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  

 

MeWe & Me (Imagine if you picked up Time Magazine or an issue of Rolling Stone and all it had was photos with no descriptions or articles.)

1/30 sec at f/8 ISO-200 90mm

We have all captured an amazing or very interesting photo of something. Of course, photography like beauty is very subjective and your interesting photo might not appeal to everyone. For the most part what makes an interesting image capture is one that tells a story in some way form or fashion. Often that story has a very interesting backstory and that will be the topic of this post.

The backstory is always there and in today’s social media it is often overlooked and in fact kind of “not cool” to post. I myself am guilty as charged when it comes to what I post on my Instagram. Nearly everyone of my posts will have what I believe to be an interesting photo followed by a quote of some sort. The quote of course is in someway related to the context of the image. Why do I do this? I’m not really sure but, it just kind of became part of the norm for my IG. I do of course credit anyone associated with the photo such as models or makeup artist and then of course hashtags. Sadly, I rarely tell the backstory when posting to IG. It seemed when I first started to get followers most people would acknowledge the photo with a push of the heart and move on. The only actual comments would come from someone who was involved in the photo, that usually being the model.

It just seemed to me (and maybe I’m wrong) that at least for IG viewers it was more about zipping through their feed and mostly paying attention to the photos… if it is cool it gets a heart and if it doesn’t catch their eye, they just keep swiping up. I kind of get it, I mean today we are inundated with images, I myself being 56 years old look at more photos in one day than I could have ever imaged 20 years ago. When I think about it, it is actually mind numbing and after a while I just get bored swiping up on my IG feed. But I still love photography and I like looking at something interesting.

Often, I will force myself to “slow down” and look more closely at images. If it is a pointless selfie I just move on. However, pretty much anything other than a selfie I will take a moment to really look at the image and many times I think “what is the backstory” to this photo? I look in the description and most times find nothing. Sometimes the post will have a location tag and that offers a little information but I’m still left wondering.

Post to my blog: If I am writing a general blog post I always include at least one photo. after all my blog is about photography. However, the post may be about a general topic of let’s say for example traveling so I will post a very generic travel photo. But, when I do this, I will at least put the camera settings (shutter speed, F/ stop, ISO & focal length) in the photo description. It gives a tiny backstory to the photo. With that said; most of my blog posts are written about the photos and the post itself tell the story of what, when, where and the why about the photos attached to the post. Again, it is a photography blog and what would be the sense of just posting photos without talking about them? But that seems to be the norm with most social media… posting with no real context. Imagine if you picked up Time Magazine or an issue of Rolling Stone and all it had was photos with no descriptions or articles. So, for me seeing photos on social media often leaves me with more questions than answers lol.

New social media: I recently created a profile on MeWe.com and started checking out the various groups. I joined a photography group that was open to photographers of all levels from amateur to professional. So here again I find myself scrolling through photos (mostly amateur) and while some of the photos are interesting on their own because the photo tells a story, I find that other photos might be more interesting if there was some sort of a description or context.

1/80 sec at f/8 ISO 200 55mm

They say “a picture is worth 1000 words” so let’s look at this photo of this man holding a small boy. With no description we are left with… a man holding a boy. One could assume the boy is his child and we see palm leaves, a boat and two chairs in the background. It would be like a slow boat to China trying to find 1000 words from this photo.

1/250 sec at f/3.5 ISO 640 18mm

So, let me also include a photo of the same man walking along this building. This photo is a little more interesting because it has more objects in the photo and we see the whole body of the man. Certainly, with this photo we could come up with a little bit more of a story about this man. However, we are still miles away from knowing the true context of what the photo is really about. And now let me put a little backstory to the images and see if it makes them just a little more interesting.

The man is from Myanmar, he is the only permanent resident and a tiny island in the Gulf of Thailand. The boy is his son who was born on the island. His wife gave birth to the boy on the island with only the help of her husband. The boy has never played with other children and does not speak, although he can speak. In the first image I asked the man if he could pose with his son so I could take a nice photo of him. His wife didn’t want to be photographed. I returned to the island two years later and gave him a print of this photo. It was at this time I captured the second photo. The building in the second image is the house where the three of them live. The opposite side of the island has a few small seasonal resorts however, he resides as a caretaker for a private piece of land on the backside of the island. Maybe I’m jaded because I was there, I captured the photos and I met the man, his wife & son. But still, I think the photos are more interesting with a little bit of context and a backstory.

Back to MeWe: The photography group I joined has a 3 photos per day posting limit and I think that is very fair. As I scroll though the photos I will sometimes stop and ask questions about a photo and every time I will get a reply with info that puts the photo into a better perspective. Most people hare happy to tell you something about their photos but for some reason are reluctant to write at least a short description for the photo.

Conclusion: I get it… without dispute there are some photos that need no description. There are iconic photos (mostly journalistic) that that tell a story just by looking at the content of the image. This is often the talent of the great photographer and… speaking of great (iconic) photographers, look at Joe McNally’s Instagram. Every photo posted has a great description of what you are looking at. Whether it is a description of the lighting technique or a story about the person in the image the viewer comes away with a knowing of what they just looked at. So I will leave at that and say thanks for reading and have a great day.

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.

 

Misdirection (…like a car spinning tires in the mud… when in reality you are sitting still no matter how far down you push the gas pedal.)

What you are about to read is my advice to help a new model who is just starting out and needs direction and understanding of what a photographer is looking for in a Time for Print model. Some of this information you may not agree with and that is ok. I base this information on my own experience of working with models over the past several years and many of those models were young men & women who had a dream, they were new and they were lost as to where to and how to start. I would always offer any new model who stepped in front of my camera information that they could carry with them and that I feel would help them as they moved forward on their journey. In fact, there is actually a plethora of information that could be given but, let me start with what I feel is some of the most important information that covers a new models biggest weakness.

Emotion & Expression; I cannot over express this by any means. So many models lack emotion & expression, they stand in front of the camera and look like a ghost or a stick. Other than some times smiling and smiling is a good thing (sometimes) which is a natural thing to do in front of a camera, a model needs to learn how to show emotion. Emotion needs not only be expressed in the face but, also the body. Sounds easy to read it here in words but, if it was really that easy then everyone would be a great model… everyone is not a great model however, I feel anyone can be a great model if they learn how to pose and do it with emotion & expression.

So, now you are asking; where and how do I learn how to pose with emotion? There is no one size fits all answer to that question but… This is what I would do if I was a model. I would first take a serious look at professional models; I mean a serious look at poses and so much more. Choose some models that you like or that you are familiar with and use the power of social media to dissect what they do and how they do it. Let’s just take one professional model to use as an example. Let’s use Coco Rocha. Why Coco Rocha? Well there are a few reasons I am using her as an example. For one she is one of the greatest models of the time we are living in right now. Second; she wrote a book about posing “A Study of Pose” with 1000 poses. That book just didn’t write itself, her and a photographer passionately spent countless hours, days and months on that project. In fact; I have given her book as a gift to models who I feel are worthy and are driven. Third; I am a huge Coco Rocha fan and I would recommend anyone who is aspiring to be a paid model to follow her Instagram. Practically every prost on her Instagram is a modeling lesson if you take the time to breakdown what she is actually doing. She is a master of her trade, and a word of advice; do not ignore a master, whether you like or dislike their personality you should always bow to the fact that they are a master of their trade and they hold a wealth of information, they hold the map of the road you need to travel to achieve your goals and reach your dreams.

Coco Rocha knows how to show emotion and not just with her face, she will use her body in pose with emotion & expression and also at times use wardrobe to help convey emotion into a pose. And of course, she makes it look easy… and of course it is not as easy as it always looks. So, what do you do?  Practice it! Practice being Coco Rocha and if she is not your thing then find a model who is and practice them. It is ok to mimic a professional model when you are an amateur. It takes me back to my younger days when I first started to learn guitar. Like many musicians I would learn a cover song and play it just like the original, note for note. Then in due time once I knew that song like the back of my hand, I would improvise on the lead lines & solos and soon my personal style would start coming through. Do the same with your posing, mimic somebody and keep doing it until you start to develop your own style. And really that is the key thing here “developing your own style” but in the beginning you have no style. By mimicking you can eventually develop a style. When I started out as a guitar player, I would mimic such greats as Eric Clapton and then move on to another guitarist, all while retaining just a little bit of Clapton in my style. So, while I am just using Coca Rocha as an example, don’t just look at her. Mimic her and move on to another model and then another model and so on. Learning only stops when you leave this earth, if you have a passion you will keep learning something everyday of your life.

Tiffany In The Rain

What kind of a model do you want to be? Today there are so many avenues to pursue. Of, course you have the standards like runway & print. However, there are so many more genres of modeling like spokes models, fitness models, promotional/event models and many more. In the beginning most people really don’t know what road to take they just want to get their feet wet in front of the camera and there is nothing wrong with that. So, let’s talk a little more about being in front of the camera because I find that a new model will sometimes be clueless as to what they are supposed to do and not do and what they should know or not know before they step in front of the camera. I’ll run through what I think is the biggest question that usually comes to mind.

“Will the photographer give me directions on how to pose or am I supposed to know how to pose already?” This sounds like a silly question to some but, I found this question to be on the mind of a lot of new models.

Answer: If you are a new model and you have been truthful and said you are new model then I am going to expect that you know very little. I will direct your posing and help & walk you through it. I cannot really speak for other photographers; I can only speak for me. I use common sense; I tell people up front that I have one rule that must be followed and that rule is simply “we must have fun.” If we are not having fun then we pack up and go home. So, the mood is “lighthearted and easy going.” I will give you direction and you will respond; we create a photo and move on to the next pose.

Ah the next pose… Again, this is where a lot of new models fall flat and that is moving from one pose to another or running out of poses after two minutes of shooting. I have found that there are actually a few ways to look at this so let’s dive in here and break it down because this is where some photographers are in the wrong and not the model (in my opinion).

So, here is the setup; It is an outdoor shoot and a photographer and a model are standing next to a very ornamental lamp post on a street corner. The model is new and she will need direction, the photographer will need to move her through the poses.

Nam 1/125 sec at f/3.2 ISO 4000 142mm

 

Ok if I was the photographer in this situation, I would shoot about 10 different poses or angles and move on. It would be about 30 photos and that would be 3 photos of each pose and this is generally speaking, it could be more or less. I typically shoot 3 photos every time I push the shutter button. I do this to account for the model blinking their eyes, lip movement and other natural quirks that can often ruin a great shot. I move on because if I am directing the model, I do not want to bore them, I want to keep things moving along. I want to keep the flow going and if I spend too much time in anyone spot or location, I notice that the model (especially a new model) will start to get flatter than they already are. If I want more shots of that lamp post we could always come back to it, keeping in mind that in my experience “the best shots often come at the end of the shoot” when the model has loosened up a bit.

Now in many cases a new model may be shooting with a new photographer and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. I remember being new to shooting with models and boy did I make some stupid mistakes. One mistake was “not knowing when to move on to a different set of poses or location and I would bore the model and make her as I say “go flat.” Going flat is when he/she just doesn’t respond to your direction as well as they should and often times, they are just getting tired and want to end the shoot but, may not tell you they want to end the shoot for fear of offending you.

Now let’s take a look at the same scenario but with a model who doesn’t need too much direction. Again, here we are photographer and model at this same interesting lamp post on the street corner. The model may be very experienced or she may be an amateur that has a very good understanding of posing. She will run through her standard poses, changing poses after every 2 to 3 chicks of the shutter, she will be moving her body and her facial expressions and freezing them just long enough for the camera to capture. All the while she is doing her thing, she is using the lamp post as a prop and incorporating it into her poses and the photographer should also be changing angles and (in this scenario) I would most likely start moving 360 degrees around the model & lamp post while shooting high & low. In comparison to the first scenario this sounds like a lot of work and we are in this location a long time. In reality it is maybe a little longer but, not by much because the model is going to keep it going and only stopping for things like straightening her wardrobe or removing hair across her face ect…

I have found that when a model is experienced in posing the only direction, I have to give is technical stuff usually related to light or wind direction. I have worked with models who were as I say “a toy, you wind them up and let them go” and they do their own thing and it is like magic.

So, I think that covers the most basic question a new model is thinking about when they first shoot with an experienced photographer. I say this based on my experience with the many new models I have shot with over the years. In asking them questions before the shoot or in some cases when we reminiscing about our first shoot together and the models tells me how nervous they were that day and the stuff that was running through their mind.

As I stated earlier in this post “I try to give people some kind of helpful information they can take with them on their journey.” There is nothing more I love than seeing people chasing their dream and moving forward on their journey to where ever it is they are going. We all have hopes, goals and dreams and aside from “not letting anyone steal your dream” one of the biggest slow downs is “fear and misdirection.” Fear, if you have it, you know you have it. We all fight fear on our own levels. But misdirection is something that we are often unaware of, we are kind of clueless and we don’t even realize it.

Looking at my Instagram feed just a little while ago and I see a few amateur models I follow who are totally clueless to posing and the use of emotion & expression. I truly feel bad for the one girl because at this time she has 325 post on her IG that are all model shots and in nearly every one of the photos she has the same exact look on her face. In nearly every shot she is looking straight at the camera and has the same exact blank look on her face. Don’t get me wrong the “blank stare” could actually be a pose but, when you do it 300 times in a row it becomes sad and it show that she is clueless about posing. Furthermore, it shows the photographers that she is working with are also clueless. Many people today use Instagram to showcase their modeling or photography and will have a dedicated account separate from their personal account. It gives people a place to see your body of work. I can tell you right now that 10 photos are all it really takes to capture someone’s interest in what you do. Someone looks at 10 of your photos and if they’re really interested, they will look at another 10 and that is just human nature. Going beyond 20 photos they are now investigating and not just looking. Imaging pulling up someone’s IG feed and seeing the first 10 photos all taken at different times and yet the model has the same expression on her face in every photo. You give your thumb a fast slide across the screen and spin down through her feed only to stop on another photo with the same exact expression the only thing different is the wardrobe. I know it sounds like I am really ripping on this girl and in a way, I am but, let’s look even closer.

This person is really putting a lot of time into what she is doing, she is planning a schedule, her makeup and hair always look great and in fact her overall look is good. I’m sure she has some sort of hopes, goals and dreams to progress at what she is doing. However, the chances go down drastically when every shoot produces the same exact look every time. You are like a car spinning tires in the mud. Stepping on the gas pedal produces a noise like you are going somewhere, when in reality you are sitting still no matter how far down you push the gas pedal. In my opinion this girl suffers from misdirection and not understanding how to make her images more interesting. Just imagine if she understood this concept… now those 350 images on her IG would look a whole lot better.

In this post I only begin to scratch the very tiniest tip of the iceberg that is modeling and I hope this information helps someone. Remember the only thing more important than you is your dream. At all costs, never let someone steal your dream, for if they steal your dream, they also steal a piece of your soul and you let them do it.

Thank you for reading and god bless.

 

 

Ronin S (A good gimbal from a “Half-Baked” company, the new world order.)

DJI Focus Motor

Like many people who purchased the DJI Ronin S Gimbal aka camera stabilizer “when it was first released” I was really disappointed that DJI miss lead us Canon EOS 6D owners into thinking our cameras would be able to interact with the Ronin S. Not long after the release of the gimbal DJI kind of said “we’re not going to include the 6D on the list of compatible cameras.” I partially understand how this happened, but not really why it happened.

In order for any product to interact with another (especially in the electronic world) there is usually a little or sometimes a lot of sharing of technology and getting permissions to use another company’s technology. This can many times be a big hurdle in development of a new products and again I state “especially in the electronic marketplace.” Camera gimbals are a relatively new piece of technology and so they are still in the up and coming stages.

Now with all that said; DJI is increasingly (in my opinion) becoming well-known for their “half-baked” product releases. At some point I think they’ll step in a pile of shit that they can’t scrape off their shoe and get hammered by the FTC for some sort of fraudulent advertising or something along those lines. When this happens, they’ll most likely take a few high-profile YouTube vloggers/influencers down as collateral damage. Kind of like a NASCAR crash when an innocent driver gets collected into a wreck “just for being there.”

So, yeah, the Ronin S camera stabilizer was one of their “half-baked” schemes and a lot of people got duped. I will say that DJI did hold true to their promise that there would be improvements via firmware updates and they did make the gimbal compatible with many cameras on the so-called “list.” The “list” being the PDF that was released giving a list of compatible or soon to be compatible cameras.

For me: I am a Canon EOS 6D owner although the camera is old at this point (3/6/19) and I was already planning to move on to another camera to use exclusively for the Ronin S. However, I thought it was great that the 6D was on the initial list of compatible cameras because this would allow me to make an early purchase of the Ronin S and start working with it ASAP. I (like most) am new to gimbals because gimbals are new to us. I knew beforehand that it would take practice to get good with handling of the gimbal if I wanted to incorporate it into the workflow of my photography business. After all I am not going to go out using a product/tool for my business and be “half-baked” with it. Half-baked anything will eventually lead to trouble.

Any new piece of gear I have ever purchased is always run through the paces before it gets used on a paid job. Every photographer has had to work through problems that arise unexpectedly when using gear, we are already familiar with. In fact, it is a given that things will go wrong on any given day and part of what make a good photographer, cinematographer, director, 1st AC, 2nd AC ect… is being able to work through problems with gear. But what sane person wants to compound those problems by taking a piece of gear into the field without know how to use it. You cannot possibly expect to problem solve a piece of gear if you first don’t know how to use it “inside & out.”

So, that was my expectation when I would first receive the Ronin S, I would throw the old 6D on there and spend hours honing a skill… And well, that did quite happen as planned. However, I did put the 6D on the Ronin S and get to work practicing and trying to learn the ins & outs of the gimbal. But DJI’s “half-baked” hair brain bullshit keeps cropping up. Things like the app changes. I use the app to make changes to the gimbal setting and one day I wake up and the app changes and then the app changes again, and so on. Of course, anyone who owns a DJI drone like the Mavic Pro or now the Mavic Pro 2 knows full well what I’m talking about when it comes to app changes. Something that was there yesterday is not there today. Of course, it is not all a bad thing, some changes are for the better, but how is a person supposed to incorporate a piece of gear into workflow when it is constantly changing and you never really know when the changes will happen. I have cameras that I have owned for 10 years, I know them inside and out. I know the settings like I know the back of my hand. I can pick up a camera body I haven’t touched in three years and it works just as I left it three years earlier. Sadly, DJI and other companies don’t understand this concept.

My prediction is in the not to distant future a company will emerge as a true front-runner in “camera-gimbal” technology and understand exactly what I am talking about. Simply put they will move away from the “half-baked” mentality that plagues the marketplace today. What would be nice is to see one of the big camera manufactures get into the ring with camera and gimbals that are designed as one unit and can then be separated. Sort of a modular design, although I hate to use the word “modular” because it sounds dated or old. Let’s call it a camera and gimbal system. If I wanted to, we could start talking about how AI will totally revolutionize the camera industry in the near future. But that would best be left for another longer post.

To remedy the problem of focusing my 6D while mounted on the Ronin S I purchased the “Focus Motor” and I have to say it works pretty good, so far. My unit did arrive with a loose screw that let the gear wheel on the focus motor waver and wobble a little. I tightened the screw with w T-7 Torx driver and it resolved the problem. Only drawback to the focus motor is the fact it adds weight to an already heavy gimbal. It also adds another thing to go wrong when out in the field working. Engineering 101… the more moving parts to a design the more problematic the design, end of story. For users who have a camera that is compatible with the Ronin S they have less weight and less moving parts to break. Less setup time, less breakdown time.

But for now, having the focus motor allows me to use the Ronin S in a practice capacity until I decide what camera I want to purchase.

Hey thanks for stopping by and have a great day.


							

The Holy Grail of Answers (How much do I charge to shoot a wedding?)

The Holy Grail of Answers

I think the biggest question that just about every photographer is faced with at some point or another is; How much do I charge for shooting a wedding? This of course would be a photographer who has never shot a wedding before, but it may not be a new photographer or a young photographer. It could be anyone who is a photographer that just hasn’t shot a wedding. With that said; I think most photographers who have done any form of paid work would not have too hard of a time figuring out how much to charge for a wedding. Rather it would be someone who is not too familiar with paid work that would be perplexed with this question.

Now before you read any further, “yes” I will give you an actual dollar amount and I won’t make you wait till the end of this post to tell you. However, I would like to first give you a few details about me so you can see who I am and where I am coming from in a photography context.

I am not a wedding photographer, I do not advertise to be a wedding photographer, but I still shoot weddings, about 2 to 4 per year. I will get approached in some way form or fashion and asked to shoot a wedding, whether it be a personal recommendation from a client or a friend or it could be from someone who just found me on the internet. So, if someone wants to hire me, I am certainly not going to turn down a paying job. Also, please know I am writing this post because I know I am not alone and that there are other photographers out there who also get approached about weddings even though they may not be a so called “wedding photographer.”

So, you might ask; If you are not a wedding photographer, what kind of photographer are you? Ok, I shoot a lot of portraiture, I cover events like book signings, social gatherings and birthdays. Birthdays are usually for dignitaries and the like in and around the Philadelphia area. I shoot stock photography for webmasters and I also do corporate headshots. And then there is always bands and local artists as well as models who I have worked with. So, I guess I do just about everything and that is why from time to time I get asked to shoot a wedding.

1/125 sec at f/5.0 ISO 100 70mm

My prices start at $2000 to shoot a wedding. I live here in New Jersey and I know there are photographers who charge a lot more than that and I am sure there are ones who charge less. But now that I have thrown this “Holy Grail” of an answer out here on the internet, please read on to see how I justify this number and how this number could be more or less for you. I put the number out there because I didn’t want this to be another one of those countless boring posts that claims to give an answer to a big question and then only for the reader (you) to get to the end of the post and all you read was a bunch of gibberish about how “all situations are different” and the person writing the article/post never tells what “they actually charge.”

Okay, so I am going to cover a few topics related to this question of “how much to charge to shoot a wedding?” I think the equally important question is; How much do I charge a friend to photograph a wedding? This is a really tough question, but I have a really good perspective on this too. I mention this because I think/know that many photographers shoot their first wedding for someone they personally know or are in some way acquainted with.

So, let’s start with why I charge $2000 and see if you can charge $2000 for a day’s work. Ah, the very first myth to be exposed; It is not a day’s work. You will do some work before and a lot after the day of the actual wedding. So, don’t mislead yourself and certainly don’t let your potential client think that you are just doing work that one day. In a kind but meaningful way the client needs to understand about editing and editing takes time. However, we/you need to ask yourself how good and how fast can you edit. I myself am pretty fast at what I do and I know how long it will take me to edit. You also have to keep in mind what else you will be doing for the next week after this wedding. Are you going on vacation, do you have other clients lined up? So, as you can see this wedding “thing” has many facets to it and it is not a “run & gun & you done” kind of thing. So, stay with me here as I explain how I do it and what I don’t do.

First and foremost, I do not shoot without editing, period. If a client asks “well how much for you to just shoot the photos and put them on a disc? Beit a friend or stranger my answer is always the same; “I am not a Craigslist photographer,” end of story and I walk away. I like money just as much as the next person, but I also love what I do and I respect what I do. Enough said about that.

I don’t charge for a consultation or a follow up consultation, but if a client is going to want to keep meeting with me over and over it is $50 to $100 each time. This usually stops the pointless meet ups and asking questions that don’t need to be asked. Remember if your dealing with someone who is not a friend… well, you’re dealing with the public and there are people who will meet with you ten times and then hire someone else. You have to work as a professional and let your clients know “you are a professional.” How many times will your doctor meet with you for free? You need to know your value and stand by it, even if it is your very first wedding. You are going to be capturing images of this special day and I know that can sound really “hokey” but it is so true. You are also going to capture photos of family and friends. And to be realistic some of those images of family and friends are going to be the last good photos of these people. Not to sound morbid but I have captured photos of family members and guests that not long after the wedding they leave this world for one reason or another and now that image of aunt Martha dancing has a whole new meaning. This of course is not a topic to bring up to the client, but it is the reality photography.

So yes, know your worth and stand by it.

I like to tell clients that I “shoot in a journalistic timeline style.” Meaning I will start shooting usually with the bride getting ready and then just keep going all the way through the ceremony and up to the reception. At the reception I will cover all the important things like “the entrance,” the first dance” and all that fun stuff. But I don’t do detailed shots of all the guests, just highlighted moments.

Now of that $2000 I need to pay an assistant to follow me around and help me with whatever I need. I have another business aside from my photography and I have an assistant that helps me and I have learned the power of what a great assistant can do. So, with my photography, when I am doing a big job like a wedding or a complexed photo shoot, I always have a paid assistant. With assistants you only get what you pay for, so pay them well. Actually, I could write a whole blog post on “what is a good assistant.” Also know my assistant knows very little about photography, but she does know a lot about weddings. Her main function is carrying gear bags and having a speed light available at a moment notice if needed. Her biggest asset to me is being smart and quick on her feet, being able to solve problems quickly.

Do I need a second shooter? If I need a second or third camera person of course the price will go up. I try not to have a second shooter, which means a lot more hustling… I mean a lot more hustling, but if I can do without one I will. Second shooters can make your life a lot easier or they can make you… want to kill the second shooter lol.

Do you have good equipment? You need to shoot with good equipment. You don’t need to have the best or the newest, you just need to have reliable gear and you need to have a backup. And you need to know how to use the backup.

So, let’s talk a little about your equipment or the lack thereof. First you need a few good lenses. The lenses are more important than the camera and most likely you already know that. If you don’t have a good lens and you can’t borrow one, then rent one or two. www.borrowlens.com is where I would go and still go if I need a lens or other gear that I don’t have. I would work any rental cost into the price of the job. I would most times be honest and tell the client there will be a rental cost because I need a special lens to do the job. No one ever really questioned me.

Here is what I use when I shoot a wedding today; Two camera bodies and preferably both are full frame sensors, if not one must be (for my personal preference) a full frame sensor. Full frame sensors will let you shoot better in low light situation and yes you will have low light situations, I promise you that. I use two bodies so I don’t have to change out lenses every two minutes.

Three lenses; although I have shot with two lenses. I never shoot a wedding with one lens. I know many people who claim they can shoot a whole wedding day on an 85mm prime… god bless you, but that’s not my style.

I use a 70-200mm f/2.8 with image stabilization, a 24-70mm f/2.8 and a 50mm f/1.4. I will have two radio speed lights and one is mounted on an adjustable pole for my assistant to carry. I will have one lightweight lite stand that I can put a speed light on if necessary.

But hold on, let me backup and tell you what I used for my first few weddings. I had 1 Canon 6D body (full frame sensor). I rented a 70-200mm f/2.8 and a 24-105mm f/4.0. I had one, on camera speed light. I also had my assistant hold a round reflector when needed. That was it, just two lenses and one body. Shooting like this meant a lot of lens change-outs and my assistant and I had a system and we worked like a pit crew. Seriously, it was all accomplished through teamwork and it ran very smooth.

Even today with three lenses and two bodies, we will go over our moves before the wedding to make sure we’re on the same page when it comes to gear. I have strange little personal preferences with things like batteries and memory cards. Example; AA batteries that are charged are carried in little battery cases with 4 batteries per case and they must be +, -, +, – and this tells me the batteries all have a full charge. They are placed positive & negative (every other one) because that is the order they need to be in when replacing batteries in a speedlight. Spent batteries are placed in the case +,+,+,+ and this then tells me those batteries are not charged. These are all the little things that I work out with my assistant to make everything as fast and easy… and as professional as possible. Now, with all that said; of course, we run into the unexpected and this is where you have to be fast thinking on your feet. If you have a great assistant, they will solve your problems while you keep working. Also, having an assistant is someone you can lay the blame on when things go wrong. Of course, I am kidding lol.

Most important of all advice about assistants; Never use a friend or someone who works for free. Money motivates and I want (you too want) an assistant who is more energetic than me, end of story on that.

After the wedding and I mean immediately after the shoot, the memory cards go into a waterproof case and they stay on my person until I get home. If it is late when I get home the card case goes in my safe or a fireproof lock box. The next day the cards are downloaded and double backups made. The cards are not erased or used at all for the next 30 days or until I know backups are safe. Enough said on that topic.

In the first consultation with the clients I tell them they will receive their images via a “thumb drive.” I give all edited images as JPEGs and I also give them digital negatives (DNG files) of the entire wedding. The DNGs are for them to have as digital negatives, much the same way we would save film negatives back in the film days. Keep in mind here that I am not editing every image shot at the wedding. I usually give them a link to a shared folder or online gallery to choose their edits and there is a predetermined number they can choose.

It is fully understood they are paying for my creative shooting, editing and digital JPEGs. They are not paying for prints. I leave printing up to the client, however I do show them samples of my prints (from www.mpix.com) and leave it up to them… do they want to do their own prints from Walgreens, CVS or where ever, or do they want me to handle prints and that would be a whole separate job and bill.

Either way I usually agree to have all edits finished within two weeks (most times I’m done sooner) and I usually have two or three really nice shots finished and emailed within 24 hours.

Now lets just recap a little here. $2000 gets them a full day (6-8 hours) of shooting and edits & digital negatives delivered on a thumb drive in two weeks. Prints are optional at a separate price. The $2K includes me and my assistant. It does not include travel or rentals or any other expenses and usually the job includes a meal at the reception. Make sure you make clear about this because you have been working all day with nothing to eat. I never eat while working anyway, but I am hungry at the end of the day. Most venues are charging the bride & groom “per meal” so make sure you’re on the meal list. You will eat quickly because you still have some shooting to do.

Part II: How much do I charge a friend?

This gets a little tricky and you need to use a little or maybe a lot of common sense. First thing we need to know about working for friends is “they want you to work for free.” I know that sounds funny or maybe sarcastic but it is the flat-out truth.

Before we go any further, I want to shatter your ego here a little bit. I know they are your friends and you love them and you would do anything for them, after all that is what friends do for friends… right? Friends and family will also be the first to f%#k you too, sometimes without thinking about it and other times they fully no what they’re doing is wrong. Friends & family will always tell you how much they like your photography… because they don’t want to hurt you. (Just accept that fact an move on with life)

Ever give someone a gift and you never see them wear/use it. A few years later you find out they sold it on eBay. I have given people something personal I spent hours working on in Photoshop only to see it stuck on their refrigerator door with magnet. “There’s my piece I worked so hard on and is covered with coffee stains”… yeah friends. They loved it when I handed it to them, but now it is on the door of the fridge next to the electric bill (they love so much too).

Ok, so right about now your saying to yourself this blogger is a real cynical asshole and I bet he has very few friends lol. Let’s look at some real-life situations with friends and wedding photography.

Friend: Sarah we would really like you to photograph our wedding. We love your work and we know you. Our budget is tight, what would you charge.

Sarah: Yeah you guys are great friends and I would be happy to shoot your special day. I normally charge more but I’ll do your wedding for $500.

Friend: Wow, that’s great. This is going to be awesome.

Sarah: So where is the wedding going to be held?

Friend: Oh, wait till you see this place, we’re renting this old mansion upstate. People have weddings there all the time, it is pricy but it’s our special day you know. And we’re going to have that band fly in from North Carolina, remember the one we seen in that club when we were on vacation a few years ago, they were awesome. They will fly up for $4000 and play the wedding.

Sarah: Oh… really! Yeah, I remember that band.

Friend: But we’re going to have a DJ too, it’s going to be a blast, great location, awesome food, great music… and of course a great photographer. And my mom is hiring a video company to make one of those awesome movie-like wedding videos.

Sarah: ……

Yeah that last “Sarah” is speechless. She is going to shoot this wedding for $500 and the DJ is making 4 times that much. Not to mention the price tag for the rest of the event. So, I think you can see where I’m going with this and this particular story did actually happen to my friend and she came to me practically in tears and asked for advice.

My friend is not alone, I have about four or five of these stories that actually happened to me, but I use her story as an example because it was really over the top. I know I can’t leave you hanging, you want to know how her story turned out.

My advice to anyone for anything starts with being honest. Honesty is the best policy and I try to live by that. However, I will be the first to admit honesty does not always work. I told my friend Sarah to just go back and tell the bride & groom that she was wrong and that she would be drastically doing a dis-service to herself if she shot the wedding for $500. I told her to say that she talked it over with another photographer to make sure she was on track and she realized she misquoted the price. She quoted them a price of $2000 plus her travel to the venue in upstate New York, including a room for the night.

At first, they were kind of dumbfounded, but did not say too much. Actually, the bride’s parents were paying for most of the wedding and the groom’s parents were paying for the honeymoon and other expenses. So, the bride went back and told her father of the change in price and a few days later Sarah got the text message saying that “all was good.” I also let her use my 70-200mm (free of charge) and I was her “paid” assistant for the day. Here is the kicker… after the wedding the brides father handed Sarah the envelope with the cash. $2300 for the shooting, travel & room, plus another $1000 for a tip. She was ecstatic. I was so happy for her, she got her first full wedding under her belt and she made a nice buck at the same time. Sadly, I had a job the next day so I had to drive 5 hours back after working all day. Sarah and her boyfriend had a relaxing night at the hotel.

So, shooting for a friend could be you shooting for free and you could consider your photography services a “wedding gift” from you to them. If you are ok with that there is nothing wrong in giving away what you do as a gift. And with that; It really does make answering the question “how much to charge a friend” a very tough question to answer. Just remember that you really need to feel the situation out and weigh out what is really happening. Are you being asked to do something as a “friend helping a friend” or “as a friend taking advantage of a friend?”

Most of all, know that shooting a wedding is no easy task, that is if you are going to do it as a professional. The last wedding a shot, I fired the first click of the shutter 12:10pm and the last shot at 10:14pm. It was an outdoor wedding and there was a little bit of a weather delay, nonetheless it was a very long and hot day. I had my assistant, but I also requested an assistant from the venue just to follow us around with water so neither me, my assistant or the bride or groom dehydrated (August wedding lol). Put it this way; I have never finished a day of wedding shooting and went home well rested.

Now for the real answer; There are some photographers who would call me a “hack” at $2000, because they wouldn’t touch a wedding for anything less that $6000 or maybe even $10,000 and that is fine by me. Their words can’t hurt me because I’m not in third grade. I need to make a living and I do what I do, how I do. Bottom line is; as long as the customer is happy with the work you have performed and you are happy with what you got paid… then at the end of the day life is good.

I kind of wanted to end my post here, but I feel I need to touch on one more topic when it comes to “new wedding photographers and what to charge.”

This would be the topic of “wedding photography courses or video tutorials.” When it comes to photography courses & tutorial there are a few things to keep in mind and it is very simple “there are good ones and there are bad ones.” Some are just a huge waste of money.

First and foremost, there are so many people out there pushing their tutorials about the business side of wedding photography that are just unrealistic crap. The reality is that these people are very good at selling “you” something. I am not too sure about how good they are at selling a $10K price tag to a client, but they have to “info-mercial” technique down and they are now selling you the moon. There actual salary comes from “you” buying their “snake oil” wedding photography course. Actually, I find some of these guys/gals to be very entertaining. They act as if they have unlocked some secret weapon and for x amount of dollars, they will tell you the secret. It’s like they have the cure for cancer. I have seen this same kind of thing with chefs where they lead you to believe they’re cooking is almost extraterrestrial… please, give me a break.

I really don’t have too many recommendations on good videos, however I can say that KelbyOne Training has some very good wedding photography course.

Bottom line here is; Learn camera settings and how to shoot and keep it simple. Shoot local events where there is constant action of thing happening and after you have done enough of that kind of shooting, you’ll get the feel for what it is going to take to spend 6 hours shooting a wedding.

Thanks for reading and have a great day.

 

 

The Holy Grail of Answers

I think the biggest question that just about every photographer is faced with at some point or another is; How much do I charge for shooting a wedding? This of course would be a photographer who has never shot a wedding before, but it may not be a new photographer or a young photographer. It could be anyone who is a photographer that just hasn’t shot a wedding. With that said; I think most photographers who have done any form of paid work would not have too hard of a time figuring out how much to charge for a wedding. Rather it would be someone who is not too familiar with paid work that would be perplexed with this question.

Now before you read any further, “yes” I will give you an actual dollar amount and I won’t make you wait till the end of this post to tell you. However, I would like to first give you a few details about me so you can see who I am and where I am coming from in a photography context.

I am not a wedding photographer, I do not advertise to be a wedding photographer, but I still shoot weddings, about 2 to 4 per year. I will get approached in some way form or fashion and asked to shoot a wedding, whether it be a personal recommendation from a client or a friend or it could be from someone who just found me on the internet. So, if someone wants to hire me, I am certainly not going to turn down a paying job. Also, please know I am writing this post because I know I am not alone and that there are other photographers out there who also get approached about weddings even though they may not be a so called “wedding photographer.”

So, you might ask; If you are not a wedding photographer, what kind of photographer are you? Ok, I shoot a lot of portraiture, I cover events like book signings, social gatherings and birthdays. Birthdays are usually for dignitaries and the like in and around the Philadelphia area. I shoot stock photography for webmasters and I also do corporate headshots. And then there is always bands and local artists as well as models who I have worked with. So, I guess I do just about everything and that is why from time to time I get asked to shoot a wedding.

My prices start at $2000 to shoot a wedding. I live here in New Jersey and I know there are photographers who charge a lot more than that and I am sure there are ones who charge less. But now that I have thrown this “Holy Grail” of an answer out here on the internet, please read on to see how I justify this number and how this number could be more or less for you. I put the number out there because I didn’t want this to be another one of those countless boring posts that claims to give an answer to a big question and then only for the reader (you) to get to the end of the post and all you read was a bunch of gibberish about how “all situations are different” and the person writing the article/post never tells what “they actually charge.”

Okay, so I am going to cover a few topics related to this question of “how much to charge to shoot a wedding?” I think the equally important question is; How much do I charge a friend to photograph a wedding? This is a really tough question, but I have a really good perspective on this too. I mention this because I think/know that many photographers shoot their first wedding for someone they personally know or are in some way acquainted with.

So, let’s start with why I charge $2000 and see if you can charge $2000 for a day’s work. Ah, the very first myth to be exposed; It is not a day’s work. You will do some work before and a lot after the day of the actual wedding. So, don’t mislead yourself and certainly don’t let your potential client think that you are just doing work that one day. In a kind but meaningful way the client needs to understand about editing and editing takes time. However, we/you need to ask yourself how good and how fast can you edit. I myself am pretty fast at what I do and I know how long it will take me to edit. You also have to keep in mind what else you will be doing for the next week after this wedding. Are you going on vacation, do you have other clients lined up? So, as you can see this wedding “thing” has many facets to it and it is not a “run & gun & you done” kind of thing. So, stay with me here as I explain how I do it and what I don’t do.

First and foremost, I do not shoot without editing, period. If a client asks “well how much for you to just shoot the photos and put them on a disc? Beit a friend or stranger my answer is always the same; “I am not a Craigslist photographer,” end of story and I walk away. I like money just as much as the next person, but I also love what I do and I respect what I do. Enough said about that.

I don’t charge for a consultation or a follow up consultation, but if a client is going to want to keep meeting with me over and over it is $50 to $100 each time. This usually stops the pointless meet ups and asking questions that don’t need to be asked. Remember if your dealing with someone who is not a friend… well, you’re dealing with the public and there are people who will meet with you ten times and then hire someone else. You have to work as a professional and let your clients know “you are a professional.” How many times will your doctor meet with you for free? You need to know your value and stand by it, even if it is your very first wedding. You are going to be capturing images of this special day and I know that can sound really “hokey” but it is so true. You are also going to capture photos of family and friends. And to be realistic some of those images of family and friends are going to be the last good photos of these people. Not to sound morbid but I have captured photos of family members and guests that not long after the wedding they leave this world for one reason or another and now that image of aunt Martha dancing has a whole new meaning. This of course is not a topic to bring up to the client, but it is the reality photography.

So yes, know your worth and stand by it.

I like to tell clients that I “shoot in a journalistic timeline style.” Meaning I will start shooting usually with the bride getting ready and then just keep going all the way though the ceremony and up to the reception. At the reception I will cover all the important things like “the entrance,” the first dance” and all that fun stuff. But I don’t do detailed shots of all the guests, just highlighted moments.

Now of that $2000 I need to pay an assistant to follow me around and help me with whatever I need. I have another business aside from my photography and I have an assistant that helps me and I have learned the power of what a great assistant can do. So, with my photography, when I am doing a big job like a wedding or a complexed photo shoot, I always have a paid assistant. With assistants you only get what you pay for, so pay them well. Actually, I could write a whole blog post on “what is a good assistant.” Also know my assistant knows very little about photography, but she does know a lot about weddings. Her main function is carrying gear bags and having a speed light available at a moment notice if needed. Her biggest asset to me is being smart and quick on her feet, being able to solve problems quickly.

Do I need a second shooter? If I need a second or third camera person of course the price will go up. I try not to have a second shooter, which means a lot more hustling… I mean a lot more hustling, but if I can do without one I will. Second shooters can make your life a lot easier or they can make you… want to kill the second shooter lol.

Do you have good equipment? You need to shoot with good equipment. You don’t need to have the best or the newest, you just need to have reliable gear and you need to have a backup. And you need to know how to use the backup.

So, let’s talk a little about your equipment or the lack there of. First you need a few good lenses. The lenses are more important than the camera and most likely you already know that. If you don’t have a good lens and you can’t borrow one, then rent one or two. www.borrowlens.com is where I would go and still go if I need a lens or other gear that I don’t have. I would work any rental cost into the price of the job. I would most times be honest and tell the client there will be a rental cost because I need a special lens to do the job. No one ever really questioned me.

Here is what I use when I shoot a wedding today; Two camera bodies and preferably both are full frame sensors, if not one must be (for my personal preference) a full frame sensor. Full frame sensors will let you shoot better in low light situation and yes you will have low light situations, I promise you that. I use two bodies so I don’t have to change out lenses every two minutes.

Three lenses; although I have shot with two lenses. I never shoot a wedding with one lens. I know many people who claim they can shoot a whole wedding day on an 85mm prime… god bless you, but that’s not my style.

I use a 70-200mm f/2.8 with image stabilization, a 24-70mm f/2.8 and a 50mm f/1.4. I will have two radio speed lights and one is mounted on an adjustable pole for my assistant to carry. I will have one lightweight lite stand that I can put a speed light on if necessary.

But hold on, let me backup and tell you what I used for my first few weddings. I had 1 Canon 6D body (full frame sensor). I rented a 70-200mm f/2.8 and a 24-105mm f/4.0. I had one, on camera speed light. I also had my assistant hold a round reflector when needed. That was it, just two lenses and one body. Shooting like this meant a lot of lens change-outs and my assistant and I had a system and we worked like a pit crew. Seriously, it was all accomplished through teamwork and it ran very smooth.

Even today with three lenses and two bodies, we will go over our moves before the wedding to make sure we’re on the same page when it comes to gear. I have strange little personal preferences with things like batteries and memory cards. Example; AA batteries that are charged are carried in little battery cases with 4 batteries per case and they must be +, -, +, – and this tells me the batteries all have a full charge. They are placed positive & negative (every other one) because that is the order they need to be in when replacing batteries in a speedlight. Spent batteries are placed in the case +,+,+,+ and this then tells me those batteries are not charged. These are all the little things that I work out with my assistant to make everything as fast and easy… and as professional as possible. Now, with all that said; of course, we run into the unexpected and this is where you have to be fast thinking on your feet. If you have a great assistant, they will solve your problems while you keep working. Also, having an assistant is someone you can lay the blame on when things go wrong. Of course, I am kidding lol.

Most important of all advice about assistants; Never use a friend or someone who works for free. Money motivates and I want (you too want) an assistant who is more energetic than me, end of story on that.

After the wedding and I mean immediately after the shoot, the memory cards go into a waterproof case and they stay on my person until I get home. If it is late when I get home the card case goes in my safe or a fireproof lock box. The next day the cards are downloaded and double backups made. The cards are not erased or used at all for the next 30 days or until I know backups are safe. Enough said on that topic.

In the first consultation with the clients I tell them they will receive their images via a “thumb drive.” I give all edited images as JPEGs and I also give them digital negatives (DNG files) of the entire wedding. The DNGs are for them to have as digital negatives, much the same way we would save film negatives back in the film days. Keep in mind here that I am not editing every image shot at the wedding. I usually give them a link to a shared folder or online gallery to choose their edits and there is a predetermined number they can choose.

It is fully understood they are paying for my creative shooting, editing and digital JPEGs. They are not paying for prints. I leave printing up to the client, however I do show them samples of my prints (from www.mpix.com) and leave it up to them… do they want to do their own prints from Walgreens, CVS or where ever, or do they want me to handle prints and that would be a whole separate job and bill.

Either way I usually agree to have all edits finished within two weeks (most times I’m done sooner) and I usually have two or three really nice shots finished and emailed within 24 hours.

Now lets just recap a little here. $2000 gets them a full day (6-8 hours) of shooting and edits & digital negatives delivered on a thumb drive in two weeks. Prints are optional at a separate price. The $2K includes me and my assistant. It does not include travel or rentals or any other expenses and usually the job includes a meal at the reception. Make sure you make clear about this because you have been working all day with nothing to eat. I never eat while working anyway, but I am hungry at the end of the day. Most venues are charging the bride & groom “per meal” so make sure you’re on the meal list. You will eat quickly because you still have some shooting to do.

Part II: How much do I charge a friend?

This gets a little tricky and you need to use a little or maybe a lot of common sense. First thing we need to know about working for friends is “they want you to work for free.” I know that sounds funny or maybe sarcastic but it is the flat-out truth.

Before we go any further, I want to shatter your ego here a little bit. I know they are your friends and you love them and you would do anything for them, after all that is what friends do for friends… right? Friends and family will also be the first to f%#k you too, sometimes without thinking about it and other times they fully no what they’re doing is wrong. Friends & family will always tell you how much they like your photography… because they don’t want to hurt you. (Just accept that fact an move on with life)

Ever give someone a gift and you never see them wear/use it. A few years later you find out they sold it on eBay. I have given people something personal I spent hours working on in Photoshop only to see it stuck on their refrigerator door with magnet. “There’s my piece I worked so hard on and is covered with coffee stains”… yeah friends. They loved it when I handed it to them, but now it is on the door of the fridge next to the electric bill (they love so much too).

Ok, so right about now your saying to yourself this blogger is a real cynical asshole and I bet he has very few friends lol. Let’s look at some real-life situations with friends and wedding photography.

Friend: Sarah we would really like you to photograph our wedding. We love your work and we know you. Our budget is tight, what would you charge.

Sarah: Yeah you guys are great friends and I would be happy to shoot your special day. I normally charge more but I’ll do your wedding for $500.

Friend: Wow, that’s great. This is going to be awesome.

Sarah: So where is the wedding going to be held?

Friend: Oh, wait till you see this place, we’re renting this old mansion upstate. People have weddings there all the time, it is pricy but it’s our special day you know. And we’re going to have that band fly in from North Carolina, remember the one we seen in that club when we were on vacation a few years ago, they were awesome. They will fly up for $4000 and play the wedding.

Sarah: Oh… really! Yeah, I remember that band.

Friend: But we’re going to have a DJ too, it’s going to be a blast, great location, awesome food, great music… and of course a great photographer. And my mom is hiring a video company to make one of those awesome movie-like wedding videos.

Sarah: ……

Yeah that last “Sarah” is speechless. She is going to shoot this wedding for $500 and the DJ is making 4 times that much. Not to mention the price tag for the rest of the event. So, I think you can see where I’m going with this and this particular story did actually happen to my friend and she came to me practically in tears and asked for advice.

My friend is not alone, I have about four or five of these stories that actually happened to me, but I use her story as an example because it was really over the top. I know I can’t leave you hanging, you want to know how her story turned out.

My advice to anyone for anything starts with being honest. Honesty is the best policy and I try to live by that. However, I will be the first to admit honesty does not always work. I told my friend Sarah to just go back and tell the bride & groom that she was wrong and that she would be drastically doing a dis-service to herself if she shot the wedding for $500. I told her to say that she talked it over with another photographer to make sure she was on track and she realized she misquoted the price. She quoted them a price of $2000 plus her travel to the venue in upstate New York, including a room for the night.

At first, they were kind of dumbfounded, but did not say too much. Actually, the bride’s parents were paying for most of the wedding and the groom’s parents were paying for the honeymoon and other expenses. So, the bride went back and told her father of the change in price and a few days later Sarah got the text message saying that “all was good.” I also let her use my 70-200mm (free of charge) and I was her “paid” assistant for the day. Here is the kicker… after the wedding the brides father handed Sarah the envelope with the cash. $2300 for the shooting, travel & room, plus another $1000 for a tip. She was ecstatic. I was so happy for her, she got her first full wedding under her belt and she made a nice buck at the same time. Sadly, I had a job the next day so I had to drive 5 hours back after working all day. Sarah and her boyfriend had a relaxing night at the hotel.

So, shooting for a friend could be you shooting for free and you could consider your photography services a “wedding gift” from you to them. If you are ok with that there is nothing wrong in giving away what you do as a gift. And with that; It really does make answering the question “how much to charge a friend” a very tough question to answer. Just remember that you really need to feel the situation out and weigh out what is really happening. Are you being asked to do something as a “friend helping a friend” or “as a friend taking advantage of a friend?”

Most of all, know that shooting a wedding is no easy task, that is if you are going to do it as a professional. The last wedding a shot, I fired the first click of the shutter 12:10pm and the last shot at 10:14pm. It was an outdoor wedding and there was a little bit of a weather delay, nonetheless it was a very long and hot day. I had my assistant, but I also requested an assistant from the venue just to follow us around with water so neither me, my assistant or the bride or groom dehydrated (August wedding lol). Put it this way; I have never finished a day of wedding shooting and went home well rested.

Now for the real answer; There are some photographers who would call me a “hack” at $2000, because they wouldn’t touch a wedding for anything less that $6000 or maybe even $10,000 and that is fine by me. Their words can’t hurt me because I’m not in third grade. I need to make a living and I do what I do, how I do. Bottom line is; as long as the customer is happy with the work you have performed and you are happy with what you got paid… then at the end of the day life is good.

I kind of wanted to end my post here, but I feel I need to touch on one more topic when it comes to “new wedding photographers and what to charge.”

This would be the topic of “wedding photography courses or video tutorials.” When it comes to photography courses & tutorial there are a few things to keep in mind and it is very simple “there are good ones and there are bad ones.” Some are just a huge waste of money.

First and foremost, there are so many people out there pushing their tutorials about the business side of wedding photography that are just unrealistic crap. The reality is that these people are very good at selling “you” something. I am not too sure about how good they are at selling a $10K price tag to a client, but they have to “info-mercial” technique down and they are now selling you the moon. There actual salary comes from “you” buying their “snake oil” wedding photography course. Actually, I find some of these guys/gals to be very entertaining. They act as if they have unlocked some secret weapon and for x amount of dollars, they will tell you the secret. It’s like they have the cure for cancer. I have seen this same kind of thing with chefs where they lead you to believe they’re cooking is almost extraterrestrial… please, give me a break.

I really don’t have too many recommendations on good videos, however I can say that KelbyOne Training has some very good wedding photography course.

Bottom line here is; Learn camera settings and how to shoot and keep it simple. Shoot local events where there is constant action of thing happening and after you have done enough of that kind of shooting, you’ll get the feel for what it is going to take to spend 6 hours shooting a wedding.

Thanks for reading and have a great day.

 

 

 

Dare to Be Different (Apparently when it comes to photography websites, we are supposed to follow a format)

Dare to Be Different

“Dare to be different” we have all heard this statement before. I think the first time I heard it was when I was about 13 years old and there was this weird kid at school. He moved in from another district and he dressed differently, talked differently and was just a little weird until you got to know him. His name was “Taz,” or at least that’s what he wanted to be called. He was a good student, never started trouble, but he would sure end it if it came to him. He was only in our school for about a month and then he left, it was that parents going through divorce thing.

I remember when people troubled him about the way he dressed, talked or music he listened to, he would always smile and say “dare to be different.” He even said it to a teacher once and I think that was the day it really stuck in my head. Of course, since then I have heard the saying many times, but I always remember where I first heard it.

In terms of photography I have heard it over and over to the point it is more or less a giant cliché and I jokingly loathe photography clichés. I loathe them because most often they are coming from a photographer who is trying to sound so prolific. There are thousands of YouTube videos with photographers boasting about photography lighting and say things like “I see light in f/ stops” or I love this one “its all about the light.” And then every so often the “dare to be different” comes flying out (audience gasping and bowing to the higher power of this photographer). Somehow a when a cliché is released it is supposed to be akin to a wizard releasing a ball of fire, he just conjured up out of thin air.

Now with all that said; If we are told as photographers “Dare to Be Different” and the word coming from some great photographer who is greater than us… Why the hell do they want you to have your website look like the next guys website? Apparently when it comes to photography websites, we are supposed to follow a format and this great format will bring you all the fames & fortunes you desire. However, this whole bag of hogwash comes with a discount code followed by “just follow the link below and head on over to” Squarespace or whatever the latest flavor of hosting is that month.

Of course, I am being a little cynical here, but I am also being serious. If an artistic field where “dare to be different” is the mantra and I really whole heartedly think we should try to be different to some degree or another, why should all the websites have this formula-based rule for appearance?

I designed my own website from scratch and I have no formal education in web design. I did however sit down and spend some time reading and watching videos about the do’s & don’ts of creating a website. I also looked at many other photographers websites. I took notes on the things I liked and the things I didn’t like. I decided “I can do this” and the biggest reason I can do this is because I like to create… and it would be cheaper than having someone else design it lol. But the feeling of creating it myself I think is what had me most excited.

I didn’t follow a lot of website building rules, and unlike the rules of photography; website design rules are always changing. However, the very first rule I did follow was, to ask myself “what do I want my website to do or say?” “What is the core purpose of this website?” After thinking about that for a while I decided that my website would be just a simple place for me to convey that “yes I am a photographer and here is what I do.” That is all I really need, although the powers to be say differently.

I think a lot of it is common sense, things like, use a good easy to read font, use colors that are easy on the eye and don’t clutter up the space with unnecessary graphics and other distractions. Put up content that really describes who you are and what you do. Most important is: all the content should be you and nobody else’s unless it was a collaborative project, definitely no stock photography. Also, you should most certainly have your own photo on the site as well as links to your favorite flavors of social media.

I say you should have a photo of yourself and I think this is really only for anyone who wants to be hired as a photographer. If your photography is strictly a hobby then a photo of you is optional. This was one of the things that bothered me when I was looking at photography websites and it still bothers me, that many so called “working photographers” have a website and they have no photo of themselves. You are a photographer and you don’t have a photo of yourself? I think anyone who is a working professional in a service or craft that deals with people up close and personal should always have a headshot or photo that represents them. This advice goes for medical professionals, insurance agents, attorneys and yes, photographers.

Creating my website was a lot of fun because I turned it into a personal photography project. I have posted here in the past that I truly believe in the power of personal unpaid projects. As long as you treat them as if they are a real paying job. Put importance on the project and a deadline. After the layout for the site was completed, I now had to decide on content. Again, all I wanted this website to do was let people know who I am and what I do. But I also wanted decent content. I had some decent content, but I wanted more. So that then became an ongoing never-ending project in and of itself, to come up with new and fresh content.

This image of Nicole was my flagship photo when my site first loaded. I love this image, it is a little over processed, however that is the look I was going for. I started the website in 2014 and kept this image up for almost two years. Then came the day I realized that I cannot keep the photo up forever and I need to create something new. So now I try to create something new every six months or so.

My opening home page has a gallery of about 12-14 of my most favorite images that I feel is a great representation of what I do. For the most part I mostly photograph people and I do a fair amount of compositing in Photoshop, so the opening gallery is just that, people and only people. I also have it set so you can advance to the next photo by using left & right arrow keys and it will default to a slideshow on its own.

Recklesspixel

I have a direct link to my Instagram that is very visible in the upper right of the slideshow and no other social media icons on the home page. I want people to know IG is where I like to hangout. But I do have one whole page of the website dedicated to my all my social media accounts and it is simply titled “Social.”

My “about me” page was very hard to write because I didn’t want it to come off too corny, so I had a good friend write the page and I really feel this was the best way to go for me. Maybe not for everybody, but for me it works. I have a wonderful photo of my wife and I and I am holding my camera. The photo was actually shot by a friend using her mobile phone and I really loved the photo, it works.

I try to keep the site clean and to the point, if you land on the home page and you’re ready to advance, from left to right at the top of the page is “Portfolio.” This page is simple with a gallery that has 42 of my nicest images and just below is a small gallery of the most recent wedding I shot. I update the wedding gallery with every wedding I shoot. I do not advertise to shoot weddings; however, I do shoot three to four wedding every year. Not too bad for somebody who doesn’t advertise to photograph weddings lol.

Next is the “About” page, then the “Contact” page. I feel this would be the most logical order if someone came to my page to hire me or at least contact me.

I land on the home page and I see the gallery of images, it has captured my interest so I will now click on the portfolio. I scroll through the portfolio page and now I think it would be time to see who this guy is and I click on the about page. There is a photo of the photographer and there is a very short statement in my own words. Then there is a more detailed statement about me, but not too long. If I were a viewer of my site and I was still interested then next logical move would be the “contact” page and if I was just browsing and wanted to poke around, well, then I have all the other stuff like a link to this blog, another gallery page, video page ect…

I do have a page dedicated to my copyright policy, here again is something nobody ever really talks about. Posting your copyright policy in not required as far as I know, but it sure can’t hurt. I think it would be extremely helpful if your images are ripped of and you end up in court to recover damages that are certainly due to you. After all I have all my copyright data embedded in the meta data of my images. In that meta data there is a web address that leads to my website.

When I look at my website, I truly feel it has everything I need to convey about what it is I do. I test this every so often by asking a friend or an acquaintance to go to my site and see if it does what it is supposed to do. Most often I get great feedback and sometimes I get constructive criticism and that is ok too.

I think the most people who come to my site are people who have received my business card. I know when I receive a business card from someone I want to go to there website and see what they do. I find this very interesting because I come from a time before the internet. In the old days someone gave you a business card and all you could do was save it and call them later. However today I feel as a photographer your website should directly relate to your business card. I even use the flagship image of the home page on the back of my business cards. In this day of “everybody is a photographer” I want people to know I am a serious photographer and I have put thought into what I do and how I am perceived.

While your website is a place to find out who you are and what you do, it is also an important piece of the many pieces that make up your brand and for this reason you do want to put some thought into the overall message your website is saying to the viewer. Your website is your digital ambassador of sorts and as we know first impressions are lasting ones. Another thing you need to be mindful of is “how fast your website loads” because nobody like to type in a web address and then have to sit and wait for the site to load.

I keep a constant check of my website, but in a subtle way. I use Chrome for my browser and I have my website set to be one of the opening tabs when my browser first opens. Once I see it, I know everything is good and I move on. Also, every few months or so I will run through the site to make sure all pages and images are loading properly and I will check that there are no broken links.

I use a Google Voice number so I never worry about having my phone number on the web. I have used this number for years and have never had a problem.

So, in closing; again, I would like to “dare to be different” make your site yourself. Think about it, but don’t overthink it. Keep it simple and to the point.

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.

 

 

 

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.

Drone Message Internet Message Boards (it is like taking a stroll in to the local pub or bar.)

Let’s talk about internet message boards in regards to drone ownership. Message boards can be a wealth of information right at your fingertips. You can quickly find answers that will help you solve problems and just all around they can help you with general knowledge of all things drones. Many people are already familiar with message boards from other aspects of our lives. Things such as finding answers to the noise your car is making or solving a problem with an error message on our computers and so much more.

However you are now dealing with the “internet” and you have no idea who is providing the information you are seeking. In my opinion I would say a good amount of all the info we seek on the internet is accurate, but you would be a fool to think everything you read and see is correct information. So when it comes to message boards… it is like taking a stroll in to the local pub or bar. You may meet a really nice bunch of people who are willing to be your friends and help you out or you may meet a bunch of know-it-all snobs. However, the one thing I can assure you is that, you will meet a few (maybe a lot) assholes and people who you will wonder “how they tie their shoes in the morning.”

I get an email once a week from one of the drone forums I follow and it will have links to the most popular topics from the past week. Guaranteed the “my drone flew away on my first flight” topic is always listed. Please don’t be one of those people. If you are reading this post and haven’t purchased a drone yet please take the time to read the proper setup and safety features for your drone. Most all drones have a beginner mode and my advice is “use it.” I set my Mavic Pro 2 to “beginner mode” even though I had been flying my first Mavic over 1 year. Understand your RTH (return to home) feature and how it works before you even turn the drone on for the first time.

Other popular topics are usually about laws, rules & regulations. This is just as important as any other aspect of flying your drone. You want to understand Return to Home because you don’t want to lose your drone. You also need to understand laws rules and regulations because this is another way you can lose your drone. While I will admit some laws are downright stupid, other laws need to be obeyed for safety & security. One of the most violated laws is flying too close to major airports. This absolutely perplexes me and just goes to show how many assholes our society has. And again this topic is a popular one on most all drone message boards. At first reading these threads is quite comical but is soon loses its luster because it is the same rhetoric, post after post. One guy claims to know the law and says another person is wrong. The guy, who says he’s right, knows he is right because the kid who lives next door told him so. And other times both people are right because they live in different locations and the laws are different. As you can see this all becomes very confusing and mind boggling to someone who “just wants to go fly their drone.”

My way around all this confusion was to seek out people who knew more than me and that had credible knowledge, if you look hard enough you will find them. All message boards have a few members who are just a wealth of correct information. They may be a person who flies drones for a living or may have previously/currently works in drone design & manufacturing or they could just be that good ole geeky guy/gal who understands all thing drones that the rest of us need a little help figuring out. Become friends with these people, appreciate them and respect them for their knowledge that you don’t have. This has worked for me and I made some pretty cool friends around the world and there’s nothing wrong with that.

So as you see my thoughts and opinion of internet message boards is “be careful” whose advice and info you decide to use. Happy flying and thanks for reading.