The Devils Tea Table Kingwood Township NJ. (So yeah as a small boy the Tea Table really etched its self into my little brain.)

The Devil's Tea Table

Devils Tea Table Kingwood Township, Hunterdon County, NJ.

The Devils Tea Table  

By Richard G Smith Jr  

© RICHARD G SMITH JR 
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED NO RIGHTS GRANTED UNLESS IN WRITING BY RICHARD G SMITH JR 
RECKLESS PIXEL & LENZWIZARD ARE REGISTERED TRADE NAMES OF RICHARD G SMITH JR. © COPYRIGHT 

So, let’s talk about this curious place called “Devils Tea Table.” Also let’s clarify that we are talking about the tea table located on a ridge above the Delaware River in Kingwood Township Hunterdon County New Jersey. Yes, there is more than one Devils Tea Table and we’ll get to that a little later on. I am writing this article for a few different reasons and there will be a few shorter versions of the article that will focus on specific things such as; How the tea table area transitioned from a hiking destination to a partying hangout and to its current state of an “off limits” area controlled by the state of NJ. There will also be an article about the moronic legend of the Indian chief who was supposedly killed there and I will also write about the settlers who first came to that area and the Lenape who were there before the settlers. At the current time of this writing the State of New Jersey is proposing plans to rework the Devils Tea Table area into a safer place for visitors. While this sounds good on the surface, I personally feel this would certainly ruin the pristine beauty and natural setting that has been there for hundreds if not thousands of years.     

I have actually spent a lot of time over the past several months researching the tea table. Being a local and having grown up in the area I have always known about the tea table and as a child in the late 60s and early 70s I would hear adults talk about the place, so I thought I knew a lot about the tea table and really, I did. However, when I dived in to my research, I learned so much more than I expected. I must also say that what really lit my fire about doing all this research was when I read about the so-called legend of the Indian chief killed there by other Indians (his enemies).1 As a kid I never heard of this queer legend and then I see that even Kingwood Township had it attached to their municipal website, so I set out to debunk the legend and I just kept digging further and further into everything about the tea table.   

The research started with reading countless newspaper articles dating all the way back to the early 1800s. I also read books written about the settlers of the Raven Rock area (located a few miles south of the Tea Table area), I followed family genealogy lines along with stories of wealthy settlers, stories of love and stories of bastard children born out of wedlock. There were also many emails and a few phones calls to various people or organizations. I contacted the Delaware Nation in Oklahoma2 (former Lenape Indians) and they were very helpful with the Indian legend debunking. I contacted the New Jersey State Police and we talked about what happens when trespassers are caught and how the location is patrolled today. I contacted geology professors for proper terminology and clarification about tea tables and I of course captured video and photos of the location. Yes, I must say it has been quite a trip to say the least.  

Every aspect of this research was very interesting, however reading countless newspaper articles from almost 200 years ago to the present day is what I think was the most interesting because it really showed a vast change in our society. I’m essentially researching a rock formation and who knew that the research would show how the location went from a wonderful natural landmark (and it still is) that people would hike eleven plus miles to see and cherish the memory of, the day and of the scenery, to a place where people would hide guns, possibly a dead body, paint graffiti, have beer & drug using parties and of course in the end it becomes a place where people either become severely injured or die from falling. And oddly enough not all the fall victims were drunk or high.   

Other odd things are; nowhere nearly as many people died there as people think, most all the deaths and sever injuries occurred in the 70s, the name Devils Tea Table is used to raise the value or add prominence to real estate listings, the place caused distress to township road department workers who were constantly replacing “No Parking” signs3 and the list goes on and on of odd little facts associated with a beautifully odd & quirky rock formation located on a ridge next to a river. I even went back as far as to find the life story of the original land owner, from where he grew up and how he met his wife and came to the area to start up his homestead. I also learned a great deal about the area just South of the Tea Table where Byram lies on the Jersey side and Point Pleasant on the PA side and the area further south known today as Raven Rock4.  

At this time, I am still researching, however I am coming to the end. I think the most interesting detail in the end is how the tea table became known as “Devils Tea Table” and lost the name “Warford’s Rock.” Even with all my searching there still are a few missing pieces to the puzzle. Some of these missing pieces I am waiting on. They are either people who have info and haven’t found it yet or just haven’t gotten back to me yet. Other pieces are thing I may never find. Interestingly, all along the way I have mentioned this project to many people and I am very surprised by the response I get. Some people have great information and others have personal stories about day trips and the fun they had hiking up there. Then of course I would get the people who wanted to tell me pure BS, most of which is debunked by newspaper articles.    

  

“Tea Table” is a term used in geology to describe “A tea table is a type of rock column comprising discrete layers, usually of sedimentary rock, with the top layers being wider than the base due to greater resistance to erosion and weathering.” Tea tables are a “freak of nature” I guess you could say and we have one of them right here in Hunterdon County New Jersey. To be specific it is located on the south end of a ridge overlooking the Delaware River in Kingwood Township. The intersection of state highway route 29 and Warsaw road sit at the base of this ridge. On top of the ridge is moderately dense forest that give way to more open land as you move east away from the river.   

I grew up in neighboring Delaware Township (late 60s through the 70s) and can remember my parents occasionally talking about the Devils Tea Table.5 I always loved when we would ride along route 29 because there was always a chance, I would see a train chugging away on the tracks that were located so close to the road. And in some areas the road was above the tracks and you could look down on the top of the train as it cruised along. What could be more enjoyable for a small boy but to see a train so close up and moving at the same time. Sadly, though there was not always a train and we didn’t really travel route 29 that often. However, there was another very interesting thing about the ride along route 29 and that would be to get a glimpse of Devils Tea Table. If we were traveling north and I was on the passenger’s side of the car I would be able to look up and see it. I would see it for about three or four seconds, I had to twist my neck and look almost straight up and there it would be. Unlike the train, the tea table was always there. My father said it was there when the Indians were here and again, to a small boy in 1969 that was the coolest thing. It really is funny how times have changed so much. As a child the word Indians opened up visions in my mind of western movies where cowboys and Indians would fight and there were good Indians like Tonto6 the Lone Ranger’s faithful side kick and Chief Halftown7 the host of a tv show. Just imagine; I am now 54 years old and when I was small kid there were still a few “real live Indians” around, they were far and few between but there were a few.   

So yeah, as a small boy the Tea Table really etched its self into my little brain. Then there was the fact it was called “Devils Tea Table” and the word “devil,” well that just made a little boy’s ears perk up and cower down all at the same time. I had visons of the Indians sitting up on that rock smoking a pipe and worshiping the devil. After all Indians were savages right? That’s what they called them in the movies when the army or cowboys fought with them. But Chief Halftown seemed cool, I mean he was the host of a children’s tv show. Man, I was really confused as kid, but Indians were cool and the Devils Tea Table was cool.   

As time passed and we moved into the 70s I would start to hear different things about Devils Tea Table, things about “people going up there to get high.” I heard a friend of my father’s saying about how “the hippies8 go up there to get high” and I was confused because after all the tea table is over 300 feet above the road, so if somebody went up there, they certainly would be “high.” Right? Seriously, I had no idea what he was talking about, all I knew was “if I’m down here and you’re up there, you are higher than me and you would be high. I’m confused again, I was just a young boy.   

I knew what hippies were or at least I knew what my father told me hippies were. My father not being of the hippie era would talk about hippies as if they were a blight on society. Any time he talked about hippies it would always start with “ah them damn hippies…” And then there was the local hippie biker (kind of) gang that roamed the roads on their loud motorcycles, but they seemed pretty harmless, actually stupid would be more like it.   

All I knew was times were changing and hippies were causing problems at the tea table. Then a hippie fell off the tea table and the cops came and it was the talk of the night as my father and his friends gathered to work on a car and drink beer in our driveway. And then for the next few years (1972-75) I would hear stories about wild parties that took place at the tea table. I was getting a little older and wiser and I now knew what “getting high” was and knew that it wasn’t just hippies that were the problem. Turns out “hippies” was a broad stroke of the brush that was painted to label anyone who smoke pot or marijuana as it was officially known. Beer played an even bigger role I think and I’ll tell you why soon.   

So now I find myself in 9th grade at Hunterdon Central High School and until now I have only ever heard stories about the Devils Tea Table and of course those 4 second glimpse of it as I would pass by in a car. However, 9th grade turned out to be a pivotal point because Mr. Ransavage’s science class would take a class trip there every year. It seemed rather odd that we would be going there on a class trip, but hey Mr. Ransavage was a cool teacher or at least I thought so. 9th grade science class was actually very boring to me; I mean all this talk about rocks and dinosaurs did not fit in with my ideas of fun. I was interested in dirt bike motorcycles and BMX racing, rock music and dirt track racecars. But when Mr. R mentioned a class trip to the Devils Tea Table, he had my attention.   

So, as I remember that day our class trip had several other stops but, one stop was at the Devils Tea Table. I remember the bus stopped right along route 29 and most students disembarked out the back door of the bus. The hike was very steep although the path was well worn and for 14-year-old kids it was pretty much like a hop, skip and a jump to get to the top. And that “hop, skip and a jump” thing changes with age lol. Once at the top we were told not to go on the table it’s self however a few kids did.   

At that time, I remember standing there and thinking of all the times I had seen it from the car window and now  

here I am looking at it close up and it didn’t look like there was any kinship to an “Indian place” at all. There was graffiti painted on almost every part of the rock and the surrounding rocks too. I remember thinking “I guess that is what hippies do.” “They get high and paint on rocks.”  Also, there were pieces if broken glass on practically every inch of ground. I remember standing there taking in the whole scene and thinking “I can see how this could be a cool place to come and chill out for a while.” I am standing there with a whole bunch of kids and there is talking and laughing but, imagine this place without all that noise, it would be a really peaceful place and, in my opinion, it would look a whole lot nicer without all the graffiti.   

Our trip back to the bus took us down a different direction, instead of going down the steep climbing trail we headed away from the Tea Table following a trail that took us past a cave like formation in the rocks where there was even more evidence of a fire ring, broken beer bottles and beer cans. Perplexing my mind were other things I seen, like broken lawn chairs, a tire, broken badminton racket and other odd things. “Somebody carried a tire up here?” We walked not too far and headed down toward the creek that runs parallel to Warsaw Road, we crossed the creek and walked to the bus and onto the next stop.   

After the school trip it would be many years before I would revisit the location. The class trip was in 1979 and I left Hunterdon Central High School after 9th grade and finished out my high school years in Virginia. Upon returning to New Jersey in 1983 and meeting up with old friends everybody pretty much was saying the Devils Tea Table is off limits because too many people had died from falling off the Tea Table and that the police were watching it like a hawk. My friend Dean said “don’t go, you’ll get arrested.” Now aside from the people falling and some being killed, the large 150 person drinking parties where upon kegs of beer9 were carried up to the nearly 350-foot-high Tea Table area, there enters in the search for a dead body. May 5, 1994 New Jersey State police head to the Devils Tea Table and surrounding area to search for Gina Marie Gallo’s body.10 She had went missing in 1981 from a Bordentown motel room, she was 22 years old. In 1993 new leads and information had been uncovered that pointed to her body being somewhere at the Tea Table area. So now this just adds to more mystery about Devils Tea Table as the news of the search makes for a great new headline. However, nothing about Miss Gallo is ever found there and her skull is found by hunters on a trash heap in Hamilton Township Mercer County in December 1997.11   

Ten years later in 1993 I was living in a small apartment located in the tiny village of Brookville just south of Stockton about 8 miles south of the Tea Table. One day my girlfriend Sue and I decided to ride our bicycles to the Tea Table. For a few weeks we had been talking about going there. The huge parties seemed to be a thing of the past, although there were still “No Trespassing” signs and people were still being injured. But, one day while I was riding my bike along the river trail, I noticed a few hikers walking along route 29 and they quickly just ducked over the guardrail and headed up the trail to the Tea Table so, I thought “hey, why not.” The next weekend Sue and I rode up, parked the bikes in the drainage tunnel that runs under route 29 right at that location and headed up to the Tea Table.   

It was a lot of fun and I had flashbacks to the 1979 class trip. Once at the top things were pretty much the same as I had seen them in 79 with the exception some of the graffiti had been washed away and the broken glass wasn’t as prevalent. The trail was still very well worn and you could tell people were still visiting the place all the time. There were small signs of fresh visitors, signs like fresh cigarette butts, a small camp fire that looked only days old, a few beer cans and food wrappers. But it was nothing like the well-worn days of the 1979 class trip. While we were there a few other hikers came up and stayed a while, then a few more came.   

Sue and I stayed for a few hours and headed back the same way I did in 79, walking away from the Tea Table and heading down the easier trail to the creek, back to the bikes and headed home.   

As years passed, I visited the Tea Table as a solo hiker a few times. Usually on a weekday and again riding from Stockton on my bike. It wasn’t until a few years back I got the idea of the Tea Table back in my head however, this time it was about photography, I wanted to capture a nice photo of the Devils Tea Table and then I got to thinking and realized how many people have captured photos of it. But I have a drone now so, why not get a nice drone shot. Then I got interested in the history of the Tea Table, “how many people did die up there?” And “did Indians really go there?” Geez, today we have internet so, I can find the answers to all my wonderments I have had over the years. Also why not write about it? And really the reason for writing about it is to kind of show that not as many people died up there as I was told or lead to believe. I guess it was one of those things where a few true things did happen and soon stories get exaggerated and facts get mixed up or misconstrued and soon the real stories and facts are lost in the mix. Even today I will hear people say “yeah they found a woman’s body up there one time,” certainly a testament to people haphazardly reading paper headlines and not the whole story.   

Irony is woven through the fabric of history and Devils Tea Table is no exception. As I was digging into the newspaper articles from the 1970s the running theme is that it was a place where people went to party, drinking beer, smoking pot and using illegal drugs. But this reputation was something new to the Tea Table, for not so long ago it was a very prominent hiking destination.12 13  

Remember how I said earlier that I was bothered by the legend that a famous Indian chief was killed at the Tea Table and that this really in my opinion was absurd. So, to debunk this idiodic story I had to dig back further, back to when there were actually Indians roaming this location. As I dig back year by year, I find that during the early to mid-1900s there were many times advertisements in Philadelphia area newspapers inviting day hikers to journey up to the Devils Tea Table.14 Boy scouts, girl scouts and other outdoors and nature groups15,16 frequented the Tea Table on a regular basis and this seems to have continued right up to 1968 or at least that is what newspaper articles show.   

The first incident of illicit activity shows up in a Courier-News article dated February 1, 1947, when it was discovered a 16-year-old parolee from the Jamesburg Reformatory broke into a Kingwood Township home and stole guns a flashlight and a piece of salami (really?).  New Jersey State Police recovered one of the stolen guns at Devils Tea Table.17 However other that this lone incident no other bad things appear in the newspapers until we get up into the 1970’s.   

So, the irony lies in the fact that this once popular hiking destination that seemed to be loved by nature & hiking groups, now becomes a place that is loved by partiers who go there and get arrested. Then in the 90’s it is tagged as a place you could hide a dead body. For what it is worth only two people appeared to have lost their life from falling at the Tea Table however, there were numerous injured and several tactical rescues. For the most part if you fall from the Tea Table or a surrounding rock you will not fall to the highway. Instead, you drop about 70+ feet where you land (or bounce off of) trees or more rocks. Needless to say, the result of falling from the tea table is going to; as Tommy Boy would say “leave a mark” if not kill you first. Oddly (or maybe not) in all the stories I read about the (1900s) day hikers I could find nothing about anybody falling or being hurt in anyway while visiting the Tea Table. I even uncovered a photo of boy scouts of long ago standing on the edges of the rocks below the Tea Table where it would be more likely to slip and fall. Did society really get more stupid in the 1970’s?   

The only two deaths listed at the Devils Tea Table are December 24/25 1978 when Thomas Dienes fell18 and October 1979 when 17-year-old David Giordano fell.19 Trooper Irving MacConnnell (Flemington State Police Barracks) recalling to the Courier News about Dienes’ fall saying; it took over two hours for rescue to locate him and while still alive at that time but, frozen from the cold he was found lying there staring at the sky and scattered about was debris of beer cans & bottles. The rescue involved a helicopter and grappling irons.  He was later pronounced dead upon arriving at Hunterdon Medical Center.20   

As for Giordano’s fall his friend John Gale claimed that while they were camping around 3:00am it started to rain and they were looking for a dry place to sit when Giordano slipped in mud and fell.   

Aside from those two deaths by falling I could find no other news articles that listed anyone dying for any reason related to the Tea Table. There are numerous listings of arrests and injuries. As I stated earlier; growing up in neighboring Delaware Township the local stories were that “many people died by falling” and there was even a story about a woman’s skeleton found in the early 70’s, although my searches revealed no stories of that. If true I think I would have uncovered that event for sure but, maybe not.   

So, let’s talk about Devils Tea Table in real estate listings.21,22 Same as today people will try to embellish a listing as much as they can. Neighbor’s houses if real close are always cropped out of a photo and location are often times overstated. Such would be the case in real estate listings that would describe property as being “in the Devils Tea Table area” as if this would be a good thing. Of all the listings I read some even claimed to have the Tea Table on the property however the property sizes would range from 50 acers to over 100 acers and it is a far stretch of the imagination that one could by the Tea Table property one year and sell it the next year at a different size. Not to mention for the number of listings it would mean the Tea Table property was being bought and sold like kid’s trade baseball cards or comic books. One listing even goes as far as to advertise “Dining at The Devil’s Tea Table”23 visitors will be taken by a van to the location.   

Indian Legend  

Chief Big Mountain is believed to have been killed by his enemies at the Tea Table. His killers supposedly rolled a big rock on his head crushing him to death.24 And to some people; when viewing the profile of the Devils Tea Table from the south side looking north the rock formation is said to have the appearance of an Indian with a crushed head. Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good legend, I really do. However, a good legend has to be believable. Let’s take a second here and find out what exactly a legend is.   

As per todays listing on Wikipedia;  Legendis a genre of folklore that consists of a narrative featuring human actions perceived or believed both by teller and listeners to have taken place within human history. Narratives in this genre may demonstrate human values, and possess certain qualities that give the tale verisimilitude. Legend, for its active and passive participants, includes no happenings that are outside the realm of “possibility,” but may include miracles. Legends may be transformed over time, in order to keep them fresh, vital, and realistic. Many legends operate within the realm of uncertainty, never being entirely believed by the participants, but also never being resolutely doubted.  

 Essentially a legend is a story that is somewhat believable and could have possibly have happened, it could be a mix of truth and fiction but, if all fiction it should be able to have realistically have happened.   

So, the legend claims an Indian named Chief Big Mountain was killed by his enemies when they rolled a big rock, boulder, stone or whatever on his head (I’m assuming while at or near the Tea Table) and then some renditions claim his spirit lives at Devils Tea Table and blah, blah, blah… So, this whole thing seems so hokey it isn’t even worth discussing but you know I will lol. First question; who the hell is Chief Big Mountain? Second; How do you roll a boulder on someone’s head when they’re at the top of the mountain or in this case a 360-foot ridge? I think the second question answers itself. While researching the first question I was led down a quite interesting rabbit hole. Actually, my research leads me down two rabbit holes. See, I wanted to also know how this rock formation got its name but more about that later.   

I was born and raised in this area and while I am no expert on Lenape people, I do know a fair amount of history and Chief Big Mountain does not appear in any of what I know. But, hey maybe there was a Chief Big Mountain who roamed the Delaware River region. Well, who better to ask that the Lenape Indians themselves (or what’s left of them)? The Lenape are now called the Delaware Indians and the Delaware nation is located in Anadarko Oklahoma.25 Upon contacting the Delaware Indians and explaining the legend my query was handed off to the language director who (like me) knew Chief Big Mountain is not a Lenape name. The language director contacted a friend in New Jersey who knew the name right away. Turns out there actually was a Chief Big Mountain and believe it or not he lived right here in New Jersey.26 Matter of fact he is buried in Sparta New Jersey.27 But don’t get your hopes up to quick… He was Comanche and not Lenape although some newspapers call him Navajo and all newspapers say he is from New Mexico. Chief Sabastian Big Mountain was a real person who traveled with (info a little sketchy here) Either Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show or Ringling Brothers Circus or maybe both at different times in his life.   

After finding out Chief Big Mountain (born about 1877) was real, I became interested in who he actually was and how he ended up in New Jersey. After the Wild West shows started to lose their appeal, he shows up in a news article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle newspaper February 19, 1933 whereupon he walks into a New York City police headquarters in “tribal costume” with his wife and two children and announces he is “destitute” and can no longer pay his rent. Then just before being sent to the municipal shelter he was taken in by a friend, who would try to find help for him and the family.28 He then shows up in many different newspaper advertisements over the next several years. Seems that while the live Wild West shows had lost popularity, people still wanted to see a “real live Indian” and he would appear at grand openings and other like events. He was essentially paid to attract people to events and sometimes his wife and children appeared with him and they would be billed as “come see real life Indian family.”29 Then we find him as a gate keeper at Lake Mohawk where he resided in a “thatched” house with his family.30 He passed away in Newton Memorial hospital in 1954 at the age of 77.  

So, yeah, a bit of a rabbit hole I ran down following info about his life however in the end I think (but not positive) that this is where the “Chief Big Mountain” name comes from that got attached to The Devils Tea Table legend. I am thinking because this man lived in New Jersey and he was most likely known for his days with the Wild West or Circus shows and he appeared at grand openings and other events his name would come to mind if you wanted to make up a legend about a rock on a ridge. As time goes by younger generations have no idea what a Wild West show is and I have personally met teens just last year that think “while Indians were once here, it was like two thousand years ago.” (True story right there.) Yes, as time goes by people forget or history gets warped and distorted. Given the fact that the Wild West show era ran from 1870 to about the 1920s and Sabastian Big Mountain being born around 1877 puts a decent time frame for his named to be known enough in the back of people’s minds to be used for this legend.   

So, I think it is safe to say “no Indian got his head crushed at Devils Tea Table.  

Now that we have put that whole not-so-believable legend out of the way it was time to conquer the Tea Table name. “Devils Tea Table” or “Devil’s Tea Table” or “The Devil’s Tea Table,” which one is the proper and I’m not really sure because depending on how you look at it or how you say it changes things up a little bit. The name appears in most places as being “Devils Tea Table” however, many people refer to it as “The Devil’s Tea Table.” But I wanted to know why? Why Devils Tea Table? Afterall it was known as Warford’s Rock. So, to get a further understanding of where the word “devil fits in and to explore some history of how the location went from a beautiful and wondrous natural rock formation to a party place where people fall to their death, it is worth a side trip back into history.    

John Wharford or Warford31 was the man who purchased 204 acres of land June 6, 1734 that was located on a plateau above the Delaware River. At the Southernmost corner of the property is where there was a unique rock formation that stood as a pedestal like stone with a flat wider shaped stone on top giving the appearance of a one-legged table. Given the fact that many settlers where tea drinkers and old English tea tables were often times (but not always) round with a pedestal like base, one can easily see how this rock formation could arrive with “tea table” as a description. However, “Tea Tables” can be referenced in geology, a tea table is a rock formation that is a remnant of newer strata that have eroded away. A tea table is a type of rock column comprising discrete layers, usually of sedimentary rock, with the top layers being wider than the base due to greater resistance to erosion and weathering. Sometimes these occur just beyond bluffs or cliffs at the end of a ridge; sometimes they are the only rock formation remnant on top of a ridge or even in fairly level ground. Tea tables are a variety of hoodoos. This Wikipedia description 100% describes the formation. So, tea table formations can be found elsewhere and amazingly enough there are others that have the word “devil” placed in front of the word’s tea table but, why?  

But how did it get the word “devil” added? So, before we get to the devil part let’s first look the time of John Warford’s arrival.   

There are very easy tracings of John Warford (Jr) though internet genealogy sites and it is a very interesting little rabbit hole to run down.   

We know he was born in Eastchester, NY between 1683 & 1689, at age 19 he is found in Middletown New Jersey and marries Elizabeth Stout in 1708.32 Elizabeth is from a prominent family although she is considered a “tainted” woman for a having a bastard child at age 14 in 1705. Giving birth to a child out of wedlock has serious complications during this period of history. She was sentenced by The Grand Jury of Monmouth County to receive 10 lashes upon her bare back or pay 10 pounds fine. Her father paid the fine and spared her the 10 lashes of the whip.33 Although many internet sites have their marriage listed as Kingwood Township this is 100% incorrect because John & Elizabeth do not arrive in Hunterdon County until 1729 and Kingwood Township did not exist at the time they were married.34 In 1734 John Warford purchases the 204 acers of property overlooking the Delaware River.35 Elizabeth being a Baptist becomes part of the Baptist community of Kingwood/Baptistown and there is much well documented history that can be found about that.   

Now back to the matters of the Tea Table rock formation.   

  

It appears that John Warford purchased the land from William Biddle Jr whose father had acquired 43,000 acers in West New Jersey in a deal made with William Penn (and others) in 1676.36 The older Biddle sealed the land tract deal with William Penn prior to setting sail to New Jersey. Once here Biddle Sr made his home in Burlington, NJ. With this being said; it would appear that John Warford was the first long term resident of the property because in due time his name was given to the rock formation and to the creek that runs down from the highlands to the river. The creek is located a little north of the Tea Table location and follows a southwest path to the river. There are no other formal names that I could find for this rock formation prior to it formally being named “Warford’s Rock.” I did however find a few references that the rock was used as a navigational land mark for those traversing up and down the river, both before and after being named Warford’s Rock.   

What would life be like in the area of the Tea Table in 1734? Well as for the Lenape; at this time, they would have been very scarce in this area. Most Lenape had started to leave several years earlier and as a note; one has to know there were not as many Indians in this area as one might think, depending on how much you know about Indian history in NJ. Speculation puts Lenape population at around 2000 when the Dutch arrive in the early 1600s. By 1700 is about 500 mostly due to wars, disease from white contact and other problems like alcohol consumption.37   

But nonetheless 1734 would have been a very primitive life by today’s standards in this part of New Jersey. At the time the land fell under Bethlehem Township (later to become Kingwood Township). There would have been a settlement and ferry crossing north of Warford’s property where what is now known as Frenchtown,38 although Frenchtown is still 130+ years away. There is no mention of a road leading up river past what would now be Warford Creek however, 3 miles south of his property would lie Bull’s Island and at the time would be known as Saxtonville and or Raven Rock. The area is mentioned by all three names in various writings of that time period. The area had what appears to have been a Lenape name “Mauanissing” and in the book “Stories of Raven Rock” the author speculates this could have meant “Raven Rock” however it appears Mauanissing has no English translation.39 Either way this area 3 miles south of Warford homestead was an up-and-coming settlement that would soon see a lot of activity in the years ahead.   

About a mile north of Raven Rock there would have been a ferry crossing, if not before, then shortly after 1734. Ferry crossings always brought about other businesses like taverns, trading posts and stores. In those days there were two kinds of lifestyle, there were those who stayed close in small communities, villages and growing towns and then there were those who ventured off for the rural farm life. One could only imagine that this Tea Table rock formation back at that time was a place of pure pristine wilderness that saw very few people.   

In my research I find no other writings (worth noting) about the Tea Table other than at some point after Warford’s homestead is established and the population is constantly increasing the formation becomes known as Warford’s Rock. Also, his name is given to the creek running from his property to the river. In addition, I find nothing of the era that has a legend of any Indian (Chief or not) being killed at the rock formation.  

How did the Devil lay his name to this rock?  

As we leave behind the hard-colonial life of John & Elizabeth Warford we move to over 150 years later and things have really changed. Warford’s homestead now lies in the relatively newly founded (1798) Kingwood Township. Frenchtown has been founded and there is a railroad that connects Frenchtown to Phillipsburg & Trenton.  Long gone are the days of ferry crossings that have given way to bridges connecting New Jersey to Pennsylvania. At this time lifestyles have advanced from the harsh working life to weekend get-a-ways. Essentially people are more active in the daily and weekly travels. This is also a time when we see the rock formation being called “Devils Tea Table.” The newly formed Boy Scouts camping becomes very active in the area up and down the Delaware River as does other outdoors and nature groups. I could not seem to pin-point an exact year the rock is given the name Devils Tea table but, it seems to have arrived at this calling in the late 1800s.    

Seems the Devil had not only stolen Warford’s Rock, actually it appears he had tea tables in many other locations. Various forms of tea table formations can be found in several location throughout Pennsylvania and other states. West Virginia seems to have a lot of these eroding wonders. In my searching I find what seems to be the most likely reason these formations would be somehow associated with the Devil and that reason is… superstition. Sure, why not! Superstitions are an amazing thing to me personally and I am not a very superstitious person. They amaze me because for the most part they are not real and like the fake Chief Big Mountain legend; something that is not real just seems so corny. I’ll admit when I was younger, I would somewhat buy into a superstition however as my years have passed I have not much time for fake corny stories. Now don’t get me wrong, I love things like Santa Clause and what it adds to the enjoyment of children and I too love a good Halloween horror story. But when I look back at some of the most idiodic superstitions it really makes me wonder about why people think what they think. The Salem which trails where fueled by superstitious people who burned their own at the stake and this is just one of literally hundreds of times throughout history people were out of their minds because of superstitions. At one time people though tomatoes to be poisonous and wouldn’t eat them. Not due to Superstition but rather to ignorance and look at tomato consumption today. Superstitions are usually spawned from fear of the unknown, lack of understanding (or interpreting) evidence or just pure ignorance.   

So, while the lonely rock formation standing high upon the ridge remains unchanged through the centuries the names associated with it, just like society they are ever changing. And now we find that for some rather odd reason we need to attach the devil to it. Why? Because it looks different and odd therefore there has to be something spiritual or supernatural about the rock. Right?   

While I was digging through search after search I one day come upon this rather odd blog site40 that had photos of Tea Table formations from West Virginia. Amongst the photos was an image of the Tea Table in Kingwood Township New Jersey. In the paragraphs of that page, I found the following that more or less hits the nail right smack on the head in regards to the Devil laying claim to Tea Table rock formation.   

“People refer to these formations as “The Devil’s Tea Tables” not only because they look like giant stone tables but also because some believe that the devil himself visits them. It is said that when the devil is around a heavy mist will shroud the tea tables and hide him. The stories associated with these rock formations are yet another example of West Virginia’s wild and wonderful folklore.”  

This is content I found about other tea tables;  

The Legend / Folklore  

“One day two men were traveling down the Elk River in a boat. It was a beautiful day and they had finished work, so they took their time. A magnificent tea table formation that they had often passed came into view. One of the men wanted to stop and hike up to it. Since they had time, the hiker’s friend was happy to stop. He agreed to sit and wait with the boat.  

  

When they reached the tea table, they saw that it was hidden by an odd mist that clung on it and nothing else. The man’s partner didn’t give the mist a second thought and jumped from the boat as soon as they got to shore. The one started scrambling up the slope, while the other sat back and kicked his feet up. He figured it would take his partner a half an hour or so to get there and back. The man waited and waited and waited.  

  

Hours later his partner stumbled back down the hill, climbing into the boat without a word. His eyes were empty, devoid of life. He never recovered. He spent the rest of his life an empty shell of a man for he had stumbled upon the devil himself.  

  

He’d had the horrible misfortune of interrupting the devil having tea. The devil had loomed before him and looked at the man with cruel and merciless eyes. Then the devil had reached down and, with a mere pinch of his finger, he pulled away the man’s soul. He crumbled it up and sprinkled it into his cup of tea like a bit of sugar. Then the devil waved the man away and returned to his tea. This was not the first time someone unwittingly stumbled upon the devil, and it sure won’t be the last. So, take heed. If you see a devil’s tea table, admire it from afar. If a mist surrounds it, look away and run!”  

  

  

Huh… who knew the Devil is tea drinker.  

Unlike the Chief Big Mountain legend, I rather like this little story about Satan and the Tea Table. There was no author listed. Following that story was also a poem that I will share here.  

  

The Devil’s Tea Tables Poem by James Ball Naylor41  

O monster rock! Firm-poised it stands  

  

Upon a base of crumbling shale.  

  

‘Twas shaped by Satan’s cunning hands  

  

In ages past- so runs the tale-  

  

And served Hell’s demons, great and small,  

  

As table to their banquet ball.  

  

Though countless years have rolled away  

  

The Devil’s table stands today  

  

As firm as when, with hellish glee,  

  

The black imps held their revelry.  

  

It seems the feeble flut’ring breath  

  

That issues from the lips of death-  

  

The faint and fickle summer breeze  

  

That stirs the blossoms on the trees  

  

Could shake the great rock’s slender base  

  

And hurl it from its resting place.  

  

And yet the strongest gales that sweep  

  

Across the torrid Indian deep,  

  

The Polar winds- the fierce cyclone-  

  

Are all too weak, combined alone,  

  

To cast the monarch from its throne.  

  

Beyond the blue Muskingum’s bed  

  

It rears its gray and wrinkled head.  

  

Though aged, still erect, sublime  

  

It gazes on the march of time,  

  

And towers above the verdant sod,  

  

A monument to nature’s God.  

  

When years on years have hurried past  

  

Until God’s dial marks the last,  

  

Oh! May the grim old rock still keep  

  

Its vigil on the stony steep.  

As always… Thank you so much for reading and have a great day.  

  

Rich  

 

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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The Holy Grail of Answers (How much do I charge to shoot a wedding?)

The Holy Grail of Answers

I think the biggest question that just about every photographer is faced with at some point or another is; How much do I charge for shooting a wedding? This of course would be a photographer who has never shot a wedding before, but it may not be a new photographer or a young photographer. It could be anyone who is a photographer that just hasn’t shot a wedding. With that said; I think most photographers who have done any form of paid work would not have too hard of a time figuring out how much to charge for a wedding. Rather it would be someone who is not too familiar with paid work that would be perplexed with this question.

Now before you read any further, “yes” I will give you an actual dollar amount and I won’t make you wait till the end of this post to tell you. However, I would like to first give you a few details about me so you can see who I am and where I am coming from in a photography context.

I am not a wedding photographer, I do not advertise to be a wedding photographer, but I still shoot weddings, about 2 to 4 per year. I will get approached in some way form or fashion and asked to shoot a wedding, whether it be a personal recommendation from a client or a friend or it could be from someone who just found me on the internet. So, if someone wants to hire me, I am certainly not going to turn down a paying job. Also, please know I am writing this post because I know I am not alone and that there are other photographers out there who also get approached about weddings even though they may not be a so called “wedding photographer.”

So, you might ask; If you are not a wedding photographer, what kind of photographer are you? Ok, I shoot a lot of portraiture, I cover events like book signings, social gatherings and birthdays. Birthdays are usually for dignitaries and the like in and around the Philadelphia area. I shoot stock photography for webmasters and I also do corporate headshots. And then there is always bands and local artists as well as models who I have worked with. So, I guess I do just about everything and that is why from time to time I get asked to shoot a wedding.

1/125 sec at f/5.0 ISO 100 70mm

My prices start at $2000 to shoot a wedding. I live here in New Jersey and I know there are photographers who charge a lot more than that and I am sure there are ones who charge less. But now that I have thrown this “Holy Grail” of an answer out here on the internet, please read on to see how I justify this number and how this number could be more or less for you. I put the number out there because I didn’t want this to be another one of those countless boring posts that claims to give an answer to a big question and then only for the reader (you) to get to the end of the post and all you read was a bunch of gibberish about how “all situations are different” and the person writing the article/post never tells what “they actually charge.”

Okay, so I am going to cover a few topics related to this question of “how much to charge to shoot a wedding?” I think the equally important question is; How much do I charge a friend to photograph a wedding? This is a really tough question, but I have a really good perspective on this too. I mention this because I think/know that many photographers shoot their first wedding for someone they personally know or are in some way acquainted with.

So, let’s start with why I charge $2000 and see if you can charge $2000 for a day’s work. Ah, the very first myth to be exposed; It is not a day’s work. You will do some work before and a lot after the day of the actual wedding. So, don’t mislead yourself and certainly don’t let your potential client think that you are just doing work that one day. In a kind but meaningful way the client needs to understand about editing and editing takes time. However, we/you need to ask yourself how good and how fast can you edit. I myself am pretty fast at what I do and I know how long it will take me to edit. You also have to keep in mind what else you will be doing for the next week after this wedding. Are you going on vacation, do you have other clients lined up? So, as you can see this wedding “thing” has many facets to it and it is not a “run & gun & you done” kind of thing. So, stay with me here as I explain how I do it and what I don’t do.

First and foremost, I do not shoot without editing, period. If a client asks “well how much for you to just shoot the photos and put them on a disc? Beit a friend or stranger my answer is always the same; “I am not a Craigslist photographer,” end of story and I walk away. I like money just as much as the next person, but I also love what I do and I respect what I do. Enough said about that.

I don’t charge for a consultation or a follow up consultation, but if a client is going to want to keep meeting with me over and over it is $50 to $100 each time. This usually stops the pointless meet ups and asking questions that don’t need to be asked. Remember if your dealing with someone who is not a friend… well, you’re dealing with the public and there are people who will meet with you ten times and then hire someone else. You have to work as a professional and let your clients know “you are a professional.” How many times will your doctor meet with you for free? You need to know your value and stand by it, even if it is your very first wedding. You are going to be capturing images of this special day and I know that can sound really “hokey” but it is so true. You are also going to capture photos of family and friends. And to be realistic some of those images of family and friends are going to be the last good photos of these people. Not to sound morbid but I have captured photos of family members and guests that not long after the wedding they leave this world for one reason or another and now that image of aunt Martha dancing has a whole new meaning. This of course is not a topic to bring up to the client, but it is the reality photography.

So yes, know your worth and stand by it.

I like to tell clients that I “shoot in a journalistic timeline style.” Meaning I will start shooting usually with the bride getting ready and then just keep going all the way through the ceremony and up to the reception. At the reception I will cover all the important things like “the entrance,” the first dance” and all that fun stuff. But I don’t do detailed shots of all the guests, just highlighted moments.

Now of that $2000 I need to pay an assistant to follow me around and help me with whatever I need. I have another business aside from my photography and I have an assistant that helps me and I have learned the power of what a great assistant can do. So, with my photography, when I am doing a big job like a wedding or a complexed photo shoot, I always have a paid assistant. With assistants you only get what you pay for, so pay them well. Actually, I could write a whole blog post on “what is a good assistant.” Also know my assistant knows very little about photography, but she does know a lot about weddings. Her main function is carrying gear bags and having a speed light available at a moment notice if needed. Her biggest asset to me is being smart and quick on her feet, being able to solve problems quickly.

Do I need a second shooter? If I need a second or third camera person of course the price will go up. I try not to have a second shooter, which means a lot more hustling… I mean a lot more hustling, but if I can do without one I will. Second shooters can make your life a lot easier or they can make you… want to kill the second shooter lol.

Do you have good equipment? You need to shoot with good equipment. You don’t need to have the best or the newest, you just need to have reliable gear and you need to have a backup. And you need to know how to use the backup.

So, let’s talk a little about your equipment or the lack thereof. First you need a few good lenses. The lenses are more important than the camera and most likely you already know that. If you don’t have a good lens and you can’t borrow one, then rent one or two. www.borrowlens.com is where I would go and still go if I need a lens or other gear that I don’t have. I would work any rental cost into the price of the job. I would most times be honest and tell the client there will be a rental cost because I need a special lens to do the job. No one ever really questioned me.

Here is what I use when I shoot a wedding today; Two camera bodies and preferably both are full frame sensors, if not one must be (for my personal preference) a full frame sensor. Full frame sensors will let you shoot better in low light situation and yes you will have low light situations, I promise you that. I use two bodies so I don’t have to change out lenses every two minutes.

Three lenses; although I have shot with two lenses. I never shoot a wedding with one lens. I know many people who claim they can shoot a whole wedding day on an 85mm prime… god bless you, but that’s not my style.

I use a 70-200mm f/2.8 with image stabilization, a 24-70mm f/2.8 and a 50mm f/1.4. I will have two radio speed lights and one is mounted on an adjustable pole for my assistant to carry. I will have one lightweight lite stand that I can put a speed light on if necessary.

But hold on, let me backup and tell you what I used for my first few weddings. I had 1 Canon 6D body (full frame sensor). I rented a 70-200mm f/2.8 and a 24-105mm f/4.0. I had one, on camera speed light. I also had my assistant hold a round reflector when needed. That was it, just two lenses and one body. Shooting like this meant a lot of lens change-outs and my assistant and I had a system and we worked like a pit crew. Seriously, it was all accomplished through teamwork and it ran very smooth.

Even today with three lenses and two bodies, we will go over our moves before the wedding to make sure we’re on the same page when it comes to gear. I have strange little personal preferences with things like batteries and memory cards. Example; AA batteries that are charged are carried in little battery cases with 4 batteries per case and they must be +, -, +, – and this tells me the batteries all have a full charge. They are placed positive & negative (every other one) because that is the order they need to be in when replacing batteries in a speedlight. Spent batteries are placed in the case +,+,+,+ and this then tells me those batteries are not charged. These are all the little things that I work out with my assistant to make everything as fast and easy… and as professional as possible. Now, with all that said; of course, we run into the unexpected and this is where you have to be fast thinking on your feet. If you have a great assistant, they will solve your problems while you keep working. Also, having an assistant is someone you can lay the blame on when things go wrong. Of course, I am kidding lol.

Most important of all advice about assistants; Never use a friend or someone who works for free. Money motivates and I want (you too want) an assistant who is more energetic than me, end of story on that.

After the wedding and I mean immediately after the shoot, the memory cards go into a waterproof case and they stay on my person until I get home. If it is late when I get home the card case goes in my safe or a fireproof lock box. The next day the cards are downloaded and double backups made. The cards are not erased or used at all for the next 30 days or until I know backups are safe. Enough said on that topic.

In the first consultation with the clients I tell them they will receive their images via a “thumb drive.” I give all edited images as JPEGs and I also give them digital negatives (DNG files) of the entire wedding. The DNGs are for them to have as digital negatives, much the same way we would save film negatives back in the film days. Keep in mind here that I am not editing every image shot at the wedding. I usually give them a link to a shared folder or online gallery to choose their edits and there is a predetermined number they can choose.

It is fully understood they are paying for my creative shooting, editing and digital JPEGs. They are not paying for prints. I leave printing up to the client, however I do show them samples of my prints (from www.mpix.com) and leave it up to them… do they want to do their own prints from Walgreens, CVS or where ever, or do they want me to handle prints and that would be a whole separate job and bill.

Either way I usually agree to have all edits finished within two weeks (most times I’m done sooner) and I usually have two or three really nice shots finished and emailed within 24 hours.

Now lets just recap a little here. $2000 gets them a full day (6-8 hours) of shooting and edits & digital negatives delivered on a thumb drive in two weeks. Prints are optional at a separate price. The $2K includes me and my assistant. It does not include travel or rentals or any other expenses and usually the job includes a meal at the reception. Make sure you make clear about this because you have been working all day with nothing to eat. I never eat while working anyway, but I am hungry at the end of the day. Most venues are charging the bride & groom “per meal” so make sure you’re on the meal list. You will eat quickly because you still have some shooting to do.

Part II: How much do I charge a friend?

This gets a little tricky and you need to use a little or maybe a lot of common sense. First thing we need to know about working for friends is “they want you to work for free.” I know that sounds funny or maybe sarcastic but it is the flat-out truth.

Before we go any further, I want to shatter your ego here a little bit. I know they are your friends and you love them and you would do anything for them, after all that is what friends do for friends… right? Friends and family will also be the first to f%#k you too, sometimes without thinking about it and other times they fully no what they’re doing is wrong. Friends & family will always tell you how much they like your photography… because they don’t want to hurt you. (Just accept that fact an move on with life)

Ever give someone a gift and you never see them wear/use it. A few years later you find out they sold it on eBay. I have given people something personal I spent hours working on in Photoshop only to see it stuck on their refrigerator door with magnet. “There’s my piece I worked so hard on and is covered with coffee stains”… yeah friends. They loved it when I handed it to them, but now it is on the door of the fridge next to the electric bill (they love so much too).

Ok, so right about now your saying to yourself this blogger is a real cynical asshole and I bet he has very few friends lol. Let’s look at some real-life situations with friends and wedding photography.

Friend: Sarah we would really like you to photograph our wedding. We love your work and we know you. Our budget is tight, what would you charge.

Sarah: Yeah you guys are great friends and I would be happy to shoot your special day. I normally charge more but I’ll do your wedding for $500.

Friend: Wow, that’s great. This is going to be awesome.

Sarah: So where is the wedding going to be held?

Friend: Oh, wait till you see this place, we’re renting this old mansion upstate. People have weddings there all the time, it is pricy but it’s our special day you know. And we’re going to have that band fly in from North Carolina, remember the one we seen in that club when we were on vacation a few years ago, they were awesome. They will fly up for $4000 and play the wedding.

Sarah: Oh… really! Yeah, I remember that band.

Friend: But we’re going to have a DJ too, it’s going to be a blast, great location, awesome food, great music… and of course a great photographer. And my mom is hiring a video company to make one of those awesome movie-like wedding videos.

Sarah: ……

Yeah that last “Sarah” is speechless. She is going to shoot this wedding for $500 and the DJ is making 4 times that much. Not to mention the price tag for the rest of the event. So, I think you can see where I’m going with this and this particular story did actually happen to my friend and she came to me practically in tears and asked for advice.

My friend is not alone, I have about four or five of these stories that actually happened to me, but I use her story as an example because it was really over the top. I know I can’t leave you hanging, you want to know how her story turned out.

My advice to anyone for anything starts with being honest. Honesty is the best policy and I try to live by that. However, I will be the first to admit honesty does not always work. I told my friend Sarah to just go back and tell the bride & groom that she was wrong and that she would be drastically doing a dis-service to herself if she shot the wedding for $500. I told her to say that she talked it over with another photographer to make sure she was on track and she realized she misquoted the price. She quoted them a price of $2000 plus her travel to the venue in upstate New York, including a room for the night.

At first, they were kind of dumbfounded, but did not say too much. Actually, the bride’s parents were paying for most of the wedding and the groom’s parents were paying for the honeymoon and other expenses. So, the bride went back and told her father of the change in price and a few days later Sarah got the text message saying that “all was good.” I also let her use my 70-200mm (free of charge) and I was her “paid” assistant for the day. Here is the kicker… after the wedding the brides father handed Sarah the envelope with the cash. $2300 for the shooting, travel & room, plus another $1000 for a tip. She was ecstatic. I was so happy for her, she got her first full wedding under her belt and she made a nice buck at the same time. Sadly, I had a job the next day so I had to drive 5 hours back after working all day. Sarah and her boyfriend had a relaxing night at the hotel.

So, shooting for a friend could be you shooting for free and you could consider your photography services a “wedding gift” from you to them. If you are ok with that there is nothing wrong in giving away what you do as a gift. And with that; It really does make answering the question “how much to charge a friend” a very tough question to answer. Just remember that you really need to feel the situation out and weigh out what is really happening. Are you being asked to do something as a “friend helping a friend” or “as a friend taking advantage of a friend?”

Most of all, know that shooting a wedding is no easy task, that is if you are going to do it as a professional. The last wedding a shot, I fired the first click of the shutter 12:10pm and the last shot at 10:14pm. It was an outdoor wedding and there was a little bit of a weather delay, nonetheless it was a very long and hot day. I had my assistant, but I also requested an assistant from the venue just to follow us around with water so neither me, my assistant or the bride or groom dehydrated (August wedding lol). Put it this way; I have never finished a day of wedding shooting and went home well rested.

Now for the real answer; There are some photographers who would call me a “hack” at $2000, because they wouldn’t touch a wedding for anything less that $6000 or maybe even $10,000 and that is fine by me. Their words can’t hurt me because I’m not in third grade. I need to make a living and I do what I do, how I do. Bottom line is; as long as the customer is happy with the work you have performed and you are happy with what you got paid… then at the end of the day life is good.

I kind of wanted to end my post here, but I feel I need to touch on one more topic when it comes to “new wedding photographers and what to charge.”

This would be the topic of “wedding photography courses or video tutorials.” When it comes to photography courses & tutorial there are a few things to keep in mind and it is very simple “there are good ones and there are bad ones.” Some are just a huge waste of money.

First and foremost, there are so many people out there pushing their tutorials about the business side of wedding photography that are just unrealistic crap. The reality is that these people are very good at selling “you” something. I am not too sure about how good they are at selling a $10K price tag to a client, but they have to “info-mercial” technique down and they are now selling you the moon. There actual salary comes from “you” buying their “snake oil” wedding photography course. Actually, I find some of these guys/gals to be very entertaining. They act as if they have unlocked some secret weapon and for x amount of dollars, they will tell you the secret. It’s like they have the cure for cancer. I have seen this same kind of thing with chefs where they lead you to believe they’re cooking is almost extraterrestrial… please, give me a break.

I really don’t have too many recommendations on good videos, however I can say that KelbyOne Training has some very good wedding photography course.

Bottom line here is; Learn camera settings and how to shoot and keep it simple. Shoot local events where there is constant action of thing happening and after you have done enough of that kind of shooting, you’ll get the feel for what it is going to take to spend 6 hours shooting a wedding.

Thanks for reading and have a great day.

 

 

The Holy Grail of Answers

I think the biggest question that just about every photographer is faced with at some point or another is; How much do I charge for shooting a wedding? This of course would be a photographer who has never shot a wedding before, but it may not be a new photographer or a young photographer. It could be anyone who is a photographer that just hasn’t shot a wedding. With that said; I think most photographers who have done any form of paid work would not have too hard of a time figuring out how much to charge for a wedding. Rather it would be someone who is not too familiar with paid work that would be perplexed with this question.

Now before you read any further, “yes” I will give you an actual dollar amount and I won’t make you wait till the end of this post to tell you. However, I would like to first give you a few details about me so you can see who I am and where I am coming from in a photography context.

I am not a wedding photographer, I do not advertise to be a wedding photographer, but I still shoot weddings, about 2 to 4 per year. I will get approached in some way form or fashion and asked to shoot a wedding, whether it be a personal recommendation from a client or a friend or it could be from someone who just found me on the internet. So, if someone wants to hire me, I am certainly not going to turn down a paying job. Also, please know I am writing this post because I know I am not alone and that there are other photographers out there who also get approached about weddings even though they may not be a so called “wedding photographer.”

So, you might ask; If you are not a wedding photographer, what kind of photographer are you? Ok, I shoot a lot of portraiture, I cover events like book signings, social gatherings and birthdays. Birthdays are usually for dignitaries and the like in and around the Philadelphia area. I shoot stock photography for webmasters and I also do corporate headshots. And then there is always bands and local artists as well as models who I have worked with. So, I guess I do just about everything and that is why from time to time I get asked to shoot a wedding.

My prices start at $2000 to shoot a wedding. I live here in New Jersey and I know there are photographers who charge a lot more than that and I am sure there are ones who charge less. But now that I have thrown this “Holy Grail” of an answer out here on the internet, please read on to see how I justify this number and how this number could be more or less for you. I put the number out there because I didn’t want this to be another one of those countless boring posts that claims to give an answer to a big question and then only for the reader (you) to get to the end of the post and all you read was a bunch of gibberish about how “all situations are different” and the person writing the article/post never tells what “they actually charge.”

Okay, so I am going to cover a few topics related to this question of “how much to charge to shoot a wedding?” I think the equally important question is; How much do I charge a friend to photograph a wedding? This is a really tough question, but I have a really good perspective on this too. I mention this because I think/know that many photographers shoot their first wedding for someone they personally know or are in some way acquainted with.

So, let’s start with why I charge $2000 and see if you can charge $2000 for a day’s work. Ah, the very first myth to be exposed; It is not a day’s work. You will do some work before and a lot after the day of the actual wedding. So, don’t mislead yourself and certainly don’t let your potential client think that you are just doing work that one day. In a kind but meaningful way the client needs to understand about editing and editing takes time. However, we/you need to ask yourself how good and how fast can you edit. I myself am pretty fast at what I do and I know how long it will take me to edit. You also have to keep in mind what else you will be doing for the next week after this wedding. Are you going on vacation, do you have other clients lined up? So, as you can see this wedding “thing” has many facets to it and it is not a “run & gun & you done” kind of thing. So, stay with me here as I explain how I do it and what I don’t do.

First and foremost, I do not shoot without editing, period. If a client asks “well how much for you to just shoot the photos and put them on a disc? Beit a friend or stranger my answer is always the same; “I am not a Craigslist photographer,” end of story and I walk away. I like money just as much as the next person, but I also love what I do and I respect what I do. Enough said about that.

I don’t charge for a consultation or a follow up consultation, but if a client is going to want to keep meeting with me over and over it is $50 to $100 each time. This usually stops the pointless meet ups and asking questions that don’t need to be asked. Remember if your dealing with someone who is not a friend… well, you’re dealing with the public and there are people who will meet with you ten times and then hire someone else. You have to work as a professional and let your clients know “you are a professional.” How many times will your doctor meet with you for free? You need to know your value and stand by it, even if it is your very first wedding. You are going to be capturing images of this special day and I know that can sound really “hokey” but it is so true. You are also going to capture photos of family and friends. And to be realistic some of those images of family and friends are going to be the last good photos of these people. Not to sound morbid but I have captured photos of family members and guests that not long after the wedding they leave this world for one reason or another and now that image of aunt Martha dancing has a whole new meaning. This of course is not a topic to bring up to the client, but it is the reality photography.

So yes, know your worth and stand by it.

I like to tell clients that I “shoot in a journalistic timeline style.” Meaning I will start shooting usually with the bride getting ready and then just keep going all the way though the ceremony and up to the reception. At the reception I will cover all the important things like “the entrance,” the first dance” and all that fun stuff. But I don’t do detailed shots of all the guests, just highlighted moments.

Now of that $2000 I need to pay an assistant to follow me around and help me with whatever I need. I have another business aside from my photography and I have an assistant that helps me and I have learned the power of what a great assistant can do. So, with my photography, when I am doing a big job like a wedding or a complexed photo shoot, I always have a paid assistant. With assistants you only get what you pay for, so pay them well. Actually, I could write a whole blog post on “what is a good assistant.” Also know my assistant knows very little about photography, but she does know a lot about weddings. Her main function is carrying gear bags and having a speed light available at a moment notice if needed. Her biggest asset to me is being smart and quick on her feet, being able to solve problems quickly.

Do I need a second shooter? If I need a second or third camera person of course the price will go up. I try not to have a second shooter, which means a lot more hustling… I mean a lot more hustling, but if I can do without one I will. Second shooters can make your life a lot easier or they can make you… want to kill the second shooter lol.

Do you have good equipment? You need to shoot with good equipment. You don’t need to have the best or the newest, you just need to have reliable gear and you need to have a backup. And you need to know how to use the backup.

So, let’s talk a little about your equipment or the lack there of. First you need a few good lenses. The lenses are more important than the camera and most likely you already know that. If you don’t have a good lens and you can’t borrow one, then rent one or two. www.borrowlens.com is where I would go and still go if I need a lens or other gear that I don’t have. I would work any rental cost into the price of the job. I would most times be honest and tell the client there will be a rental cost because I need a special lens to do the job. No one ever really questioned me.

Here is what I use when I shoot a wedding today; Two camera bodies and preferably both are full frame sensors, if not one must be (for my personal preference) a full frame sensor. Full frame sensors will let you shoot better in low light situation and yes you will have low light situations, I promise you that. I use two bodies so I don’t have to change out lenses every two minutes.

Three lenses; although I have shot with two lenses. I never shoot a wedding with one lens. I know many people who claim they can shoot a whole wedding day on an 85mm prime… god bless you, but that’s not my style.

I use a 70-200mm f/2.8 with image stabilization, a 24-70mm f/2.8 and a 50mm f/1.4. I will have two radio speed lights and one is mounted on an adjustable pole for my assistant to carry. I will have one lightweight lite stand that I can put a speed light on if necessary.

But hold on, let me backup and tell you what I used for my first few weddings. I had 1 Canon 6D body (full frame sensor). I rented a 70-200mm f/2.8 and a 24-105mm f/4.0. I had one, on camera speed light. I also had my assistant hold a round reflector when needed. That was it, just two lenses and one body. Shooting like this meant a lot of lens change-outs and my assistant and I had a system and we worked like a pit crew. Seriously, it was all accomplished through teamwork and it ran very smooth.

Even today with three lenses and two bodies, we will go over our moves before the wedding to make sure we’re on the same page when it comes to gear. I have strange little personal preferences with things like batteries and memory cards. Example; AA batteries that are charged are carried in little battery cases with 4 batteries per case and they must be +, -, +, – and this tells me the batteries all have a full charge. They are placed positive & negative (every other one) because that is the order they need to be in when replacing batteries in a speedlight. Spent batteries are placed in the case +,+,+,+ and this then tells me those batteries are not charged. These are all the little things that I work out with my assistant to make everything as fast and easy… and as professional as possible. Now, with all that said; of course, we run into the unexpected and this is where you have to be fast thinking on your feet. If you have a great assistant, they will solve your problems while you keep working. Also, having an assistant is someone you can lay the blame on when things go wrong. Of course, I am kidding lol.

Most important of all advice about assistants; Never use a friend or someone who works for free. Money motivates and I want (you too want) an assistant who is more energetic than me, end of story on that.

After the wedding and I mean immediately after the shoot, the memory cards go into a waterproof case and they stay on my person until I get home. If it is late when I get home the card case goes in my safe or a fireproof lock box. The next day the cards are downloaded and double backups made. The cards are not erased or used at all for the next 30 days or until I know backups are safe. Enough said on that topic.

In the first consultation with the clients I tell them they will receive their images via a “thumb drive.” I give all edited images as JPEGs and I also give them digital negatives (DNG files) of the entire wedding. The DNGs are for them to have as digital negatives, much the same way we would save film negatives back in the film days. Keep in mind here that I am not editing every image shot at the wedding. I usually give them a link to a shared folder or online gallery to choose their edits and there is a predetermined number they can choose.

It is fully understood they are paying for my creative shooting, editing and digital JPEGs. They are not paying for prints. I leave printing up to the client, however I do show them samples of my prints (from www.mpix.com) and leave it up to them… do they want to do their own prints from Walgreens, CVS or where ever, or do they want me to handle prints and that would be a whole separate job and bill.

Either way I usually agree to have all edits finished within two weeks (most times I’m done sooner) and I usually have two or three really nice shots finished and emailed within 24 hours.

Now lets just recap a little here. $2000 gets them a full day (6-8 hours) of shooting and edits & digital negatives delivered on a thumb drive in two weeks. Prints are optional at a separate price. The $2K includes me and my assistant. It does not include travel or rentals or any other expenses and usually the job includes a meal at the reception. Make sure you make clear about this because you have been working all day with nothing to eat. I never eat while working anyway, but I am hungry at the end of the day. Most venues are charging the bride & groom “per meal” so make sure you’re on the meal list. You will eat quickly because you still have some shooting to do.

Part II: How much do I charge a friend?

This gets a little tricky and you need to use a little or maybe a lot of common sense. First thing we need to know about working for friends is “they want you to work for free.” I know that sounds funny or maybe sarcastic but it is the flat-out truth.

Before we go any further, I want to shatter your ego here a little bit. I know they are your friends and you love them and you would do anything for them, after all that is what friends do for friends… right? Friends and family will also be the first to f%#k you too, sometimes without thinking about it and other times they fully no what they’re doing is wrong. Friends & family will always tell you how much they like your photography… because they don’t want to hurt you. (Just accept that fact an move on with life)

Ever give someone a gift and you never see them wear/use it. A few years later you find out they sold it on eBay. I have given people something personal I spent hours working on in Photoshop only to see it stuck on their refrigerator door with magnet. “There’s my piece I worked so hard on and is covered with coffee stains”… yeah friends. They loved it when I handed it to them, but now it is on the door of the fridge next to the electric bill (they love so much too).

Ok, so right about now your saying to yourself this blogger is a real cynical asshole and I bet he has very few friends lol. Let’s look at some real-life situations with friends and wedding photography.

Friend: Sarah we would really like you to photograph our wedding. We love your work and we know you. Our budget is tight, what would you charge.

Sarah: Yeah you guys are great friends and I would be happy to shoot your special day. I normally charge more but I’ll do your wedding for $500.

Friend: Wow, that’s great. This is going to be awesome.

Sarah: So where is the wedding going to be held?

Friend: Oh, wait till you see this place, we’re renting this old mansion upstate. People have weddings there all the time, it is pricy but it’s our special day you know. And we’re going to have that band fly in from North Carolina, remember the one we seen in that club when we were on vacation a few years ago, they were awesome. They will fly up for $4000 and play the wedding.

Sarah: Oh… really! Yeah, I remember that band.

Friend: But we’re going to have a DJ too, it’s going to be a blast, great location, awesome food, great music… and of course a great photographer. And my mom is hiring a video company to make one of those awesome movie-like wedding videos.

Sarah: ……

Yeah that last “Sarah” is speechless. She is going to shoot this wedding for $500 and the DJ is making 4 times that much. Not to mention the price tag for the rest of the event. So, I think you can see where I’m going with this and this particular story did actually happen to my friend and she came to me practically in tears and asked for advice.

My friend is not alone, I have about four or five of these stories that actually happened to me, but I use her story as an example because it was really over the top. I know I can’t leave you hanging, you want to know how her story turned out.

My advice to anyone for anything starts with being honest. Honesty is the best policy and I try to live by that. However, I will be the first to admit honesty does not always work. I told my friend Sarah to just go back and tell the bride & groom that she was wrong and that she would be drastically doing a dis-service to herself if she shot the wedding for $500. I told her to say that she talked it over with another photographer to make sure she was on track and she realized she misquoted the price. She quoted them a price of $2000 plus her travel to the venue in upstate New York, including a room for the night.

At first, they were kind of dumbfounded, but did not say too much. Actually, the bride’s parents were paying for most of the wedding and the groom’s parents were paying for the honeymoon and other expenses. So, the bride went back and told her father of the change in price and a few days later Sarah got the text message saying that “all was good.” I also let her use my 70-200mm (free of charge) and I was her “paid” assistant for the day. Here is the kicker… after the wedding the brides father handed Sarah the envelope with the cash. $2300 for the shooting, travel & room, plus another $1000 for a tip. She was ecstatic. I was so happy for her, she got her first full wedding under her belt and she made a nice buck at the same time. Sadly, I had a job the next day so I had to drive 5 hours back after working all day. Sarah and her boyfriend had a relaxing night at the hotel.

So, shooting for a friend could be you shooting for free and you could consider your photography services a “wedding gift” from you to them. If you are ok with that there is nothing wrong in giving away what you do as a gift. And with that; It really does make answering the question “how much to charge a friend” a very tough question to answer. Just remember that you really need to feel the situation out and weigh out what is really happening. Are you being asked to do something as a “friend helping a friend” or “as a friend taking advantage of a friend?”

Most of all, know that shooting a wedding is no easy task, that is if you are going to do it as a professional. The last wedding a shot, I fired the first click of the shutter 12:10pm and the last shot at 10:14pm. It was an outdoor wedding and there was a little bit of a weather delay, nonetheless it was a very long and hot day. I had my assistant, but I also requested an assistant from the venue just to follow us around with water so neither me, my assistant or the bride or groom dehydrated (August wedding lol). Put it this way; I have never finished a day of wedding shooting and went home well rested.

Now for the real answer; There are some photographers who would call me a “hack” at $2000, because they wouldn’t touch a wedding for anything less that $6000 or maybe even $10,000 and that is fine by me. Their words can’t hurt me because I’m not in third grade. I need to make a living and I do what I do, how I do. Bottom line is; as long as the customer is happy with the work you have performed and you are happy with what you got paid… then at the end of the day life is good.

I kind of wanted to end my post here, but I feel I need to touch on one more topic when it comes to “new wedding photographers and what to charge.”

This would be the topic of “wedding photography courses or video tutorials.” When it comes to photography courses & tutorial there are a few things to keep in mind and it is very simple “there are good ones and there are bad ones.” Some are just a huge waste of money.

First and foremost, there are so many people out there pushing their tutorials about the business side of wedding photography that are just unrealistic crap. The reality is that these people are very good at selling “you” something. I am not too sure about how good they are at selling a $10K price tag to a client, but they have to “info-mercial” technique down and they are now selling you the moon. There actual salary comes from “you” buying their “snake oil” wedding photography course. Actually, I find some of these guys/gals to be very entertaining. They act as if they have unlocked some secret weapon and for x amount of dollars, they will tell you the secret. It’s like they have the cure for cancer. I have seen this same kind of thing with chefs where they lead you to believe they’re cooking is almost extraterrestrial… please, give me a break.

I really don’t have too many recommendations on good videos, however I can say that KelbyOne Training has some very good wedding photography course.

Bottom line here is; Learn camera settings and how to shoot and keep it simple. Shoot local events where there is constant action of thing happening and after you have done enough of that kind of shooting, you’ll get the feel for what it is going to take to spend 6 hours shooting a wedding.

Thanks for reading and have a great day.

 

 

 

Telling a Story For Business (…“if I could only show them what I do” it would be so much easier.)

1/800 sec at f/2.8 ISO 160 at 6mm with no flash. Canon G-15

1/800 sec at f/2.8 ISO 160 at 6mm with no flash. Canon G-15

I think this is the best commercial image I have taken this year (2015). It was taken for my own catering business & website. I say it is the best photo because it has gotten me so much business and it visually makes a statement to my potential customers that I could never describe using mere words. Even though we say (hold on… incoming cliché) “a picture is worth a thousand words” and yes that is so true, most often it is best if the photo speaks for its self rather than us trying to talk for the picture.

I have a catering business that is going into its 19th year, it is predominantly an “on-site pig roasting” business although we do many other things, but all in the vain of authentic “wood-cooked” barbeque. So while I have many return customers I also have many first time customers. Now before they are a first time customer they are just another statistic passing by my website. Before I had a website I used “yellow page” adds in the local phone book (remember it was 19 years ago lol). So at that time I received a lot of phone calls and they were not all customers, they were… as I call them “finger shoppers” just flipping through the phone book and making calls. Now at that time I was not the “people” person I am today, but even if I was it was so hard to sell what I do over the phone if you didn’t know exactly what I do. Many times I hung up the phone thinking “if I could only show them what I do” it would be so much easier. An easy sale was a person who called and either said that a friend recommended me or that they had been a guest at a pig roast I did and they already knew what to expect.

As time rolled on I jumped on the web about year 2000 with a rough cut personal page that was the precursor to what we know now as “blog sites” similar what you are reading at this very moment. I think that first site was “Xanga” and it was so damn hard to use. But as soon as I hit the web I needed photos and I started scanning in prints. The trouble was I never really had a single photo that told the whole story the way I wanted it told. As years went by and my cameras and composing got better and I was always looking for that special photo. It is not always easy or even possible because of environment. But this image really hit me and I’m ashamed to admit it, but it did not hit me right away. I was going back through all the photos I had posted to my Facebook catering page and looking for website content when I came across it. Most often I will work out in the heat all day, come home late at night, download the images, edit and post to Facebook ASAP so the customers can see their party images the next morning (you must know social media is all about what is happening or just happened). It is easy to overlook something. My main objective at the moment is “do the people look good” because they’re going on the web and around the world. I did really look at the whole scene the way a viewer who first arrives at the website would look at it.

The photo breakdown:

Because I knew I was going to be in a situation where there was sand and water I left the DSLR in the vehicle and I grabbed my wife’s trust Canon G-15 point & shoot. Yes believe it or not this was captured with a point & shoot, but it was shot in RAW. It was captured at 1/800 sec at f/2.8 ISO 160 at 6mm with no flash.

The story:

We have my wife who is the chef for the day and she is posing with a very happy customer and we have the roasted pig. The pig cooked very nice this day and we have prime weather and lighting. As can be seen in the background the sky was overcast but bright. Behind my wife’s shoulder is a volleyball game that is actually on hold because Matt is posing with the pig. Behind Matt you see a gathering of friends, some sitting, and some standing. The whole scene takes place at the waterfront and everyone is dressed in summer attire. It was July 4th weekend as can be seen by the American flag growing out of the top of Matt’s head (no photo is perfect lol).

So for someone coming by my website I feel without a doubt that this image conveys what it is that our catering business does and is. So now that I might have made you hungry talking about BBQ you may like to see the website www.havepigwilltravel.com or www.porkwizard.com

Thanks so much for reading.

“Have A Good One.” Oh yeah you’re going to make fun of the way a man from Alabama talks when you can not pronounce “water.”

Richie Smith Jr (Lifer) "Having A Good One"

Richie Smith Jr (Lifer) “Having A Good One”

“Have A Good One.” What? Have a good what? I hear this term “have a good one” used by so many younger girls around my local area. No offense to the young ladies. Example; I go purchase a coffee at the local convenience store (called Wawa in the New Jersey/Pennsylvania area). The checkout clerk is an 18-19 year old girl. She rings up the coffee and bag of cashew nuts, I swipe my card grab my purchase and I say “have a good day,” she in turn smiles and says “have a good one.” Maybe I read too much into what people say, maybe I’m crazy because many times I really do stop and listen to what people say. I have always been this way although I never really talk about it with anybody other than my wife. Because my wife is a Thai lady who arrived in the USA back in 2010 and has been trying to understand why (in her words) USA people don’t speak good English or have these strange sayings. FYI: this blog post comes with a whimsical humorous feel, but still I myself really always have listened to “what & how” people say what they say.

Now this saying “have a good one” is something that 20 to 30 years ago would be more akin to a working man’s or trucker’s vocabulary. And mind you to put a better twist on this subject I live a very so called affluent area where the population likes to think of themselves as “refined,” I myself call it what it really is “snobbery.” Either way you look at it, refined and social slang usually are not supposed to mix. So let’s really dive in and look at how people here in New Jersey talk, while keeping in mind most of the population of my so called “affluent” community here in Hunterdon County are originally from anywhere but here. After all 30 years ago this was a farming community that was a far cry from affluent and certainly not refined.

Monday is Mundee, Saturday is Sad-er-dee, and Tuesday is Tuesdee. Water is wooter, often is offin and I could go on and on… so it is no wonder “have a good day” has become “have good one.” It just seems so funny (my opinion) hearing “have a good one” come from younger girls, and because they are not actually saying “have a good day” they sometimes put a whine to it “have___ a good___ won____” almost as if they’re life is slipping away with the words they speak.

Then there is the “we’ll see ya,” this saying just kills me with laughter. Someone leaving and should be saying “good bye” or “good night” will instead say “we’ll see ya.” First thing about this is, who is “we’ll?” It is just one person leaving and how are you going to “see” me when you are leaving? Again I’m ok with you the reader thinking I am the crazy person here. But it is just part of my everyday OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and we all have a little OCD in us. Like most people I keep my OCD hidden from the world. I listen to what people say literally and it will sometimes stick in my head throughout the day. Most times I do laugh it off until I hear a so called “refined” New Jerseyan poking fun at how a Southerner speaks, calling him a “hayseed hick” or “red neck.” Oh yeah you’re going to make fun of the way a man from Alabama talks when you Mr. Jerseyan can not pronounce a word as simple as “water.” Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

So yesterday I was traveling with a friend in Eastern Pennsylvania and we stopped at lunchtime for a sandwich and the girl preparing the sandwich calls out my order number 580, I take the sandwich and say with a smile, “have a great day.” She then fires back with “have a good one.” I walk out the door thinking “wow” it has spread across the river to PA.

I know we all have our own way of talking and it is very much influenced by our local, surroundings and lifestyle. All I ask is; sometimes just take a little time and really listen to what people are saying and the way they pronounce their words, you may find it entertaining as I often do.

Also a funny note: I did some google searches on Jersey slang and the way people in New Jersey talk. But without diving too deep into the search all I could come up with was a bunch of gibberish about the bloated yellow cow “Snookie” or lines from the Sopranos. Both of which, have as about as much to do with real everyday life in New Jersey as the price of tea in China.