The Great Outdoors (Not too hard to do, unless you’re holding over $5000 the water.)

Krista In the Creek  1/60 sec at f/2.8 ISO 100 200mm, radio speedlight 1/2 power in a 26" Rapid Box

Krista In the Creek
1/60 sec at f/2.8 ISO 100 200mm (no flash)


Shooting with Krista Obrien was truly a lot of fun and very trying at times. Most of the day was spent capturing outdoor images that include moving water in the background. Moving water in hilly or mountainous streams, our first location seemed harmless as it was a short walk from the parking area to the river front. The actual location was where Pine Creek leads from Sunrise Lake into the Lehigh River. While moving around the river front and fighting with the harsh midday sun I spotted a waterfalls up the creek. So we decided to move to this area hoping for better more even light. This really changes the intensity of the photo shoot, as to now I go from fighting sunlight causing harsh shadows to fighting the dappled light of the forest. But more so now I have Krista navigating the stin camera gear. Knowing one slip could smash or drown the camera. But it was all good, Krista was fearless as any young outdoor enthusiast would be and she really wanted to play in steep rocky stream while I’m navigating the steep banks on the side of the stream and then walking out on rocks in the stream. Not too hard to do, unless you’re holding over $5000 the water. I being an outdoors lover and hiker was more than willing to do what I had to do to position myself for the shots, I just had to be cautious of the camera and might I add all while using off camera flash in some of the shots. I love radio flash and the Westcott Rapid Box for this type of shoot was perfect.

So as you can see from some of the photos we were able to capture great images in a very remote area that most photographers would only trek to for Landscape shots. As a side note: you must have total confidence in letting your subject do this kind of navigating and you must have the utmost confidence in where you are putting your foot every time you take a step and what your leaning on or sitting on while shooting. Krista did take a tumble in the water at one point and while it looked bad it was merely nothing at all. So the locations varied from river front, to rushing water, to a very steep high angle cave entrance to sitting on a log the extended over water and sometimes just sitting on rocks. A lot of fun for sure and I would do it again in a heartbeat.


ESP Photoshoot (so here we go… fingers crossed)

Chloe (Model)

Chloe (Model) in a cell at Eastern States Penitentiary


So it’s off to ESP for a fun personal project shoot tomorrow. Personal projects can be so much fun. If done right they can prepare you for bigger and better things. It’s that “you don’t know till you try” method of learning. I have many personal photo projects planned for the autumn season involving the fall colors. But my personal projects will fall between paid work with the high school seniors/sports portraiture. There will be more outdoor shoots and now that I have found a team of models with different looks and color I can get to work on the Photoshop composites and that is where the real fun begins. In between all the photography and working a job and running a catering business I will travel to Southeast Asia (Thailand/Laos) to visit family and look after the construction of our house there. Of course the shutter will not stop, the shutter never stops.

My knowledge of photography and Photoshop comes from those who arrived before me. Some are great photographers and photoshoppers/retouchers. You have to pay homage to those from whom you’ve leaned. Some are unknowns and others are greatly known. I have read book after book and more books on photography & Photoshop and Lightroom. I have sat through hours upon hours of online classes, course and interviews. I have traveled to seminars and meetings. I have an continue to do all of this and it is not so I can be that photographer who is “just so much better” than all the others. That does not happen to anybody. The only photographers who are better than everyone else are the “legends in their own mind” and there are many. But here again I have learned from the greats like Joe McNally, Peter Hurley, Lindsay Adler, Glyn Dewis, Woody Walters (oh Woody is the man), Cliff Mauntner and even studied the legalities of photography and registering your work taught by Ed Greenburg. And these are just a few, then there all the friends I have online whom I have never met but we share advice and techniques. I hold back very little when it comes to sharing. I can’t give all I know away for I have spent countless dollars and hours to gain the knowledge I feel others who are serious should do the same. With that said I still love the joy of helping others move forward with projects & photography.

So off to ESP I go tomorrow in hopes of capturing some great images and having fun with new friends… crazy artists that they are.

URBEX Photography. (when there is not much happening, put a pretty face in the scene) Part 1

1/250 sec at f/3.2 ISO 50 80mm

1/250 sec at f/3.2 ISO 50 80mm


Urbex Photography. What is it? Urban Exploration photography has a few definitions but for the most part it is the exploration of decaying and aging man-made structures. It can also be places were the everyday person may not travel such as under bridges, inside tunnels and the list goes on and on. In all my photography I had never really traveled down the road of this genera in a meaningful way. Sure I have photographed ruins and burned out houses and the like, but I have never put a model in the scene. I have seen it and admired it on and again never really gave it a thought. That is until recently when I met a model who unknowingly steered me to this rather unique style. I love street photography and again street has a few interpretations but it is basically capturing life, not necessarily always shot on a street but in the streets is where a lot of life is happening. Urbex is kind of the opposite, there is not much happening. So when you incorporate a model into the scene you have something happening. The biggest thing you have going on is the contrast of the beauty of your model (you do have a pretty model… right) playing off of the decay or whatever the situation is around you. Now contrasting a model’s beauty against something plain, uninteresting or deplorable looking is not a new concept by any means. We have all seen what we may have deemed a “crazy” photo of a model in a Victorian style dress and she is in some sort of horrible background. The background by its self would most likely not catch our eye, however the beauty of the model would catch our eye or if it is a couture fashion shot her dress maybe the focal point. But put that beauty against a decrepit background and we get a contrast going that really sets things apart. Apart to the point that now we may even notice the background more so because of the beauty that is playing against it.

Where I was shooting yesterday in the historic section of Bethlehem Pennsylvania there were these Moravian ruins. If I had walked past and stopped to look at the location where I was shooting, and I was not there with a camera… I would have thought “just another old building in decay” and I might have wondered as to the history of the building, but other than that I most likely would not think any further. Now change things up… I approach the scene with a model (the beauty part) and it changes the whole game. Now I’m looking as to where and how I want to shoot her… with a camera of course. So now instead of just hiking along looking at old ruins, I have a reason and can turn it into a project.

Keep in mind it is not always about shooting a vast scene with a model in the middle. As I was shooting yesterday, we were under a huge and very high arched cement bridge. It was cool and there was a very nice breeze coming through, a nice place to take a break from the heat of the day. I looked around and noticed a cement wall that had several things going on. There was the age of the cement; there were huge water stains that were rusty colored to varying degrees, faded paint from old graffiti and mold. Looking at this I said to Reese (my model) “some photographers would give anything to have this background in their studio” and she agreed. So she went to work right away posing and we captured a nice series with this one of a kind background. Only thing I did wrong was I did not shoot the background by its self to use in Photoshop later. Oh well, now I have a reason to go back there.

Let’s talk about the camera & lenses; Ok so for this kind of photography I like to use available light when possible. I feel it gives a feel to the whole photo. I guess you could say it adds to the patina of the scene. But with that said, there are times when I could see myself setting up a 5 foot softbox for lighting the scene in a particular way. But available light is what I shoot most. I try to keep ISO in the 50 to 100 range when at all possible, although the newer cameras are really improving with a whole lot less grain in the higher ISO ranges. Just a few years back if I had to go to ISO 800 I would cringe. But now… last year I shot a bride in a hotel room at ISO 2000 & 5000 and had beautiful shots to work with and not much processing. The key to high ISO shots is; you must crop in camera, period. If you crop in camera the noise is to a minimum. As for lens choices; if I was just shooting the scene of the decaying building I would most likely shoot wide. But for faces, my 70-200mm is my favorite choice. I can zoom in for nice face shots of the model and if I want wide, I zoom back using my feet. …can you believe that “zoom out using your feet” what a novel idea? And lastly I must say I like to use a tripod whenever possible. The tripod will increase your score on “in focus” shots. Being on a lot of uneven ground and strange surfaces, it only makes sense to steady the camera the best you can.

In part two, I’ll talk more about an actual shoot, finding a location and more.

A Happy First Day Of Spring (I would just tell them I trained her with “love.”)

Happy Pixel 1/1000 sec at f/3.2 ISO 100 200mm

Happy Pixel
1/1000 sec at f/3.2 ISO 100 200mm


So today is the first day of spring although a bit cool and breezy with some clouds there was a lot of blue sky too. Even though it was not the beautiful warm day I had hoped for, I will still take it and be happy. And speaking of happy; today was International Happiness Day and I had asked everybody to get out and do something that makes you happy and then take a photo or photos and share them to social media of your choice.

Being a work day I kind of knew what it was that I wanted to do that would be fun but a little out of the ordinary routine for me. After work I went for a nice ride down the country roads where I grew up. It is not far away so it was easy and it was peaceful. The countryside was a little barren looking with the lack of green but still fun to see the sights nonetheless.

Then I arrived home and the real fun began. Last weekend I had bought a new toy for Pixie and I couldn’t wait to play “fetch” with her. Of recent it really has been too cool in the afternoon when I arrive home, so I would just take her out for her normal walk around the farm, trying to keep her out of the mud and cockleburs. But for today I was taking on a big challenge. I was going to play with her and photograph at the same time; all while staying upright and not falling in the mud myself. The toy is a flying duck of sorts and she absolutely loves it. My wife had her out the other day and she said they had a lot of fun.

Pixie is young and she is still learning, she’s not quite a year old. My previous Bichon Snuggs was so good at exploring on her own and I feel this makes up a big part of a dogs personality. I am not a canine expert by any means but I do know Snuggs was a very exceptional creature. Many people from vets to trainers and people I would meet would almost always comment on Snuggs amazing personality & behavior. I never really gave it much thought but it was always the main topic of conversation if someone was around her for more than 10 minutes. As the years went by I started to ponder this because I had done nothing at all to train the dog. The most I had done was yelling at her and when she was young and did something wrong, also I would swat her away if she was doing something annoying or dangerous and that is it. No formal training at all and when people asked I would just tell them I trained her with “love.” So today I let Pixie off her leash and let her explore an area that she has been just itching to get to. There is an old car carrier trailer and when we walk past she always wants to go underneath or climb up to explore. I know she is looking for that elusive field mouse or ground mole. So for about 20 minutes I kept a close eye on her and she had her fun. When I called she came back and looked as if her curiosity had been satisfied.

So now we bring out the duck and what a blast we both had. I would throw the duck and she would run out and retrieve it, rough it up and fight with it, then return back to me and do it all over again. I did manage to get off some good shots of her retrieving the duck. I even was able (with some fore thought) to put a little style in the shots by throwing the duck to the west in the direction of the sun. So when she runs to retrieve Mr. Duck the sun is behind and above her and I have the camera angled down to her so the darker ground (field) is her backdrop. With sun above and behind her it lights up her fur with some pleasing highlights. This technique I use a lot for females with lots of hair and it is even more awesome with bridal veils. All that sunlight is behind the subject while the face is in even light (a shadow), you meter the camera off the face and “bingo” you have a nice pleasing photo. I thank Cliff Mautner for that priceless piece of knowledge.

So to conclude; I did have fun taking some photographs and playing with my fur-kid. I am happy to share a few photos with you and I hope you like them.


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Sometimes Something Special Happens (I would imagine I was an arctic explorer)

Winter Morning Sun

Winter Morning Sun

Sometimes one will happen upon a special scene. How do we know it is special? We see it of course, but I would say for me it is more of a feeling. Yes there is the visual presence of what we are seeing with our eyes. But more so I think what makes for the special scene is when it triggers a memory from long ago or it reminds us of a special place we have once visited or maybe a person in our life that is at the moment far away or has moved on from this world. So that is what this blog post is about. It is about this photo you see above and how this photo gave me that special feeling. I know this photo is not a work of art by any means and if it stirs a reaction from you I am very happy. Who knows it may give you a different feeling than it does me. After all I was the one standing there and got to actually see the beauty and feel it. So let me set the stage and how I came upon this scene.

As some know I am a school bus driver and I drive a small van size bus. The bus is not small because I have “special” students but rather I travel into a very rural area and on very narrow back roads of Hunterdon, Mercer & Somerset Counties here in New Jersey USA. This place you see in the photo is a place I stop every morning prior to picking up my first student of the day. I stop here to collect my thoughts and wait until the exact second on the clock to continue on and I like to be on time. On time, to the very second (a little OCD there). Because I arrive at this spot daily at 6:10am, in January it is dark, I just pull the bus to stop on the side of this back road and wait my time sitting in the seat. But on this day I was starting the day late because the school had a delayed opening due to a bad winter storm that had arrived the day before.

So upon driving up the road I noticed the sun rising to my right and as I approached my usual spot to stop I opened the door and stepped out. When I did this is the scene that was presented to me and it happened, that special feeling of “wow” look at this. For me it instantly took me back to when I was young and I would see the virgin snow across a meadow on the farm where I lived as a small child. I stood there as the memories swept through my mind. I can remember coming out of the house after the snow had stopped and finding a scene like this that had no foot prints at all and then trudging across the meadow leaving just “my” foot prints. As a child I would imagine I was an artic explorer and go off having fun as young children do. Like most memories, one is tied to another and they start to unravel like a string.

I quickly reached for my phone and I captured about 4-5 shots of this scene and then I went back to my memories. I thought about riding my Flexible Flyer sled, I thought about how we would come in from a day of winter fun, all sopping wet and hungry. As the memories just kept unraveling all of the sudden I was startled by a strong vibration in my right hand. My alarm clock in my phone was going off telling me it is time to start the bus run and in an instant the young boy playing in the snow evaporated from my mind. Although I seen him in idle moments throughout the rest of the day. Also I couldn’t wait to see how bad my photos were, thinking “what I seen vs. what the mobile phone camera captured.” To my surprise I had a good photo or at least good enough to do a minor edit and post to Facebook & Twitter. So the Twitter feedback lit up and I couldn’t wait to return home to see it on a monitor.

Most of us would give anything to go back in time to all the fun we had, snow included. But as we age we take that small child with us in our memories and every once in a while something unlocks the door and we can peer in and see they are still there playing away. Thank god for those “every once in a while” scenes.