Early Morning By The Creek (I want to get a decent shot of the all three creatures together before they disappear in front of my eyes.)

It was already a beautiful summer morning. I had dropped my wife and the dogs off at the farm and I had a free morning. The “farm” as we call it is actually a non-working farm were, we keep our commercial cooking equipment for our BBQ catering business. She likes to run the smoker herself and she chased me away. So, having a free morning for my photography I decided to head over to Delaware Township in hopes I would find some white tail deer grazing in a field.

It was about 5:45am the light was good, air was very warm at 70°, there was a ground fog that was quickly rising. The fog was not thick but, I thought it could add to any shot of deer grazing. I had the 70-200mm lens mounted and I also had my 24-70mm out and ready to mount if needed.

As I made my way along with no particular location or direction in mind, other than heading to the farmland, I felt peaceful and I actually said to myself “this is a good morning.” After heading down Route 202 I contemplated “should I just do a walk-around in the town of Lambertville?” Maybe I could catch some great street photography? Maybe not. I quickly turned up Headquarters’ road and on to Seabrook. “There it is” I thought, “that beautiful horse farm with the long winding lane.” I have captured this location in the past during the autumn colors but, hey, why not capture it during the early morning hours of a summer day.

Chicken Mushroom

I made my way down Seabrook and over to Grafton road where I was moving very slowly in fist gear and I seen a Chicken Mushroom off to the left about 50-70 yards away. And to make matters worse it was about 15-20 feet up a tree. I love Chicken Mushrooms and if that thing had been reachable from the ground, I would have snatched it. Still I took a nice photo of it to tantalize my wife with.

Then from Grafton I made my way over to Worman road, the road nobody ever seems to go down… Actually, not true lol there are several homes on Worman but, it does have a short distance of solitude where there are no houses or farms. And there they were… a doe and her lovely fawn, in the morning down by the creek for a drink of water. The fawn looked up rather quickly and flinched a bit when she first seen my truck slow down. The mother was somber but, very alert. They were about 150 feet away, down a ravine and on the opposite side of the creek. I just took a second to take in the scene, for I know once I raise the camera they will flee quickly.

 1/60 sec at f/2.8 ISO 400 185mm 6:03:58am

I moved quick with steady movement and raised the camera and snapped off a shot, then another and they started to move. Oh wait… this is not a good morning; this is an awesome morning. There is a blue heron with them and he is chomping away on minnows, having a delightful breakfast.

At this point I start going in to actions that I really don’t think about, they come rather instinctively from years of being around wildlife and knowing what’s going to happen next. First is “the blue bird is going to fly away and the deer are going to run up the hill,” I need to act fast. The road is downhill for about the next ¼ mile or more, I shut the engine down and put on the four-way flashers and shift to neutral, foot on the brake, knee on the bottom of the steering wheel. Now the deer are getting skittish and the bird is just looking. I want to get a decent shot of the all three creatures together before they disappear in front of my eyes.

1/60 sec at f/2.8 ISO 250 95mm 6:04:25am

This is how the whole sequence went down; I fired the first shot not knowing the heron was even there at all, the second shot I notice the heron and I go into the afore mentioned action of shutting down the engine. By time I take my 4th shot everybody is starting to move. Keep in mind the first shot was at 6:03:58am and the fourth shot is at 6:04:10am. Ok, so the deer are turning and getting ready to head up the hill but, my focus is on the blue heron. I know he will fly away because the always do. At 6:04:20am I get a shot of all three creatures. Next shot 6:04:23am I zoom to 200mm and get a (not good focus) shot of just the heron. I release my foot from the break and my truck rolls forward with only the gravel under the tires making a slight noise and zoom out taking another shot of all three at 6:04:25am, the heron is hopping a few steps and using the weeds as a curtain to hide form my line of sight. At 6:04:29am the deer are now heading up the hill and the heron is looking at them. 6:04:30am the heron flies but, not far. I’m still feathering the brake as my truck continues to roll down the gravel road ever so slowly.

1/60 sec at f/2.8 ISO 400 200mm 6:04:44am

The blue heron lands on a dead tree spanning the creek and positions himself so another tree is blocking my line of sight. At 6:04:44am I get a decent shot of the blue bird perched on the tree. It is not a perfect shot by any means, I’m in manual mode, 1/60 sec at f/2.8 ISO 400 200mm. I can live with those settings except the 1/60 second shutter speed, if it could have been 1/125 second, I would have had a wonderful shot. Not complaining because I am happy to just see this whole scene even if I had no camera. It is nature at it’s finest on a peaceful Sunday morning, I love it.

He now jumps from the tree down into the creek where I can barely get a view of him but, then I see him and he is already eating more minnows. I try to get shots of this but, to no avail, at 6:6:05:25am I get a shot where I can barely see he has something in his beak but, the shot is marred by weeds in my line of sight. I continue to follow him as he walks in the ravine of the creek and I fire the last shot at 6:05:38am. He is now staying stationary where I cannot see him and I know if I get out of the vehicle he will fly for sure and I get no shot because of the trees and lighting. Also, if he flies, he loses out on his minnows. So, I let him just stay hidden as I roll a little further down the road and fire up the engine and move along.

Now I continue on down Worman road seeing squirrels and birds and nothing more as interesting as the scene I had just witnessed.  Most people who are not from New Jersey think of this state as a congested wasteland of cul-de-sacs, highways and housing developments and while that is true of most of the state, there still are a few nice places where a person can witness a beautiful scene such as the one presented to me this morning.

 

Thanks for reading and have a great day.

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Ringing Rocks Park (…others were the “bearded hipsters” with their “girly-man” shoes… )

1/8 sec at f/16 ISO 100 18mm EOS M3

1/8 sec at f/16 ISO 100 18mm EOS M3

 

Part: 2

So I have to talk a little bit about the Ringing Rocks Park trip because I was asked many questions about it. Let me start for those who do not know Ringing Rocks Park is a county park in Bucks County PA. I first visited the park while on a class trip in school many years ago. The park is not all that big and other than a very small parking lot and a disgusting porta-john there is just two main things to see. First is the boulder field and second the waterfalls.

The boulder field is interesting because if you bring a small hammer, steel rod or pipe with you, you can strike the boulders and they will produce a ringing sound. Some produce a better sound than others and only the boulders that lay out in the open boulder field have this quality. If you notice in my video the boulders in the open area have a reddish cast to them. This color is not always seen, it depends on the light or lack of. So after about 10 minutes of whacking a pipe on a stone it’s like “ok___ now what?” So then most people will head to the waterfalls. And this is the area where many have met with problems. To access the falls or I should say the bottom of the falls one must navigate another boulder area that leads to the bottom or I should say “to the creek.” These boulders are a little more challenging because they lay at a very steep angle. Also if there is a lot of water flowing in the creek bed there is no “shore line” to walk along.

So what happens here is many people want to see the waterfalls. You know… it’s that age-old thing of the natural beauty of nature mixed with a little bit of romanticism that draws people to waterfalls. Again… not much to do here but watch water fall over some rocks, however it is nicer than smacking a stone with a piece of metal. But the boulders have large gaps and holes between them. Many times what looks like solid footing is just dead leaves laying on top of twigs and when you step down you fall between the boulders. How hard is it to navigate? Not hard at all for the average outdoor hiker that is wearing good hiking shoes and has limber legs. But if you are the weekend warrior that likes to walk the flat easy-going trails you might want to proceed with caution. While I was there this time we were the only people at the falls, but as we were hiking back to the parking lot the crowd was pouring in, most were first time visitors and were asking “where’s the waterfalls?” Some had small children and others were the “bearded hipsters” with their “girly-man” shoes and I would just point them on to the direction of the waterfalls.

Still all in all a fun place to visit, just go early and leave early to avoid the hipster crowd.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sights, Sounds & Smells of Autumn (leaves blowing and rustling as people walk on them, the corn stalks chattering as the wind…)

 

Pumpkins On A Wall 1/125 sec at f/9 ISO 800 115mm

Pumpkins On A Wall 1/125 sec at f/9 ISO 800 115mm

It is October 3rd and we are entering that blissful time of year here in the Western New Jersey USA. The days are getting shorter and Fall is in the air… literally. This morning as I stepped out of the house at 5:15am it was dark and foggy, but not too cool. Most of all I could smell the aroma of damp fallen leaves and that smell, although not very pleasant, is the smell that just gives me the vibe of autumn. There are other aromas as well, like corn fields as the dry and the smell fills the air as the sun warms the deadened corn stalks. Sounds too, leaves blowing and rustling as people walk on them, the corn stalks chattering as the wind gives them a voice. These are just a few of the sights, smells and sounds that brings the autumn season into my heart.

Below is a link to the “Backstory” of the image above. A few years back I had done a weekly series of backstory videos on some of my most favorite images.

As a side note or more of a personal story: Autumn is my most favorite season of the year. The colors are so beautiful and there is this feeling of bliss (at least for me) in the air, but there is also a feeling of urgency as I know it will not last. And when it is all gone… the colors the feeling, we are left with looking forward to the “The Holiday” season and winter. While the holiday season is filled with lights, parties, gifts, prayers and food, it is not visual. Yes I know there are lights and decorations, but it is all man-made, autumn is nature and nature is a wondrous beauty.  Nature can wreak havoc beyond one’s imagination too, with storms, earthquakes, Tsunamis and so much more. But Autumn is beauty. It was the Autumn of 1984 that I was recovering from a devastating car wreck. I would spend the days sitting in my grandmother’s lawn swing that was located in a small grove of dogwood trees to the side of the driveway. After my grandmother headed off to work, me with my casts, neck brace and crutches I would perform the epic task to move from the house to the swing by myself. I would drag my guitar case slowly behind me with a bathrobe belt as I made the trek. The pain and the danger of falling were the big obstacles, so once in the swing I would remain there most of the day. In my pocket a few small cigars and I would wait for my father’s cousin Carol to come by, she would bring me something from the house to snack on and a big glass of water. Then she would head off to check on my great-grandmother next door as she did everyday. Carol’s visit was the pinnacle of the time spent in the swing and on shopping day she would ask me what I wanted from the store. She said “I’ll get you anything you want, just no booze or cigarettes.” I usually asked for a bag of pretzels and a bottle of soda. Her and Bill came to see me in the hospital right after the accident, they sat and prayed with me. I had so few visitors, just a few family members and one friend, so when Carol & Bill came to see me… I knew it was heartfelt.

So sitting in that swing day after day during the autumn of 84, strumming my guitar, writing songs and a little poetry, smoking a Swisher Sweet cigar and taking in life was a feeling and a memory I’ll never forget. So when autumn arrives I think of all of that and I think of Carol… rest her soul.

Day 2 (there is always something learned from these kinds of experiences if you take the time to bring something away with you. )

Mina Santiago sticking to a commitment.

Mina Santiago sticking to a commitment.

Day 2 of the New Year brought yet another cold weather shoot; in fact it was colder than day one. 16-year-old model Mina wanted some time in front of the camera in a wooded setting. The location would be the beautiful and rustic Tohickon Valley Park located up in the hills above the Delaware River in the Point Pleasant area of Pennsylvania.

The weather a crisp 28° F, with a light wind, mostly sunny and just an all-round normal winter day for this area. You know… one of those days when you look out the window and it looks so nice until you step out the door and turn around and go back inside.

The shoot was short about 45 minutes at best. Mina did not handle the cold as well as the previous day’s model. But I have to say she did follow through with her plan and got a few new images that she needed.

I feel there is always something learned from these kinds of experiences if you take the time to bring something away with you. I found that the camera and lens were not working in the same manner as it would in warmer weather. I had some focusing issues that I had never had before in cold weather. Most times that I can remember if I was out in the cold I would be shooting a landscape and had plenty of time to get focus. But on this day the shoots needed to be captured quickly before it was time to wrap the model in a blanket. Then there was the inevitable redness that would soon appear on the edges of the nose and spread to her face and bare skin. Goose bumps… and then it’s time to say “stop” and we did.

So for next week’s shoots I’ll into the studio and get creative.

Day 1 with Tiffany (in the cold and the wind is a bit of a stretch for both photographer and model.)

1/125 sec at f/2.8 ISO 100 165mm

1/125 sec at f/2.8 ISO 100 165mm

Happy New Year everybody! I am usually writing a blog post about reminiscing about the year past and which photos were my favorites. But I would like to say I started the first day of 2016 off a little different from what I have in the past. It was cold here in the Northeastern part of the USA and it was windy too. But I had a wonderful time shooting outdoors with a model that I have worked with in the past and it was the perfect day for this project. Tiffany needed fresh shots and I wanted to do something that would tie her into the city in which she lives. Bethlehem Pennsylvania is a beautiful city with some strong culture and history. So local people will recognize the elements in the images as being shot in Bethlehem and others will still see good images none the less.

I really have to hand it to Tiffany (aka LayDeeFly) for braving the cold and even worse the wind and coming out on a day when most people are recuperating from the festivities from the night before. The Steel Stacks as they are known to the locals of Bethlehem are actually a national icon. The Stacks are the remnants of the once world-famous Bethlehem Steel Corporation that turned out tons upon tons of steel that built iconic structures such as the Golden Gate Bridge and so much more. The city is also rich in Moravian history as well. I could go on and on but this post is not a history lesson, but rather a lesson on growing and stretching. Stretching does no one any good unless it hurts a little bit and as the hurt fades away the endorphins kick in and you ride that high till it fades away.

So getting out and shooting on New Year’s day in the cold and the wind is a bit of a stretch for both photographer and model. I think more-so for the model because she was in a body suit. But with use of a blanket and a fury hat and several retreats to the car for a little heater break we did it. Shooting around the Stacks and in some instances just standing in the middle of the street was so easy because of the lack of people, there were very few. We did draw a fair amount of attention when people seen a girl wrapped in a blanket wearing a buffalo hat with horns and knee high socks walking down the street. But that’s the fun of it all; hearing the horns honking from the passing traffic was actually heartwarming.

So as the sun was starting its final decent we made our way to the bridge that overlooks the Steel Stacks and captured some final images, then it was coffee time.

Gonna be  great year!