Hey where’s everybody at? (…we roll into Princeton at daybreak and it was perfect. Well I should say “almost perfect”)

Howard Henry Dormitory at Princeton University.

Howard Henry Dormitory at Princeton University in the early morning predawn hours.

Where are all the people at? It really was a perfectly executed plan between my friend Mark and me. It starts out with an idea to photograph architecture at Princeton University. I know it seems easy and fun, but what about all the people? How do you get good photos with all the people roaming to & fro on campus? And you must know I am a big fan of not bothering people with my being all up in their face with a camera and a tripod when I am not there to photograph people. On the other hand if I was photographing people… well then I am a little more in their face, but still with respect to personal space.

I had actually had this idea for several years and it always got nixed because it seemed like more trouble than it is worth. I mean if you look at it realistically; ok, I need to be on the campus when there are no people so how do I do that. If I go on Sunday morning there will still be the dog walkers and joggers out at the crack of dawn and once the day gets going… well it is all downhill after that. But it was Mark who said “well I guess if we go there at mid-August would be the best time because like most colleges if you go at the end of August you will have everybody coming back to school a few weeks before opening day so I think that to be the best time.” So on August 19th we roll into Princeton at daybreak and it was perfect. Well I should say “almost perfect” because while there were no students and very little staff there were several contractors working and mulling around on campus. However contractors are not bothered too much at all by two friendly photographers. So we get in early and after about two and a half hours we’re done and headed for coffee.

Photo of The Day (Put Emotions Aside And Stand Your Ground)

Stand Your Ground

Stand Your Ground! Model Danny Sturdivant

This photo shoot was a lot of fun, the studio was so cold that morning and poor little Danny was frozen. Then we put her in the emoji outfit and I asked her to start going through different emotions. For a little girl she sure gives a mean-ass look when I asked for “angry.”


Pavilion of The Enlightened (literally a maze of walkways over the water.)

Pavilion of The Enlightened located in Ancient Siam City, Bangkok Thailand.

Pavilion of The Enlightened located in Ancient Siam City, Bangkok Thailand.

He we see an image of the Pavilion of The Enlightened located in Ancient Siam  also known as Ancient City. Ancient Siam is a 200 acre outdoor museum located in the Samut Prakan province of Thailand and is a photographer’s paradise. Pavilion of The Enlightened is #110 on the Ancient Siam map for those who are looking to put it on their photography list. My visit there was in December 2014 the last day of my trip and what an amazing day it was. Sadly I took so many photos I could not edit them all, but this was also a good thing, because I every so often pull a set of RAW files out and run them through Photoshop’s HDR Pro and have some fun.

This photograph was a seven bracket HDR and it was shot towards the end of the day. I had rented a golf cart for the day and as I was approaching the Pavilion I was once again taken by the amazing scene, the colors are mostly Green & Yellow and the whole structure sits above the water. Although I captured many angles I really feel I did not capture the best angle of the structure and this would be due in part that I was tired and just plain wore out from not only the day of shooting, but also from my whole trip. I had been in Thailand for about a month and I was looking forward to going home.

My visit to Ancient Siam was a last-minute “on a whim” visit and I did not know what I was in for. When I arrived I almost did not rent a golf cart, thinking I could use the exercise, but in a moment of clarity I thought “hey wait a minute… if there are golf carts here then they are here for a reason.” If you ever visit and your there for photography please take my advise and rent the cart, no matter what your physical shape you’ll be glad you did because the place is huge. I really do not remember any other place I have ever been to shoot for “just the fun of it” and actually got tired of shooting amazing structures. After a while I was saying to myself “ok, I’m done this is the last one and then I would round the corner on the cart… OMG look at this, I just have to get shot of this. Yeah it really was a lot of fun.

There are basically three styles of structures Replicas of Original, Reconstructed Original and Creative Design. The Pavilion of The Enlightened is a creative design and is literally a maze of walkways over the water.

Autumn Walkway ( just driving up & down Princeton using my computer until I found it.)

Hand held HDR of a walkway in Princeton New Jersey in the autumn.

Hand held HDR of a walkway in Princeton New Jersey in the autumn.

I really like this image I captured this morning while traveling through Princeton New Jersey with my wife. I like the image, but it could be better. Truth be told I did tweak the yellow just a little in Photoshop and the photo is a “hand held” HDR. For those who are not photography geeks should know an HDR image is most times captured using a tripod and it is a combination of under exposure, normal exposure and over exposure images all merged in Photoshop.

So why not use a tripod? And why do I not love the image? Like most landscape images you never really capture the “wow” factor the first time out to the location and this time was no different. I want to capture the day when there is a carpet of yellow leave blanketing the ground. So because it was not at its peak moment I decided to take a quick photo by hand holding the camera.

I first saw this location posted on a photo site three years ago and the caption read “Princeton Sidewalk.” I am familiar with Princeton because I live not far from there and I knew at some point I had walked past this place, but I could never really remember where it was. I used Google Earth Street View to actually locate it. And believe me that was not easy. I spent three different sessions on Google street view just driving up & down Princeton using my computer until I found it. And of course when I did find it, it was a big DUH!

So I will head back to the location in a few days for a second chance.


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.

Photo of The Day (I got to really work my new Induro tripod and put it through the paces of HDR. )

5 Bracket HDR f/16 ISO 50 33mm

5 Bracket HDR f/16 ISO 50 33mm

Spent the early morning hours out photographing the grounds of Princeton University with my friend and fellow photographer Mark. What a joy it was to have the place to ourselves for the whole morning. Then as the people started to come out & about we called it a day and headed home. I got to really work my new Induro tripod and put it through the paces of HDR. The AT 214 was great. I’ll do a video review next week.

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.

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