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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photoshop composite of NY motocross rider Harlan Hoose.

Photoshop composite of NY motocross rider Harlan Hoose.

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

1.1250 sec at f/2.8 ISO 200 200mm

1.1250 sec at f/2.8 ISO 200 200mm

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

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

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

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

American Bald Eagle

American Bald Eagle

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

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

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

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

Selfie in a jail cell.

Selfie in a jail cell. Sussex County, NJ.

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

Enigma Photography (Please don’t be “that” guy.)

Actual "enigma photographer" in action.

Actual “enigma photographer” in action.

Don’t be that guy. I guess you could say I was a little naïve because I really did not think he existed. The enigma photographer. Rather I thought it to be a myth or some sort of urban legend. But to my utter surprise it was as true as the sunrise you’ll see tomorrow. Before I get into the unrevealing of this horrid tale I would first explain my mindset at the beginning of my digital photographic life.

My first digital camera was a Hewlett Packard 2 mega pixel (count them… 1, 2 mega pixels). I did not even own a computer at the time. I had no email address, web presence or PayPal. I didn’t know an ISP from a JPEG. I loved that C-200 and I soon filled the 8 mega bite card and I could only view the photos on the tiny screen on the back of the camera. I had to call a friend to ask; what to do next? My dear friend said “you need to download them to your computer.” My what? “Or you can go to a camera shop and they’ll put them on a disc.” What do I do with the disc? “You put it in your computer.” My what? …Hummm I guess I need to get a computer. I didn’t have the money because I just purchased this state of the art digital camera. So I shelved the camera full of photos until I could get a computer and that was several months later. Seriously my life into digital photography got off to a very slow start. I had no idea what the workflow of digital was at the time. Only thing I knew was it was all the rage and boy did I feel stupid. So time passed and I educated myself on what I was getting into and since then the process has always been this; take the photos, download, view, edit, share and or print. But I never forgot about how stupid I felt when I shot my first digital photos and had to wait several months to view them.

So I have heard this legend of laughter about photographers that purchase a DSLR and shoot photos by the hundreds or more and never view them. Ok, a bit hard to grasp I know, so let me explain. As most of my blog visitors know I have a small BBQ catering business and while out on a job this past summer I seen this enigma in action. He was a normal looking young man, he arrived at the party in the earlier stages and I noticed his DSLR. It looked to be a mid-level Nikon and he appeared to be somewhat of an amateur although he was taking the time to compose his shots and he seems to know the proper way to hold the camera. So my wife and I are preparing food for the serving time, but I kept watching him as he was getting shots of the arriving guests and all the hugging and salutations. So one thing you have to know about on-site catering; when I am setup and I’m cooking & preparing food in my makeshift outdoor kitchen, we’re under a small tent with aprons and gloves trying to keep a standard of cleanliness. Hey we’re preparing food, right! Well for some reason unknown to me, this food prep area has a sign that only cigarette smokers can see that says “PLEASE COME SMOKE CIGARETTES HERE.” It has always been that way. So this older gentleman walks our way and fires up his smoke and a conversation with me. He was cool, an older family member and also quite interesting. So while I’m working and listening to him, he notices me watching the guy with the camera. He says “look at that fool, taking all those photos that we’ll never see. I stopped what I was doing and asked what he meant. He goes on to tell me that the boy is his nephew and he does this at every family get together. The boy and his father both take hundreds of photos and this in turn makes the other guests not take as many photos because they assume the nephew or his father will email or post them to social media. Wrong! They just leave the photos on memory cards or they download them to disc and never get around to doing anything more than that.

So I took what he said with a grain of salt because I found it hard to believe someone would spend money to purchase a DSLR to shoot photos and never look at them. So as the party moved on the guests all sat down to eat and afterwards the cigarette guy comes back to have the “after dinner smoke” and brings a few fellow smokers along. Again I find myself talking to this man when the father & son “ace photography” team comes walking up and the uncle/brother starts to rip on them about taking photos that nobody will ever see. At first his brother says “that’s not true.” The uncle says “ah come on where are the photos from”; and he rattles of five past family events that they photographed and no one ever seen the photos. I speak up and say “is that true” and the father goes on to say that yes he was guilty of this horrible way of photographing family events and other events and travels only to leave all the photos on CDs or on memory cards. His theory is that he will one day sit down and organize and edit all the thousands of photos. Yeah right!

So it was not a myth and I seen it with my own two eyes, “enigma photography” in action. Hey it takes all kinds to make the world go around. So all I have to say is “don’t be that guy.”