Graveyard Photoshoot. (The Bethlehem Church was a perfect choice… )

1/160 sec at f/10 ISO 50 70mm

1/160 sec at f/10 ISO 50 70mm Model Kendall Strampel

It is not often I shoot with the same model two weeks in a row, but that is what happened this weekend. Last week’s shoot was very nice and the images of Kendall in a field on a mountain gave me a light beauty feel so the edits were exactly that; bright & light with lots of back lit sunlight.

So for this week’s shoot it was just the opposite. We were shooting in a church graveyard, ironically located just 1/2 mile from the field we shot in last week. So the concept for this shoot was Kendall’s idea and she presented it to me and when I heard it I knew the exact location. The Bethlehem Church was a perfect choice because the actual church building is burned out from a lightning strike that occurred many years ago, leaving an abandoned stone shell. Now the building is off limits but their is a graveyard with a wrought iron fence and all the graves date back to the early 1800s. Because it is abandoned there are no people, well other than the occasional passer-by and we had a just a two people walk through the background of the shoot.

I shot both natural light and studio flash. Natural light is a true love of mine, but having the Paul C Buff Einsteins on location really does open up the ability to be more creative and give different feeling to a shoot.  Before the photoshoot started I already knew I would go for higher contrast images, I knew I would be shooting around f/8 to f/16 and I also knew I would be “shooting for Photoshop.” While my Photoshop skills are very good I, like most people do not want to spend a lot of time in Photoshop fixing things, but I love to use Photoshop to create images. Difference is fixings an image in PS is something that is done to save an image or help it out a little… or sometimes a lot. However when I open PS to create something that is a different story because I am doing something that most times could never be replicated in camera. So when I “shoot for Photoshop” I am actually creating a RAW image with a camera and using it as an ingredient or a seed that will be grow something from PS. With all that said I still want to create my image and be done, so I have many actions recorded in PS that move the process along a little quicker. Two things I recommend to anyone working with Adobe Photoshop and they are “learn keyboard shortcuts and learn how to create actions and use them.” Same goes for Adobe Lightroom “learn the keyboard shortcuts” they really do make life a lot easier.

I’m not a big fan of light meters however they do make life very easy when working with studio strobes. For today’s shoot I used only one light and that was a PCB Einstein 640 with either a beauty dish or a 8 inch reflector and a 30 degree grid. In the end I can say we came away with some nice images, both natural light and studio light.

But Why?… (“Street photography is photography that features the human condition within public places.” )

1/80 sec at f/4.0 ISO 4000 105mm Black & White conversion was via Nik Silver Efex 2.

1/80 sec at f/4.0 ISO 4000 105mm Black & White conversion was via Nik Silver Efex 2.


“Street photography is photography that features the human condition within public places.” So here we see a “human condition” that at some point in our life we have had. Mom telling you to “stay put and not jump around” and it is clear from the emotion in her face that she is not happy with mom at the moment.

The shot was taken inside a subway car on the “R” line headed uptown from Battery Park Subway station. I stepped outside of my standard 24mm-50mm focal length and zoomed to 105mm.

1/80 sec at f/4.0 ISO 4000 105mm Black & White conversion was via Nik Silver Efex 2.

Breaking Out (If our eye/brain sees something that doesn’t make sense it will pick it up.)

Model Bree Arkham. A two image composite from the Eastern States Penitentiary shoot.

Model Bree Arkham. A two image composite from the Eastern States Penitentiary shoot.

This is a two image composite of model Bree Arkham. In this image we see an outdoor shot of Bree as she pulls her arms backwards while hanging from a large gate. Behind her is an image of a cell inside the penitentiary. The cell image is shot at f/4 and Bree was shot at f/5.6. In Bree’s shot her arms go out of focus due to the shallow depth of field.

So using the masking power of Photoshop I merged the two images and blurred the cell to match the DOF of Bree’s hands. Then I used an Emily Soto fashion action to create an atmosphere that would bring the whole scene together. The Emily Soto action is not a “one click” and your done kind of thing. I will actually spend a lot of time working with the various layers of the action and the masks to get the balance I like.

I feel in the end the light coming through the skylight in the cell looks as if it could be spilling on Bree’s back causing the rim light on her arms. When working with composites this is the one element that will be the most challenging… where is the light coming from? The average person is not asking this question when they view the image, however their subconscious mind is asking this question. If our eye/brain sees something that doesn’t make sense it will pick it up. Now that doesn’t mean that our brain instantly says “hey that’s a composite” but what our brain does most often (as my brain does) is give us a weird feeling about it, just kind of “somethings not right” feeling. So this is where certain things need to match or “balance out” between your elements in a composite, things like white balance, atmosphere and most of all direction of light and or shadows created by light. These two images have very different white balances and if I have a really hard time balancing the color I can always “bail out” as I say and pull the ejection lever and go straight to a black & white image. If I go over to B&W I most times by-pass or greatly lessen the problem of matching white balances between the elements.

Once white balance is done I then move on to creating atmosphere to bring the scene together and I do this in many different ways. Today it was a Fashion Action” and it was todays answer. Like most things in Photoshop you need to know many ways to get to the same end point. It is all about practice and that is what this image is… practice. The main element of Bree hanging on the gate is a 100% fine image as it was shot. We worked the pose out I shot it and a few minutes later I had her revisit the gate and shoot it again at a different f/ stop. The first was f/2.8 and the second was f/5.6 and the later was the better image as it made Bree’s hair really crisp. So “no” I never shot her to be a composite. As for the image of the cell that was shot a year before. It is part of my large stock of images I shoot and save for elements.

Melina Martin at ESP (…let’s shoot our way out of this prison)

1/30 sec at f/2.8 ISO 1600 70 Lindsay Adler Lightroom preset “Dark Memory”


Model Melina Martin looked fabulous on Tuesday evening for the third and final photo shoot at Eastern States Penitentiary. Yes it was hot and very humid, but we made our way through the old shambles of the penitentiary and captured some nice images. Miss Martin is new and still learning and that is why I asked her to do this shoot. I wanted to give the young lady camera time and really just a chance to work with here again. I shot with her back in the spring time and she was amazing.

So as we entered inside of the walls at of ESP we started at a location I have not used before. I have always wanted to shoot around the old greenhouse, which by the way is in very good condition. I also found a second gate that has a medical cross on it. Located next to the greenhouse it must have been another entrance to the medical ward. The first well-known gate with a cross is located just off of the central rotunda in what would be numbered “Cell Block 3” but as  you head down that corridor about 50 feet you come to a locked gate with a medical cross the has remnants of red & white paint. This as I was always told was the main entrance to the medical area also known as “Cell Block 3”.

Crazy I know but the more I visit this creepy place the more I get to know it… and yes there is always the creep factor when I’m inside the walls of this 11 acre wasteland. The creepiness starts to rise when you have idle time and stop and actually look at any one particular thing. But I think the most intense feelings (for me personally) are stirred up when I walk through the earliest built cell blocks like #1 and #4. Just to think of that concept that once you (the prisoner) entered the cell block and walked into your cell that is where you stayed for the duration of your sentence, in that cell and the tiny court-yard located off the back off the cell. You had one hour a day in the court-yard and the walls are so high all you can see is the sky. And then someone will speak or make a loud noise and you come back to the reality that you here for a photo shoot. But it’s that short time you drift away that you think about the pain of that prisoner living a life of immense solitude. And I also think that maybe it was a fitting punishment for his crime. How many people did he murder? Or was it rape? Did he kill children? Yeah lots of crazy thoughts as I walk through that creepy old place. And then all of a sudden we stop walking and we’re at a shoot location and my mind comes back to f/ stops and ISO settings.

So for this day I used my all-time favorite window location at cell block 3, but I ran into technical problems with my radio flash and not having a lighting assistant of this day was really making me… well let’s just say “troubled” although I can think of a lot worse four letter words to use here. So I sent Melina off to change wardrobe as I worked out the issue and the issue turned out to be a controller not properly fitted to the camera’s hot shoe. Such a simple fix… after you replace speedlite batteries (that were ok to start with), change flash units and maybe ten other things… then you notice the controller is just not quite mounted correctly… duh!

I found a new location under a stairway that had a lot of crackled paint and that made for some nice shots, but very crowded area and that made for a lot of distractions. So at this point I said to Melina “Ok, I think we’re pretty much done for the night, but let’s shoot our way out of this prison, we’ll find other places to shoot as we work our way back to the exit.” And with that statement she busted out in laughter and I had no idea what she was laughing at. She said “shoot our way out of this prison that is so funny.” Then I started to laugh too. It did sound funny when you think about it.

So as we started to so-called “shoot our way” back to the exit I stopped at the junction where cell blocks 8 & 9 separate. There was very nice window light, soft and pleasing natural light. This is where we finished up the shoot and then headed back out through the main gate to Fairmount Avenue.

I look forward to next year.


1/160 sec at f/3.5 ISO 50 155mm

1/160 sec at f/8.0 ISO 50 70mm

1/160 sec at f/8.0 ISO 50 70mm

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

5 Bracket HDR f/16 ISO 50 55mm

5 Bracket HDR f/16 ISO 50 55mm


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

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

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

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

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

A Romantic Tale (young, free, adventurous and traveling the world with a female companion… taking photographs all along the way.

Istanbul circa 1974

Istanbul circa 1974

Now that it is complete I would like to share with you a project that I had worked on for another photographer. Harvey Davidowitz had asked me back in February of 2014 if I would like to edit some black & white images he was having problems with. At first I thought they were digital. When I received the files I realized that this was going to be a photo restoration project. While the images I received were in digital form they were actually scans of black and white prints from years gone by. Some images had problems with scratches, bends in the paper and more, and because the end result was that they were going to print in a book they all needed to be somewhat close in they’re toning.


While I have done photo restorations in the past I never really had to worry about toning a whole set of images to be the same. This was not out of the realm of my Photoshop skills, but it was daunting nonetheless.

The book: Harvey has quite an interesting story to tell with his images.

The year is 1973-74 and Harvey takes two huge overseas trips, the second of which is the chance of a lifetime trip. Receiving an offer to work for the assistant dean of Chapman University’s World Campus Afloat, it was an around world educational cruise. Having a boss who would not let him take a leave of absence Harvey just quit his job as a pharmacist and became a passenger. And being a photographer he brought a darkroom with him. He packed a darkroom in a suitcase and away he went.

Now I have heard most of his story told to me in person and it really is a romantic tale, to be young, free, adventurous and traveling the world with a female companion… and taking photographs all along the way. Truly is a dream for anyone. Now cut to decades later Harvey decides he would like to produce a book of these images and he asked me for technical help.

So today much to my surprise I reached in the mailbox and pulled out a package… hummm I did not order anything? It was like Christmas morning when I opened the package and seen a fresh copy of the book with a personal message hand written inside the front cover. Very touching and so nice to see Harvey’s project complete.

See Harvey’s color images at


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Photo of The Day (It doesn’t always come easy)

7 Bracket HDR at f/16 ISO 50 40mm

7 Bracket HDR at f/16 ISO 50 40mm

Here we see a replica Sanphet Maha Prasat temple. This replica is located at the open air museum Ancient SIam City just outside of Bangkok, Thailand.  An image like this does not come easy. Most people think you just set up a tripod and start shooting. Ok… so then what do you do about 100 plus tourists that are all mulling around? And what about the light poles that are so conveniently located as to ruin your image no matter what angle you shoot it from?

Well as for the tourists… it was a waiting game. I had the camera on the tripod and I was moving around from place to place and I noticed that the tourists would come in waves. So I found my spot and just waited. Still it was mostly luck.

Now the light post… that is a 2 hour tale in Photoshop using every skill I knew and even learning some new ones.

Throw Back for Thursday (Cigar Break)



Cigar Break 1/200 sec at f/2.8 ISO 160 145mm natural light.

Cigar Break
1/200 sec at f/2.8 ISO 160 145mm natural light.

I love this photo so much for many reasons. First of all it has the ever amazing Reese Maddox smoking a cigar, second it was a totally impromptu shot. While walking down the street in Bethlehem, PA with Reese we happened upon this Cigar shop and how could I not take a shot of her taking a “Cigar Break.” It was actually pretty funny as we were setting up the shot, people walking by looking at her and then looking at me and realizing they were in front of my tripod. Just one of those magic days.

Reese Maddox

Are You Registering Your Images? ( I find this to be a topic that creates more questions than it does answers…)

1/400 sec at f/2.8 ISO 50 200mm

1/400 sec at f/2.8 ISO 50 200mm

Are you registering your images with the Us Copyright Office? I do. As a matter of fact I am uploading a few thousand images as I’m writing this post. I find this to be a topic that creates more questions than it does answers for the average photographer and sadly enough most photographers do not register their images. I have found that many photographers have very little knowledge about copyright. Most think it is some BIG process and they’re afraid of it. Copyright is as unknown to many photographers as is death. Are you afraid to die? For many the answer is “yes” because we really do not know what happens after we die. So like anything in this world that is “unknown” we as humans tend to shy away from it and pretend we didn’t hear anyone say a thing. Do you remember learning to ride a bicycle? And what happened after you learned? So easy that even if you haven’t ridden a bike in 10 years it only takes two minutes and you right back at it. Again the fear of the unknown… I could do a month of blog posts on the “fear of the unknown” in just the fears I have had and have overcome in my life.

So why do I need to register my images? Well, the truth is no one has to register their images at all. Last I checked in my state of New Jersey USA there is no law saying images have to be registered. The key to the mystery is in the word “copyright.” It is your right to register your images to protect them and have control as to how the images are used or not used. Also you  as a photographer want to dispel all the myths about copyright and copyright vs registering. Simply put “you own the image as soon as you click the shutter.” You own the images the same as you own your car, but you have to register your car in order to drive your car. Same goes for images/photos, sure you know you own it, but you must prove you own it. Because you did not buy your photos you do not have a receipt and you created them yourself, so you need to tell the government that you created these said images and this is done by registering them at the copyright office. Now at this point I will give my little disclaimer that most of the information I am about to speak of can be found in a book called the “Copyright Zone” written by Ed Greenberg & Jack Reznicki. Ed is an intellectual properties attorney based in New York City. Jack is a professional photographer of many years. The book is the “real deal” when it comes to all the things a photographer needs to know about copyright. I am not paid in any way to promote this book, however I can say it really is a must have for anyone who is serious about their photography and wants to protect their images. I found Ed & Jack a few years back when I joined up with Scott Kelby’s infamous Kelby Training for photographers which by the way is now called “Kelbyone.” Ed & Jack had a few courses that explained copyright and really shed some light on the subject for me. Actually it explained everything I needed to know to start registering my images. Then the book came along in a revised edition and it goes deeper than the classes did.

Strangely enough I was one of those photographers that was very receptive to copyright and wanting to learn all about it as I was learning how to use a camera back in the day. But I could never really find a one stop place that explained it and most of all “how to” actually go through the process. I was receptive to copyright because for many years I have written songs and some poetry and I learned a long time ago to copyright my work. So when I started off into photography right away I knew at some point I had to learn how to register the images. Back in my songwriting days there was no internet and it was all done on paper and through the US Mail system. Now it is all done online and it really is so easy a child can do it. But with that said; I have found that in order to keep the process as simple as possible I had to incorporate copyright into my workflow. It really is not hard at all if you use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop will work too. However I have found Lightroom to be much more streamlined because my whole workflow process centers on Lightroom. I will write a post in a few days explaining my copyright workflow.

There really is only one reason that you register and that is to protect your property. For some odd reason that I cannot seem to figure out, some people do not want to protect their images. They’ll come up with all kind of excuses or they believe in some urban legend they heard or read. As for reading the Copyright Zone and given the fact that Ed Greenberg has made a very successful career as an intellectual properties attorney, one of the best at what he does, so when Ed speaks I will listen. If Joe McNally walked into a room full of photographers and started talking and giving advice I would certainly take that over something I read on the internet or heard from somebody in the local photography club. Really just a little common sense coming from the correct source will take you a long way in life.

So my post is not a tutorial about how to register your images, if you want to learn I would suggest picking up a copy of the Copyright Zone, not only is it a good read, but very informative and worth every cent you paid for it. So in closing I will say this; yes it will cost you money to register your images. It is $55 to register a collection and a collection can include a lot of images, thousands. I don’t know the current maximum amount aloud, but I can tell you I just uploaded around 4500 images and I have another several hundred to add. All for the same $55 dollars… And please know I am not a wealthy man, I am not poor and I could easily find something else to do with that $55. But I put a value on my work and what I do. Yes I will do “Time for Print” with a model or up an-an-coming entertainer when there are no paid jobs, however I conduct that shoot as if it were a paid job, I may have to invest in any number of things to make the shoot happen. I may have money laid out in travel, location fee or permit, lunch for whoever (boy am I nice guy or what) or maybe even wardrobe or a makeup fee. Why do I invest? Because I want good images and then after I get as good of images as I can afford and I can achieve with my skills and gear… I register them to protect them.

Thanks so much for reading.


The Iron Factory Photo Shoot (it was not like god said unto me “thou hast to set forth and build an ark.” )

The Iron Factory Studio

The Iron Factory Studio

So as a follow up or continuation to my last blog post where I describe how I had a vision of a certain style of image that I wanted to create and how at the time I had this idea, I could barely work a DSLR camera nor did I know anything about Adobe Photoshop. So now after several years of climbing not one, but several mountains and obstacles of learning, I have made it to the starting line for this vision. Now when I say a vision I do not mean it was an apparition and no, it was not like god said unto me “thou hast to set forth and build an ark.” It was more of an idea and as I mentioned in the last post I knew it was nothing new but I just had no knowledge of how to do it. And of course now having learned the technique I was looking for and seeing that Photographer Joel Grimes has kind of pioneered the look, I will now set off on my own project to use Mr. Grimes’ technique and fuse it to my own style.

The starting line for this is the Iron Factory Studio in old city Philadelphia. Three models (Reese Maddox, Kendall Strampel & Cynthia Ann) with a few different looks shooting on a white sweep background. The images will become elements to be used to make composites in Adobe Photoshop at a later time. The backgrounds will come from various places and some of those places will include Southeast Asia, Thailand & Laos. I will travel there for one month to visit family and friends, some vacationing a bit and looking for special places or scenes to photograph for backgrounds. I should also add that the backgrounds will be shot in HDR, again for that “somewhere between a photo and an illustration” effect. The models however can not be shot in HDR as it looks horrible on people or anything alive. So the models have to have a custom effect that is too long and in-depth to describe here. This is where the creativity comes into play and it all takes place in Photoshop.

I want this project to be a success… of course that goes without saying. But I do know that many times things do not happen easy, nor do they happen on the first try… “The best laid plans of mice & men…” One thing I do know is all involved will still have a fun time at the studio that day, for that is my number one rule at a photo shoot “to have fun.” If it is not fun then something is really wrong and we stop. I will post more about this project as it progresses.

The Iron Factory Studio

The Iron Factory Studio