteryear jaded?

But, like me, many people would love to travel back in time if even just for one day.

We all have memories that take us back to happier times in our lives. We also have memories that were not so good. But, for most it is those good memories that we cherish and how we would love to go back and live that day or week or even that one special year all over again.

When we talk about the “yesteryear” in conversation often times the term “things were so much simpler back then.” Now please forgive me for saying this and I am not trying to crush anyone’s wonderful memories “but, no things were a lot harder.” So why do we perceive them a simpler?

Let’s just take a little trip down memory lane and look at just a few things in our daily life that were a lot harder. Now before we get started please know this list could be a long as we want to make it. Why we could write a book that would rival an edition of “War & Peace.” So, here we go…

I already mentioned that it is easier to create a photo today, every phone has a camera. Ah, “every phone” why yes phones are all together different, they are not tied to a wall in our house. Now a phone is attached to your hand or at least that is the way it seems. And the phone is not just a phone it is a gadget that is a computer and connects us to a plethora of information. Certainly, the mobile phone/device has made modern life a lot easier. But enough about phones and cameras.

How about cars and vehicles in general. Practically everything about the car is easier. Now I will admit at first a new car can seem as if it is harder to understand as opposed to the cars of yesteryear. But, after feeling those heated seats on a cold winter morning we’ll overlook the leaning curve the key that is not a key anymore. The feel of the air conditioning on a hot day helps us wash away all the other things we have to sit and take the time to learn about a new vehicle. Then there are all those other wonderful things like airbags, GPS navigation, On-Star, incredible stereo sound, lane guidance and the list of easiness just keeps going.

What about shopping? You don’t even have to stop eating your microwavable mac & cheese, you can just tell Alexa to send you more. Restaurant food delivered to your door… I’m just waiting for the app that delivers your food and pours it down your throat and three hours later sticks a tube up your ass to remove the waste. It will happen and when it does people will flock to use it.

As I said we could go on & on about easy vs hard between today and yesteryear. So why if it is easier today do, we yearn for the days of our memories. Aside from the fact that we were younger what was so nice about yesteryear?

First let me say while life was harder, we did not see at as harder or difficult at all. We did not know the life of today and how easy things are now. We didn’t know things like the ease of creating false restaurant reviews and destroying a person’s livelihood or cyber bulling. Or pausing a movie while we leave the house and resume watching two days later. But yet we yearn for the days of those memories we see when we pick up that old scratched and faded photo.

Now let’s shift gears and look at the reality of the past and the future. Most people think of the past as something pleasurable because they are thinking of loved one’s family and friends who are not with us anymore. Those memories bring us comfort and it washes away the everyday things like, how crappy cars were or that our phone was tied to the wall of the house. The same could be said for when we dream to the future. Dreaming of something about the future is often not what would really happen if the dream were to come true. Examples… of course I’ll give you my take on a few of my dreams that came true. Like that beautiful girl that I longed to be with… how I would see us together walking hand in hand, kissing and having sex and all the stuff that… well it was a dream and yes it came true. Yes, we kissed, we had sex and we really enjoyed being together… until I found out how stupid she was. Stupid is like beauty it is a relative term. However, at 22 she did not know how to cook anything other than a fried egg. If it didn’t have microwave instructions, she didn’t buy it. Her only hobby was drinking beer and I spent most of my free time fixing her car. So yeah… dreams do come true lol.

How about those lottery winners that squander their fortune? Was that part of their dream when they were dreaming of winning the lottery? Yes, I think it safe to say we kind of “whitewash” future dreams the same as we do when we think of the past… at least to a certain degree.

Is it always this way?

In my opinion; no, not at all. As for dreams; dreams with goals attached to them seem to be more realistic. At least in my experience when I had a dream with goals attached, if and when that dream came to fruition it was very much what I expected it to be. But, for looking back at a memory it is all together different, what is done is done and the pleasure of the memory is only on the surface. So, while the mundane of everyday life was certainly harder, we don’t see the mundane in our memories unless we were to sit and actually think about it. Maybe I am different than most because I will often fixate on the mundane of a memory. Take for example the memories I have of my early 20s, I was living with my grandmother and the memories of her are very heartwarming and special. When I hear the theme music to the TV show “Taxi” it automatically takes me right back to Grammy’s kitchen at around 5-6:00pm on a winter’s evening. We would both have arrived home from work and she’d be cooking dinner while I was showering after a day’s work. I can see the gaudy pink & black tile of her bathroom and yes, it is a good memory. But if I dive into it and start walking through that memory my life at the time was not that great. Other than the fact I lived with my grandmother who I really loved, most other things in my life were not that great. I worked at a crappy job for very little pay, I drove a crappy vehicle, and my life was going nowhere. So, while I do cherish the memory of Grammy everything else about the memory is not that great at all. Again, I reiterate that I don’t think everyone digs as deep as I do. I have a good memory and it is also reinforced due to keeping journals and diaries. If it were for those writings, I don’t think my memories would be as vivid lol.

Now I have covered a decent amount of ground in the blog post and I have curtailed myself from using a certain word and that is “nostalgia.” I often cringe a little when I hear this word “nostalgia” because it is usually connected to somebody wanting to capitalize on my memories or on the days of yesteryear. In fact, “nostalgia & classic” are the two buzz words that are used in somehow making money from the days of yesteryear. Usually they (the business world) are aiming to capitalize on a period of time that their customers never actually lived in. Let’s look at the younger generations that were born in the 90s or later. Being born in 1990 would put you at 30 years old and marketing anything “nostalgic or classic” could be a very profitable venture.

I myself have seen teenagers now (born in the 2000s) wearing Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd shirts. One boy I talked to didn’t even know Led Zeppelin was a band, he just thought the shirt was cool (true story). Look at how many people wear the Harley Davidson logo and don’t even own any motorcycle, they just like the logo because it implies the “Biker” lifestyle. And speaking of “biker” lifestyle I can remember a time when that so called “bike” lifestyle mean something a whole lot different. Let me just say it like this… “I remember seeing the State Police escorting biker gangs as they would pass through our area.” “And I remember the fear it created knowing those guys were in town.” I was young so I didn’t really know what it was all about therefore I had not too much fear and I thought they looked cool on their “Harley Davidson” motorcycles. Funny thing is… none them and I mean zero were riding Hondas, Yamaha’s or Suzuki’s. Cut to today you see anybody wearing a Harley logo because they think it is cool. Talk about “whitewashed nostalgia” lol.

At 55 years old I have seen variations of the “bell bottoms” resurface a few times. Auto makers have brought back the names of their muscle cars from the late 60s, while rock bands resurrect themselves (almost literally) and head back out on tour. To be honest I’m not really a big fan of the resurrected rock band thing, because the concerts are most times (but not all) disappointing. Old rockers hiding their “turkey gobbler necks” with the silk scarf while they rasp out an old “classic” hit song that the whole audience is encouraged to sing along with so you can’t really hear the actual performance. I fell in love with the song “Proud Mary” and John Fogerty is one of my all-time favorites. But if you’re going to a Fogerty concert in hopes of hearing a good rendition of Proud Mary… it isn’t happening. Disclaimer: Fogerty actually defies the laws of the aging rocker and he does not wear a neck scarf.

So, in regards to Nostalgia as a market; it is basically the idea that the old times were better than they actually were or in some cases the old time were something they never actually were. And best of all the people buying into it never really lived it so they haven’t a clue lol. I say just let them have their fun and buy into the nostalgia thing because it makes somebody somewhere a lot of money.

 

In conclusion; Are the days of old better? Were the days of our memories a simpler way of life? Or do we just want to believe they were simpler and better? Either way for me it still feels good to pick up that scratched and faded polaroid photo and drift back through the years.

Pig Roast in Ban Kamin Thailand (…everyone sits and eats together, this reminds me of my childhood…)

On my 2019 trip to Thailand I had a chance to capture some video of a pig roast in a local village. Although the video is not of professional quality it does show a very interesting way to roast a whole pig and I really thought the process from beginning to end was interesting & amazing.

So, this blog post will actually appear in two places, it will be posted to my photography blog and it will also be on my BBQ blog. I am a professional barbeque chef going into my 24th year of business and I have been a working photographer for about 10 years as well.

Let me first give you the setup of this story and before you click on the video, I will tell you it is not a short video. Personally, I don’t like short videos when it comes to something like this, I want to see everything that is going on… or at least as much as possible. Today we live in a world of short attention spans and instant gratification however I’m an old school dinosaur and my video is a bit longer.

Thai Pig Roast

I am married to a wonderful Thai lady and I promised her before we were married that every year, she would travel back to Thailand to be with family and friends. Myself, I try to go as often as my budget will allow, usually every other year. Sadly, it had been three years since I had been to Thailand. So, I decided 2019 was a “must do” year for Thailand and I would stay for the full 30 days of my visa. I spent 11 on Kho Kood (island) and then I traveled by pickup truck from the boat dock at Trat all the way to Ban Kamin (village) in the Kalasin Province. It was an epic trip and took a lot longer than planned due to poor planning on my wife’s part and too much stopping along the way. But we had fun.

So, after an epic 26 hours without sleep I arrived in the village around 8:00am on November 30, 2019. My Thai family was extremely excited of me coming to visit and that I would be staying for two weeks. I love my Thai family so much, they are all just the most awesome, kind and caring people, I truly am blessed to have them all in my life.

After arriving in the morning and meeting with some family members I put my things in my room and started to unpack camera gear. Quickly, I ran out of energy and tried to sleep a little. It is very hard for me to sleep when the sun is up, even if I am tired. So, I just gave up on the quest to sleep and started drinking coffee in hopes to some how salvage the day and be a bit productive. I don’t speak very much Thai although I usually understand what is going on around me. I was staying at my sister-in-law’s house although my wife’s little house is just around the corner. We could not stay at our house because the toilet was not working (due to lack of use).

I walked outside about 10:30am and Mi had just arrived back from Kalasin City (about 20 minutes away) with a small pig. I first thought it would-be put-on ice for cooking later… I was dead wrong because he went right to work preparing this pig for roasting and to eat later that night. It was at this time I realized that they (the family) were planning a big meal in honor of my arrival and I was really taken back by this. I have been part of this family for ten years now and it seems like the love only grows stronger every year.

So, when I see the pig, I ran quickly to grab a camera, I had several cameras with me from small to large, from simple to complex. I wished I had known there was going to be this pig roast and I would have certainly been more prepared. I really would have liked to shot the scenes on the Blackmagic 6K camera. But, the Blackmagic 6K takes time to setup and assemble sadly, I had broken down the setup to make it easier to travel. Being tired when I first arrived, I figured I would assemble the Blackmagic the next day when my mind was fresh. So, I was left with the DJI Osmo Action camera. I had never owned and action camera and I kind of thought “it might be a good time” to buy one seeing’s as how I would be traveling to Thailand and all.  So, out the door I go to the side of the house where they are preparing the pig, all the while I am not even thinking about how they will cook the pig. Well, that question was soon answered when I seen Mi start to prepare a spot right there in the dirt next to the driveway. Instead of asking questions I just stood off to the side and watched everything that was going on. I started to record video of anything that I thought would be an important step in what he was doing. I might also mention Mi works at the University in Kalasin City. It is an agricultural University and he takes care of the livestock in the Swine division. Needless to say “this guy knows all things about pigs.”

He was a “man with a plan” and I could tell this was not his first time roasting a pig. Actually, I had heard and seen pictures of him roasting pigs and my wife had said that someday they would cook a pig while I was in the village… and today was that day. Mi had already prepared some sort of a marinade of sorts. I could tell be the smell it had garlic and lemon grass in it but, I also knew there was so much more. He used a strainer to separate the mushy herbs from the liquid. Mi soon recruited his teenage son and another young male family member to help with injecting the marinade while he moved on to preparing the cooking location. After marinade injecting was done everybody was working on constructing the roasting oven. I found this to be quite interesting. It was nothing more that a rectangle box made from corrugated tin roofing. It looked very odd and make-shift but, not all that unfamiliar. I had actually seen something very similar here in the USA about 30 years ago when I had attended a pig roast at a local Rod & Gun club here in Hunterdon County New Jersey.

(side story) It was really kind of funny because I go (as a customer) to this local public pig roast that was a yearly event at the local Rod & Gun Club and there were three old timers cooking three pigs, each was cooking his pig a different way and all three pigs were huge about 200 lbs. One old guy had constructed a little “hut” of sorts, made from tin roofing. The coals were directly on the ground and the pig had been cooking since the day before. He would remove a few pieces of the tin and hack away at the meat until he seen bloody meat, then he would replace the tin and keep cooking. This all took place about four years before I started my own pig roasting business and I always used this memory as a benchmark of “how not to cook a pig.” Ironically enough earlier this year that Rod & Gun Club hired my business to do their yearly pig roast. The old timers are long since gone and it was time to move on to a better way of cooking pigs.

Now back to Thailand… He I see Mi is constructing a similar tin roof cooker but somehow, I just know this tin roof oven is going to work just fine. First off, the pig is a lot smaller and I know Mi has done this many times. Once it was finished, I could see the dynamics of how it would work. It was a box with heat in the bottom, a lid to keep the heat in and the pig would be rotated above the heat source. And the heat source would be hardwood charcoal. It doesn’t really take a lot of fire to cook a pig if the oven is closed, too much heat the pig will cook too quick on the outside and not be done on the inside. So, soon the oven was finished and the pig was cooking. The pig actually went on the fire at 12:45pm and I knew it would several hours of slow cooking. Now my eyes were getting heavy and the heat of the day plus the lack of sleep were all taking their toll on my body, it was time to get some much-needed rest. I found my way to the little “couch” as they called it. Actually, it was a small “loveseat” but in this Thai village they were calling it a couch. I knew when nightfall came my wife would prepare Thai pillows on the floor as an actual bed but for now, I had to make this loveseat work. Impossible? Nothing is impossible when you have been awake for 30+ hours. I slept on the loveseat for 4 hours, a small fan on the floor blowing a gentle breeze my way and when I awoke, I was a new man. It was the best 4 hours of sleep and somehow, I found that little loveseat to be very comfortable.

November days are short, I wake about 5:00pm and it is dark already. I can hear lots of voices coming from the back of the house and I slowly make my way back there. As I step out, I see lots of food being prepared… what a relief because this means I have not really missed any of the fun. And how about that pig?… I already had my camera in hand as I walked towards the pig. Nobody was around, everybody was in the back of the house so I just stood there and looked at the tin roof oven. The aroma coming from the roasting pig was amazing, the garlic and lemon grass… as they say in Thai sap sap.

Around 6:00pm the lid came ff the pig. It was done and it looked so good. But it had to wait because we were waiting for other family members to arrive. Not everybody had the day off work and the ones we were waiting for are some of my most favorites people to be with. Soon everyone was there and it was time to eat. Eating with my Thai family is a joy beyond compare to anything I would do in the USA. First of all everyone sits and eats together, this reminds me of my childhood when my family would all sit and eat dinner together… it seems like a dream when I think about how different times were here in the USA when most all families spent time together on a daily basis. With my Thai family it is still that way, we are all together and there is always lots of talking and the mood is always good.

Oh, and that pig… It was cooked to perfection. The taste was out of this world. The skin wasn’t super crispy but it was editable. The meat was over the top delicious, I couldn’t stop eating it and that is really saying something because, while I cook pigs for a living, I rarely eat a lot of pork. I will eat from the pigs I cook at a party but, it is usually just a few little pieces. With Mi’s pig I could have just kept eating… and made a pig of myself lol.

So, there you have it a pig roast in my honor, I am so blessed to have such a wonderful family in Thailand, I love them all so much.

Thai Pig Roast in Ban Kamin Thailand from Lenzwizard on Vimeo.

Love at 1/2000 of a second in the land of smiles.

This is probably one of my most favorite photos of my current trip to Thailand. Actually it could be one of my most favorite Thai photos of all time. Like all photos there’s a back story and this one is very heartwarming.

The backstory starts with me first telling you how wonderfully treated Americans are here in Thailand. Now of course when you’re in the tourist area everyone is treated nice because… you’re in a tourist area of course. However once I venture out into heartland of the country the smiles and the hospitality are amazing.

I spent the day traveling with family far away from the village, about a two-hour Journey. We were going to see a few different locations where I could fly my drone and capture some wonderful photography. For the first half of the journey I rode in the front seat of the pickup truck taking in all the sights along the way. But as we got ready to turn around and head back I decided to ride in the back of the pickup truck. Riding in the back of the pickup truck allows me to take in the sights but at the same time it allows me to capture a lot of nice candid photos as we’re traveling.

This sounds like fun and actually it is a lot of fun but as a photographer it’s not the easiest thing to do. As a photographer we just want to be able to steady our camera and get a nice shot. riding in the back of a pickup truck is not smooth by any means. The camera settings are very important most of all the shutter speed. You want to be able to capture a photo in an instant. So while riding in the back of the truck I usually keep my shutter speed set to a constant 1/2000 of a second. Even still the photos are not going to be perfect however you are going to capture that moment instantly.

So for this photo I’m riding in the back of the truck and the backstory is how attentive some people are at what is happening around them. Sure I’m the photographer and I’m constantly turning my head to see what’s going on around me. I’m riding down the road I don’t know exactly how fast we’re going and if you’re the passerby you’re not going to see me until the truck has gone by and you look in the back of the truck.

So as I’m whizzing by this roadside market area, this lady looks up and in a Split Second she sees me and she gets a huge smile on her face and gives me the okay sign. I only captured one frame before she was out of sight. But in that one frame I caught the heartwarming happiness and the huge smile of somebody who is happy to have their photo taken. Think about it, in just that Split Second she looks up and identifies a Caucasian guy sitting in the back of a truck with a camera. And that expression on her face truly is the feeling that I feel just about everywhere I travel in this wonderful country called Thailand. For many of my friends I know you will never feel the joy of coming to this land of Many Wonders and smiles. And for those of my friends who have already been here many of them often overlooked the true beauty of this country and the people within it. There’s so much that I could say about the feeling that I get when I travel through this country. Someday I know I will complete my Photography book about Thailand, I started the project several years ago and the biggest problem I have is deciding which photos to include in the book. However I do believe I have found the cover photo for the book. My only regret is that I would never be able to find this lady and thank her for her wonderful smile.

Many people come to Thailand and take photos of all the beautiful temples and other scenery. I have to say I like those photos to but, the most important photos to me are the faces of the people and their everyday life.

Note: I still yet have to go through my GPS log to identify the location where this was taken.

Where Will Your Camera Take You? (Jimmy was dying and Charon wanted me to photograph the two of them together.)

Koh Chang, Thailand

Where Will Your Camera Take You?

Most photographers never really think about where their camera will take them. I can honestly say “my camera has taken me to places I never dreamed I’d ever go to.” When I make this statement, many readers may think I have traveled the world over and have been to exotic places. In some ways this is partially true, but you don’t have to go around the world to see amazing things and meet wonderful people. There may be an amazing place right up the street from where you live or amazing people in your community that you haven’t met yet.

My camera and my love of photography has taken me to places 10,000 miles away and it has taken me into the fields and forest behind my house. My wife is from Thailand and while my photography played a very small part in meeting her, it has played a huge roll in my life when I travel to Thailand. I can say without a doubt that there are places I would have never seen and people I would have never met if it wasn’t for the fact that I am a photographer. This sounds so prolific when you put the “10,000 miles away” statement in the paragraph. It makes me sound so worldly, I can also honestly make that same statement about the area where I live right here in the USA.

I live on the west side of New Jersey not for from the Delaware River that divides New Jersey & Pennsylvania. As my photography grew, I wanted more and more out of it. I didn’t want to just take photos of my dog anymore and I never was that great of a landscape photographer, however I did like product & food photography. I like my own product photography, I would sell stuff on eBay and I knew that the better the images of the product or item I was selling, the higher the bids would go. I sold everything on eBay from a postage stamp to a Caterpillar bulldozer. With that I was hired several times to photograph moderate to high dollar items such as antiques and cars.

Organic Pumpkin Doughnuts with pecans and maple glaze. 1/60 sec at f/3.5 ISO 50 50mm

 

Still I wanted much more from my photography. I would photograph events, just for the fun of it. Many times, I would be at a public event and think to myself “If not for photography, I would most likely not be at this event.” Some events I chose just because I wanted the challenge of photographing fast-moving things, so I would go to an airshow. Parades are always nice, but again I still wanted something more.

As my photography progressed, so did my editing skills. Learning Adobe Photoshop & Lightroom were a bit of a challenge at first, but like riding a bike it comes quickly if you keep at it. Around this time, I decided I really liked photographing people and I wanted to pursue it. I had always liked photographing people, however one day I sat thinking long and hard and came to the realization how much I liked it. The reason I had not pursued it I think was mostly due to lack of confidence and lack of equipment. One, being a mental thing and the other being obviously a money thing. So, I soon set off on a journey to acquire what I needed to photograph people. In time came better lenses and then onto building an arsenal of lighting equipment.

As for the confidence; it too came in an ebb & flow kind of way. It wasn’t like one day I woke up and “hey today I can photograph anybody.” I think what happened was, I realized I had the skill all along, all I needed to do was talk. I am not an “up front in your face kind of person” when I fist meet someone, however I found a long time ago that I have the ability to strike up a conversation with just about anyone. It doesn’t matter really who it is, but I usually find something to talk about. This is nothing new of course, we have all heard or read that we can start a conversation if we can find a “common ground” topic. So, using my gift of talking to people I found photographing people easier to do if I could talk as I worked.

Shooting portraits is something I really like to do because for one, I can make money doing it and two, it is a way to network into other areas of photography. Think about how much easier is it to get a wedding gig when I have already met the person/s. Business headshots is another way to network and get some good commercial work. I love photography and I love it more when it makes me money.

So as time went on my photography allowed me to meet more people, some of which I have become very good friends with and other who have become regular customers over the years. As I look back at all the places, I have been just because of my knowing how to work a camera and edit a digital image is really amazing to me. I might add it is not all about working a camera and editing an image in Photoshop. Just take for instance an engagement shoot I did at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Now, I have done many engagement shoots and most times the couple wants to go to a rather quiet place, a somewhat peaceful place, but not these guys. The location is the Art Museum on a rather cold Saturday in January. It is a nice day, but cold and there is a lot of people and my job is to get good images of this couple and include the scenery of the outside of the museum all while not getting people into their photos. And if that is not bad enough there is not a cloud in the sky so the sunlight is as about as harsh as it gets. Also, I would guess about half the people walking around are also photographers on some level or another.

A little bit of a challenge it was. Just getting to the museum and parking was enough to make me want to go back home lol. Then there was the cold air and wind, the bright sunlight and all the people. All this is going on and at one point, for just a moment I think to myself “look where my camera has taken me today.” If not for the money I was making I don’t think I would have any reason to hangout one the steps of the Philly Art Museum on a cold windy day in January. The images of that day turned out great, the couple loved them and they pay for the job was very good.

 

“Look where my camera has taken me today” is something I actually think to myself a lot. Sometimes I will say it out loud even if I am all alone. I think the first time I really thought about it and actually said it to myself was in 2012 while I was in Thailand at a Buddhist temple on top of a mountain. We had driven to a parking area located nearly at the top of the mountain. Then we walked and we walked, uphill of course. “Don’t stop walking now we’re almost there” said my wife’s niece. It is very hot and humid, and I am carrying 30 lbs. of camera gear and a tripod. I am dying as we reach the steps. As I reach the top step and walk through the gate, I feel this wonderfully strong breeze blowing through the doorway. So, I step into the shade of the round roof & walkway that surrounds the temple and I stay right there. The breeze was heavenly and I drink two bottles of water in a about a minute.

As I was cooling down, I was taking in the beauty of the temple grounds, with all the amazing flowers, trees and walkways. Under the circular roof there were an endless line of gold monk busts. Then I looked toward the temple itself and it was nine stories tall and still under construction. As I walked across the courtyard into the bright sun, I was anticipating the coolness I knew would be inside the temple. I take off my shoes quickly and enter and “yes” it is cool, a nice breeze is blowing through. But nothing like the breeze that was blowing at the gate.

Okay, so there are nine floors to this temple and I will photograph my way to the top. Sadly, the elevator was still not finished and I had to climb the steep stairs. Each floor was hotter than the previous and there was no more breeze. Also, I was on my last bottle of water. So, I did make it all the way to the top and out to the open balcony. The view was breathtaking, I could see for miles. There was a slight breeze, but there was also midday sun beating down. While at the top I did take photos of the view and of the family and then back inside. After heading down the stairs, floor by floor I made it to the second floor and it was cool enough that I just wanted to sit. As I was resting, I seen a very nice scene I wanted to photograph. I was sitting on the floor preparing the camera on the tripod and then I stopped and waited as people were moving though my scene.

During this waiting for people to move and me recovering from the heat is when it hit me. I sat there thinking to myself; “look at me… I am here on this mountain top at this beautiful temple… me a country boy from 10,000 miles away” and then I said to myself “look where my camera has taken me today.” Sure, it was my wife’s idea to come to this temple, but only because she knew it would be an awesome place for me to photograph. If not for that reason I would have never been there. So, I just waited for the people to move and soon they did. I shot a series of HDR photos and moved on. But not before letting it really sink in that this camera, I am holding is really changing my life.

I have since returned to that temple once more on another trip to Thailand and I was better prepared. The second visit was well thought out and I annoyed the shit out of everybody traveling with me as I took my good ole time photographing all the stuff, I missed on the first trip lol.

Jimmy was dying and Charon wanted me to photograph the two of them together. Charon was a friend of mine who I had met on Facebook by way of her daughter who had done some amateur modeling. Charon had met Jimmy and they fell in love, I had never seen her so happy. I mean she was just so happy to have found Jimmy and he loved her too, they were an awesome couple. Charon said “I want you to shoot us, a couples shoot and it’s a paid gig, not a freebie.”

We all meet up at Smithville Park a very popular wedding and engagement shoot location in New Jersey. This was my first-time meeting Jimmy and he seemed a little “off.” I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but he seemed just a little weird. Then Jimmy said he had just had brain surgery a week or so earlier. When Jimmy left to use the restroom, Charon told me the bad news. Jimmy had brain cancer and he only had a few months live, maybe more. I continued shooting and never missed a beat. We all kept joking and moving around to the different locations at the park. We had stopped at a gazebo, it was shady and cool, I could see Jimmy was tiring and Charon was getting a phone call. So, I stepped back and let them have some private time together while I looked through my camera at the images.

I was really hurting inside. I was hurting for Jimmy who I had just met, but more so I was hurting for Charon. She is such a wonderful human being and her fulltime job is taking care of dying people. She met Jimmy because she was caring for his dying mother. They met, they fell in love and now just months later Jimmy was dying… and I am photographing the last good day of his life. And it was at that moment I said to myself “look where my camera has taken me today.” Not 10,000 miles away and not some exotic location, but to a place where I am capturing the end days of a man’s life with a woman he loves so much. After the job was done, I just sat in my car and after Charon & Jimmy left I cried.

I sat in the car just thinking about what had just happened. I was watching another couple with their photographer as she was photographing them in the park and thinking “they look just a happy as Jimmy & Charon, but I bet he’s not dying” and I laughed a little bit. I drove and got a cup of coffee to clear my head and then as I drove the hour or so back home, I ran though my mind all the places my camera had taken me. I thought about all the people I had met. It was one of those drives where I arrived at my driveway and don’t remember anything about the ride because my mind was so far away in thought.

Jimmy passed away four months later and left a hole in Charon’s heart that truly may never heal. I know they say “time heals all” and I truly believe that, but sometimes there are just not enough years in our life for time to do its good deed.

Sorry to end on such a sad note, but that is just how life is sometimes, that’s how it was for Jimmy & Charon.

Thanks for stopping by and reading.

 

 

 

Fun Day of Flying My Drone (It could be a bird, a shotgun, a low flying plane or just a douche bag in a Saab.)

So to carry on in the vain of my past few post about “what its like to own a DJI drone” in this post I would like to talk about my personal experiences when out and actually flying.

As I have stated in the past, the Mavic Pro and Pro 2 are stellar flying machines. Personally, I have never had any real bad problems with the aircraft. With my Mavic Pro (the first) I did have one battery mysteriously go bad after about six months. I have dropped a few of my batteries on the ground a few different times and I thought it could possibly be the culprit.

Now as for out flying and in the air, my first big worriment is bird strikes. I have had a few close calls, actually several close calls with birds. Secondly, I worry about someone shooting the drone with a shotgun and third is a “just as luck would have it situation.” There is a farm where I rent space to keep my BBQ cooking equipment for my catering business. I am allowed to fly there however it is a bit tricky because as luck would have it there is a natural gas pipeline that runs right through the farm property. Every day about 10:00am-ish a small single engine plane flies over at about 300 feet. The underside of the wings says “Pipe Line Patrol.” I fly at the farm mostly for practice and testing the different flight modes & profiles. It is a very wide-open space and I am not flying over people; however, I always have to keep a keen eye out for the Pipeline Patrol plane. Sure, it comes by each day around the same time, but what if one day it came at a different time? You just never know.

Birds were a problem from day one. There are several different kinds of birds at the farm, more in the warm weather, of course. The barn swallows like to gang up on the drone if it is 100 feet or lower and the closer to the buildings the more, they dive at it. I have never had one hit it yet, but I think that is because when I see them coming, I move higher and further away.

Hawks are common site at the farm, however they rarely come after the drone. But when they do it is quite scary. Most times the hawk will come in quick, he will first fly past as if not to notice the drone or care about it too much. Then after seeming to fly away and usually higher, the hawk will turn and go into a dive picking up a great amount of speed. His trajectory is usually not perfectly aligned with the done and he actually dives lower than the drone. Then at the last second with all the speed he built from his dive, he will pull up and arc directly toward the drone. Most times when the hawk comes close and I usually go into sport mode and hightail it out of his airspace.

Is the hawk just toying around or is the hawk serious? I’m not an Avian expert so I’ll just leave it at that. Better safe than sorry and at the same time I really don’t want the hawk to get hurt either. I think they are beautiful and majestic and after all I am the intruder here.

The dreaded shotgun; This is something I really do worry about. Although I never fly close and low over people’s houses and I’m not into peering or leering into people’s private lives, I still worry. People can be malicious, especially if they think they can get away with it and most likely they would. I have overheard locals talking about drones and not knowing I own two and also not knowing I was listening to their conversation outside the local convenience store; I heard one man telling another “I hope a drone flies over my property because I’ll blast it with a shotgun.” At this time laws are constantly changing and as far as I know at this very moment, it is illegal where I live to down an aircraft regardless of its size, manned or unmanned. However just because something is illegal doesn’t stop people from doing it. It is illegal to mug someone, still I think I’ll stay out of the dark alley in the bad part of town anyway. Sure, even if you caught the guy for shooting down your drone, the trouble one would have to go through to get another drone would certainly not be worth it.

Now as for encountering people when I fly; I have to say that most people who see me flying my drones are pretty nice and this can be a double edge sword of sorts. While it is nice to see that they are ok with me flying my drone there are sometimes the people who are nice, but very intrigued at the same time. They will come over and start asking questions about the drone because they are honestly interested. However, it can be very bothersome when I’m in the middle of trying to get a shot. Most often this person just doesn’t realize that I am in the middle of actually doing something with the drone. Usually I will say politely that I will answer all your questions in just a minute.

They will run though the typical gamut of questions starting with how much does that drone cost? Are they hard to fly? And then things like; I have a $30 drone that I chase my cat around the house with. They’ll ask about the video and photos and I’ll usually show them some video and photos on my phone or tablet.

In my two plus years of owning drones I have come across one real dick head, to put it bluntly. I was at a location that was an old abandon pharmaceutical farm. It is a large parcel of land that once was a farm that had many buildings and pastures for grazing. The pharmaceutical company housed animals there for testing animal medicines and vitamins for animal use. The land was now owned or controlled by the state and it is still unclear to me as to what the status of the land is. It is not actually a park or a reserve or even a preserve. However, the land does butt up to a park on one side. Rangers patrol the park, but again it is very unclear when I read online as to who has jurisdiction. One read will say it falls into the hands of the local police because it is not a park and another state website claimed it could be controlled by county or state rangers. Either way I though it would be a great place to fly the drone on a weekday afternoon because no one was around. I came, I flew and I left with no problem at all.

Upon returning several months later in the month of September, No one was there, I was flying and had used on battery. I found my locations for good video shots and a few locations for some photos. I use the first 20 minutes to figure out what and where I want to shoot, then I return and replace the battery and away I go. While returning for the battery swap, I see a car pull in the lot. Sometimes you just know, you get a bad feeling in your stomach. The car door opens and out steps a real living G.I. Joe doll. He’s dressed like he just fell of a page from the Cabela’s catalog. He’s decked from head to toe in camouflage and he opens the truck of the car (a Saab) and takes out what looked like a new style muzzle loader rifle. He walked until he is about 20 feet from me and starts to tell me in his Sean Connery voice that what I’m doing is highly illegal and he could have me arrested.

In my 54 years of being on this earth the one thing I have learned is “I know a douche bag when I see one” and this guy was just that. When people first threaten you with arrest in the very first few seconds of meeting you, in a situation where no one or nothing is being harmed, they’re not a police officer and they throw this vast wealth of information in your face… most times they have no idea what they’re talking about. Kind of like a peacock fanning her tail to scare off a perceived threat.

I gracefully continued to hover the drone at about 250 feet in the air and he didn’t even know the drone was up there. He seen me holding the controller and though I was getting ready to fly. I set the controller down on the hood of my vehicle and moved away from it, leaving the drone to just hover high above. I let him continue with his rhetoric, spewing his verbal diarrhea of knowledge about drones. Funny thing was he never once could tell me what the laws were, only that he knew I was not allowed to fly at that location. Of course, he wanted me gone because he wanted to go hunting and felt I was going to scare away the deer. The deer that were still grazing in a meadow about 250 yards from where we were standing. I seen them while I was flying and the drone never bothered them one bit.

I told him my name and said if he’d like he could call the police or whoever he felt he needed to call. “Maybe you need to call your therapist because you seem a little upset” and with that he started to get ruffled and stated “I’m not upset, I’m not upset at all, I know the law and you’re breaking it.” Then I delivered the final blow when I said “you are upset, you appear to have sand in your vagina and it’s ruining your wonderful afternoon of hunting.” Just then the battery on the drone reached its low-level limit and the controller started to beep and giving out the verbal commands of “low battery and returning to home.” This made him very uneasy because now something was happening with the drone and I wasn’t even holding the controller. The drone was slowly descending and you could hear the sound of the props. He was trying to act as if he wasn’t flustered, but he kept looking up and looking at me at the same time.

As the drone was landing, I walked over to his car and put my photography business card under the wiper blade on his windshield and said “just so you have all the correct information if and when you decide to call whoever you’re going to call.” He just continued the blah, blah, blah and I put the Mavic Pro in the car and left. But not before telling him “I hope that sand doesn’t irritate you too much, I hear it can be pretty bad if left untreated.”

Sure, I thought about going down the road, stopping and buzzing him with the drone a few times just to irritate him even more, but then I would be just as much an asshole as him. Needless to say, I never heard a word from any authorities about the incident confirming that he knew nothing of what he was talking about.

So, in conclusion there are a few things out there that can ruin your fun day of flying. It could be a bird, a shotgun, a low flying plane or just a douche bag in a Saab.

Happy flying, be safe and always be aware.

What’s It Like to Own a DJI Drone? (from the digital era to the half baked era, the new world order)

What’s it like to own a DJI drone? A bit of a strange question if I do say so myself! I own 2 DJI drones and few other pieces of DJI equipment such as camera stabilization gimbals. So with that said; Let me rip on DJI a little bit here.

The drone market exploded around the world in the past few years and DJI has been a front runner in the several areas of the drone market, both consumer and commercial. Dà-Jiāng Innovations Science and Technology Co. Ltd. Was founded by Frank Wang and their headquarters is located in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China. So let’s start off by talking about the “new world order” when it comes to designing, marketing and customer service and this does not just apply to DJI or other drone companies. This new world order applies to many manufacturing companies and it crosses over into the service sector too, many banks fall into this new world order as well.

So the new world order I am speaking of can be wrapped in a nut shell and labeled as “Do whatever it takes to suck the money from the customer and worry about lawsuits & backlash later.” This new rule or theory moves away from the old days of companies “wanting” to create quality products and wanting to give customers good service. The new theory is, or business footprint is closer to “strategic battle planning” in a war game. We have an objective and we must conquer it. The objective is to “get your money” and the battle plan is to make you think that what you’re getting is worth it, BUT we (the manufacture) are not really sure we have a complete product. So therefore, we will create diversions in hopes you won’t notice the pitfalls of the product. We will also make it very hard to return the product (short return window) and it some cases we will just rip you off, period.

Of course, the idea of creating a product and selling it is what business is all about. However, creating something that falls short of what you claim it to be is wrong and more so a lot of companies have accepted this as the norm. As we move into this era of “tech-rich” products and creating products that do more & more, I feel it is harder & harder for design teams to cover all the bases of what the end result should be. For example; if we look back several years (actually a lot), when I was a boy the radio-controlled airplane was a big deal when they hit the market. I did not own one but I had several friends who did. The radio-controlled cars, boats & helicopters were also amazing. All of these afore mentioned products only had to do a very short list of things. They had to communicate between the controller and the vehicle and make the vehicle move and stop.

The drones of today are so much more intense in design. There is the camera system, the GPS system and of course electrical circuitry and more. The drone is communicating to satellites, it is communicating to a controller that is communicating to your phone or tablet that is using an app. I forgot to mention the obstacle avoidance camera systems that is separate from the main camera. Add it all up and when you think about it, “a little drone is actually a pretty intense little piece of equipment.” This complexity certainly creates a challenge to produce a quality product and release it to the public and not have any issues. Many times, electronics products (drones included) are released knowing they have certain issues and the company decided to keep these issues hush hush and they go with the mindset “we’ll fix it in a firmware update.” DJI is infamous for this tactic and that was one of the reasons I waited so long to purchase my first DJI drone. When I purchased the second drone I just went with the mindset “the drone will have some sort of issue” and it did. Although minor, none the less it had issues and I was prepared for it. Stepping away from drones for a minute and shifting over to talking about DJI gimbals; gimbals are another electronic product that has exploded around the world. The prices have come down, there are many on the market to choose from and they’re very easy to use. DJY released the Ronin S and in my opinion, this was a total “monkey fuck” to the people who purchased them. Or I should say to most of the people who purchased them. A PDF was released showing camera models that the gimbal would be able to communicate with and when the gimbal was released, however we found that it would only work with a few cameras. DJI promised to correct this with… you guessed it “firmware updates.” As of this writing the gimbal has been on the market for several month, there have been firmware updates, however not all the cameras on the list communicate with the Ronin S gimbal as promised. Yes, I am one of the affected customers. You have to know the gimbal is a very fine piece of equipment and my camera balances on the gimbal just fine and I can shoot video. But I was under the belief the gimbal would communicate with my camera and allow starting & stopping of video as well as being able to use a focus wheel.

I know I got off the topic of drones, but the purpose was to point out DJI is a company that will actually just break the laws of advertisement and make flat out false claims about their products.

So yeah owning a DJI or any DJI product comes with drama bombs attached, for sure.

My original post ended with the previous sentence and I didn’t post right away because I thought I might have more to add. After about a week I was getting ready to post when I was watching a vlogger who was talking about “half baked” software. Meaning the software is released with known issues, but the maker of the software figures as people complain the company will fix the issues with updates. And then it hit me right between the eyes that all this “half baked” bull shit started with Microsoft Windows. Are you (the reader) old enough to remember the “Blue Box Errors” that plagued Windows software?

So truly anybody born after the late 90s would never know that before the digital era there were actually companies that cared enough to turn a nicely finished product for their customers. Today it seems ok to put out half baked software, however prior to the digital era everything was tangible and mechanical. Software is not tangible, gimbals & drones are tangible but the need firmware (software) to work, leaving us with this new world order.

So, there it is… we entered the digital era aka the “half baked era” and you thought hippies were the only thing that were half baked.

I haven’t flown my drones in over a month due to the holidays and bad weather. So yesterday I decided to charge batteries and get everything ready for some flying and well… after 2 hours of firmware updating to the drones, the controllers and the batteries, yes even the batteries needed firmware updates.

And that is what it is like to own a DJI drone. Happy flying… after the firmware updates of course.

Entering The Drone World. (Like many people I really wanted to embrace this new technology…)

Mavic Pro with Polarpro ND filter.

I purchased my first video/photography drone in May of 2017. The Mavic Pro was all the rage when it was first released in late 2016. I held off my purchase until spring of 2017 because I was very leery of a few things. I was very curious about the fact that it was taking a long time for DJI to come up to speed on the manufacturing and shipping of the Mavic Pro. Like many people I really wanted to embrace this new technology so I spent countless hours watching videos, reading blogs and checking out some spectacular video & photos that would appear every minute on social media. So at some point I said “let’s just do it” and I ordered the Mavic Pro and my journey began. And quite the journey it has become. I have had and continue to have so much fun, that I purchased the Mavic Pro 2 on the day it was released; ironically it was also my birthday.

But not all thing are so great about DJI drones and this post is going to be a multi part series of posts  in which I will cover the fun and the not so fun things that have happened with me and my little propeller friends. I’m going to try to stick closely to my own personal experiences and not touch so much on hear-say and rumored info.

So let me get started by saying that today many companies have found a very unique and cheap way of advertising the release of a new product. Being 54 years old at the time of this writing I have seen this change of advertising take place, whereas younger people think it has always been this way.

So let’s mock up an example; I manufacture drones and I want to get the word out. In the old school way I had to spend quite a hefty budget on TV commercials and magazine advertising, not to mention all the other forms of advertising such as billboards and giveaways ect… However today we have the “YouTube stars” or vloggers as they are called (at least for this week). The vlogger makes money from the advertisements that are placed on his videos. The more subscribers his channel has the more people, who watch, the more money our happy little vlogger makes. So I (the drone maker) send a free drone to the vlogger for him to review. The vlogger is so happy because he is one of the few to receive this product before it has come to market. This in turn creates a buzz amongst his subscribers and he’ll gain new subscribers. So he fly’s the drone and reviews it. Now here is where the magic happens… The vlogger will never trash the drone for fear of never receiving another free drone. If there is something about the drone that is just plain down right fucked up, our vlogger will more or less just say things like “I hope they change this before it goes to market” or some other smoke screen verbiage that just trails off into “it’s not so bad.” I have also seen super vloggers who just don’t even mention the worst thing about the product. So in the end it comes down to “hype” and let’s face it “hype” works. Hey if I stood in the street and hyped up eating dog shit on a cracker and was able to keep a straight face because I was making a boat load of money doing it, people would start lining up and buying dog shit on a cracker. And then of course they would bite into it and say “hey wait a minute, this tastes like dog shit on a cracker.” Okay, so then I say (with lots of hype and a smile) “you’re not doing it right, you have to buy this overpriced cheese to cover up the shitty taste.” … and yes then all the sheeples line up to buy the overpriced cheese. And so the saga continues.

Yes sadly this is how I felt when I first purchased the Mavic Pro. I unboxed the drone and I must say that the actual quality of the aircraft it’s self was and remains to this day a stellar piece of equipment. DJI (the drone manufacture) had the aircraft part down to a precision and amazing design. However the camera fell two miles short of the runway from what all the vloggers were saying about it. All the vlogger were screaming in orgasmic tones that this camera on the Mavic Pro was…  omg it’s like… you know it’s just… When in reality it was a cell phone camera on a drone. Just imagine the drone is a fine tuned Formula 1 race car and the camera is the driver, only the driver is the old guy that was your school bus driver. Yeah that’s pretty much it right there.

So much hype was put on how great the aircraft fly’s and how awesome your video will look. Yeah your video will look awesome after you spend weeks trying to figure out the settings for sharpness, contrast and saturation. And your video will look awesome after you spend around a $100 of ND filters. And your video will look awesome after you edit it in Adobe Premiere Pro CC (or comparable software). You have Premiere Pro? Right! Everybody has a subscription to Premiere Pro and everybody learned to edit cinematic grade 4K video in 3rd grade. Oh yeah… and you do have 4K monitor so your video doesn’t scitch along like it has turrets.

Let us not forget the 2 hours spent updating firmware the moment you take the drone out of the box. Even better yet… I open the box to find connection cords for the controller for every phone but the phone I own. At the time I owned a current and up to date android phone. However I had to wait two days for a cord to come from Amazon before I could fly my Mavic. Now let’s just think about that for a moment. I just purchased a $1300 drone (extra batteries, chargers ect…) and there are cords to connect the controller to various phones, but not my phone. A quick trip to the online message boards and I find that I am not alone. So this little incident was another strong clue that while DJI can design and build a stellar aircraft the company strongly lacks common sense in several other areas. And this seems to be a running theme that today’s Millennials just seem to think is the norm with a huge tech companies and it is ok to just bend over and grab your ankles. Apple which is most often thought of as very innovative is very innovative… at bending you over when it comes to buying   peripherals. Best of all their customers love it. Actually they do bitch about it, but they rub their sphincter and say “it’ll be ok because I own an Apple.” So get ready to feel a little hurt from DJI.

Ok, so cord issue solved and I’m up and flying for a few weeks and getting used to the drone. But the video was just horrible; blurry out of focus or when it was in focus it just wasn’t crisp. So here we go back to YouTube to spend countless hours listening to vloggers who are not experts at all. One vlogger says this and another says that. Then there are the DJI tutorials that were not really that helpful for my problem. Now let’s just make it more interesting, let’s change the DJI GO4 app every two weeks or so. Color profiles that were there last week are no longer available unless you uninstall the app and roll back to an older version. Then DJI releases and update that will not let you roll back once you’ve accepted the new update.

All I want to do is fly the drone and shoot video and photos. I am a photographer and I can reach in my camera bag and grab my new camera or my 10-year-old camera and start capturing images or video with no problems at all, just a memory card and a battery and I’m good to go.

I purchased the drone with the thoughts and intentions of having what I really thought would be a good quality flying camera that (from all the hype) was something you could easily carry and put up and take down with not too much of a problem at all. Instead I have this wonderfully engineered aircraft that needs firmware updates, app updates and the camera is nothing more than a flying cell phone camera with a fixed aperture. What a letdown!

So now you are probably asking “where does the fun part come in to the picture” (pardon the pun).  The fun in flying came right away because the aircraft is amazing. The fun in video started after I purchased a set of ND filters and finally figured out the proper camera settings, along with the use of LUTs for grading the video shot in D-Log & D-cinelike. But that camera fun faded quickly when I started to see the video was still falling apart due to the capturing bit rates and blah blah blah. Just remember “flying cell phone camera.”

At this point (about 4 months into owning the Mavic Pro) I decided “let’s just keep flying and shooting. Get good at maneuvering and capturing and practice good work flow habits so when the Mavic 2 come along I can hit the ground running.” I know that sounds a bit idiotic, but it is true.

Let’s run through a breakdown of things the average drone buyer may not know about video. Ok, so there is video and then there is cinematic video and there is a very big difference between the two. Most all of the vloggers I seen promoting the Mavic Pro were promoting the creating of cinematic video. Some would actually walk the viewer through the process while others did not. I, being a photographer and shooting a fair amount of video already knew about camera settings, ND filters and editing. However I have met (in person & online) many Mavic owners who did not really understand the “cinematic” process and they assumed the video (mostly coloring) came straight out of camera.

I have talked with many first time drone owners who did not understand firmware and constant updating.

Then there is the big mystery of “laws, rules & regulation.” This topic is baffling to many because it keeps changing, although we’re getting closer to a standardized regulation, it has not happened yet as of this writing. From the day I first heard of consumer drones I knew it would be a rocky road until the government is satisfied with the amount of money the government can make from it. Sure I will be the first to agree we need laws, rules & regulations to keep you and I and our country safe. But that will come with a price tag… to be paid to Uncle Sam.

So that about wraps up this post, but I will continue with other topics such as the problem with internet message boards and where to seek advice or help with your drone. I will also cover my opinion and experiences with the Mavic Pro 2. Also moving a little off the drone topic I will talk about my experiences with other DJI product and the horrendous misleading advertising DJI has performed directly. Yes DJI want you money bad enough they’ll promise you the moon and then some.

Drone laws and my experiences with the place I have flown my drones.

Thanks so much for reading.

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.