Independence Day (The bravery of our men & women in our armed services will always be our power. )

Ryan Flag Over Shoulder

Independence

It’s the 4th of July, it’s Independence Day and today those words really weigh heavy in the air and in the hearts of many Americans. As we go about our celebrations of parties with food and beer, as we go about our travels to entertaining events, we do it all in the name of “Independence” and while many Facebook and other social media memes will try to make us out to be bad people for having a party or drinking a beer (or two or 10) while we have troops who are away from their families, I feel differently. I feel we should celebrate as we see fit.

It is because of our forefathers and our troops that we have independence. So we must pay a deep respect to our troops as well as our forefathers. The bravery of our men & women in our armed services will always be our power. Sure we live in a time of drones and robots, but it is still (at least for now) the bravery of an American to stand up and fight for what he/she believes in, to put their selves in harm’s way so that we can have that party on the 4th of July. Our freedom was not given to us and many times we have heard it said “freedom is not free” and nothing could be truer. The price for freedom is not paid in gold or silver, diamonds or gems; it is not bought with checks or currency. Freedom is acquired when we fight for it and in that fight, simply put… humans die. Both men & women give their life because they believe in freedom. It really is kind of strange to think of it that way, but there really is no other way to look at it. The bravery of the American who stands up and answers the call to go and serve is paramount and deserves the utmost respect. Say a prayer, shake a hand, buy a coffee, give a hug and help their families. All of the aforementioned are miniscule to the price that a brave soldier is putting forth for his country… and for you. Also take care of him/her when they return with visible and hidden wounds that will stay with them for the rest of their life. The battle for many soldiers does not end on the battlefield and many have hidden wounds that we’ll never understand. There wounds hidden or visible is “the price” that they have incurred. Don’t try to understand it, but rather comfort it and most of all give respect.

So it with that feeling I created this image montage to celebrate this year’s Independence Day. The model Ryan McNally is a former soldier himself and it was his idea to bring this American flag to the photo shoot. The very first thing I said to Ryan when we first connected on social media (Instagram) was “Thank you for serving our country.” His reply was “Oh no problem, I was happy to do it.” Ryan is an awesome young man and a pleasure to shoot with. I was also amazed at his knowledge and respect of the flag. While yes we did use the American flag as a photo prop at no time did it touch the floor or was disrespected in any way.

So here we have a six element montage. A young American patriot draped in a flag with our fore fathers, our eagle, our constitution, troops on patrol, a returning soldier holding his daughter up high and lastly the long dreary road behind the soldiers. All of this put together as Ryan gazes over his shoulder while looking out over the heartland of America. My thinking that goes into this kind of montage is a kind of “make it as I go.” When starting I did not really have an idea other that it had to say something about independence. While it may not be the most striking image I’ve ever created I do like it because it conveys what I wanted to say.

Happy 4th of July weekend everybody. Please be healthy, be safe, have lots of fun and shake a soldier’s hand and say “thanks” they’ll know what you mean.

Personal Photo Favorites From 2013 (I would rather have a selfie of me punching Kim Kardashian in the face but…)

1/250 sec at f/2.8 ISO 100 175mm

1/250 sec at f/2.8 ISO 100 175mm

So after mulling through all of the better photos I captured in 2013 I wanted to choose some of my favorites to share with you. As I had stated in an earlier post I always have one photo of my wife that will really stand out and be my favorite of the year. I also wanted to include some additional photos as well.

So I really feel that of all the photos I captured of my wife in 2013 this one is my favorite. A little story about the photo; this photo was shot at 5:49pm on July 29th. As you can see the sun in July is still very high in the sky. I had to shoot a wedding in five days and not being a wedding photographer by trade I was doing my homework and preparing for the big day. I wanted everything to be right. I spent a lot of time reviewing video material by Cliff Mautner. Mr. Mautner is one of the best wedding photographers of our time. I say this because part Cliff’s style is to just go and shoot using mostly available light and minimal flash. His style and approach is very organic and not over the top with a “Broadway” like production to shoot a wedding. Also Cliff is a Nikon Ambassador. If company like Nikon is going to trust him with talking about their products… well I think Cliff might know a thing or two or ten about photography.

One of Cliff’s prize techniques is shooting brides in the middle of the day with high sun and no fill flash. So I had to try this technique out for myself. In short the; put your subject between the camera & the sun and use a dark background. That is it that is all you need to do. Then meter with the camera off the subject’s face. Look at the photo and the front lighting is even across my wife’s face with this wonderful rim lighting. If she had been wearing a darker color shirt would have been even nice for the rim light on the shoulders, not to mention that if this was a bridal shot with the veil, the veil would be very nicely back lit with a glow like effect. So to conclude; I walked out the door and captured this shot in about 5 minutes. The color, lighting and smile all come together to make it a very nice photo. I love it and I will print and frame it.

Pixel (aka Pixie) at day 2.  1/640 sec at f/2.8 ISO 100 200mm

Pixel (aka Pixie) at day 2.
1/640 sec at f/2.8 ISO 100 200mm

My favorite photo of Pixel (aka Pixie) was shot at 11:17am of May 27th at a roadside rest area along route I-78 in Pennsylvania. I had received Pixie for the first time the day before. I had lost my previous Bichon Poo to liver cancer and a mere 20 days later Pixie had come to fill the void and ease the pain of Snuggs rapid departure. So on the second day of having Pixie my wife and I had a road trip planned to visit my father and we just couldn’t leave this little creature home. We stopped to stretch our legs and to let Pixie have some fun. It was our first chance to let here run and be free in the wonderful green grass of the springtime. Using my trusty (you’ll pry it from my cold dead hands) Canon EF70-200mm f/2.8L II IS USM lens I shot this wonderful candid shot. She had been running and moving so fast to & fro it was nearly impossible to get a great shot of her. I made a squeaking sound and she stopped for just a few seconds and looked right at me. I love the photo and after posting to Facebook a friend had commented on the light & dark green background as an adding quality to the photo. She was so right it just gives the photo a “good” feel.

Photoshop composite of NY motocross rider Harlan Hoose.

Photoshop composite of NY motocross rider Harlan Hoose.

My favorite Photoshop image of 2013 would be “Shattered” a composite of a motocross rider that I had captured in the springtime at our local motocross track. His name was Harlan Hoose and he hails from New York State. Harlan and two friends had made the long trek down to Raceway Park in Old Bridge Township just to practice. I happened to be there and Harlan Had asked me if I would capture some images of him. This was one of the first of many photos. In the original photo Harlan was just sitting on his bike waiting to go onto the track and I captured a close up focusing on his eyes. So several months later I used the photo as the main element in a Photoshop composite that I call Shattered. With time I grew to like the image even more. Thank you Harlan it was nice meeting you, Anthony & Jordan that day.

1.1250 sec at f/2.8 ISO 200 200mm

1.1250 sec at f/2.8 ISO 200 200mm

My favorite nature shot would be this photo of the Wild Foxtail Grass. Captured at 4:57pm on October 14th right here on the farm where I live. The contrast in color between the background and subject is what I love most about it. Also it didn’t hurt that it received so much affection on 500px.

Sunken Forest 172 sec at f/22 ISO 50 24mm

Sunken Forest
172 sec at f/22 ISO 50 24mm

My favorite Long Exposure photo is this image of one of the “Sunken Forests” at Merrill Creek reservoir located in Warren County New Jersey on top of Montana Mountain. It was cold and very windy that day, but in the end it paid off because I came home with some really nice images.

American Bald Eagle

American Bald Eagle

My most favorite wildlife shot of 2013 would have to be, hands down the one of the images I captured of an American Bald Eagle. It was amazing to see this beautiful bird right here in the town where I work, a rare sight for sure. The photos are not Nat Geo quality but still my favorite nonetheless.

At The Train 1/1600 sec at f/3.5 ISO 200 200mm

At The Train
1/1600 sec at f/3.5 ISO 200 200mm

My most favorite candid shot of the year was taken at the Flemington train station. I was first trying to capture the expression on the little boy’s face and then in the background a young lady and a child stepped from the train. I re-focused at captured a wonderful candid photo.

Selfie in a jail cell.

Selfie in a jail cell. Sussex County, NJ.

Lastly my most favorite selfie would have to be of me in a jail cell. I would rather have a selfies of me punching Kim Kardashian in the face but I’ll settle for the jail cell shot.