Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 in Review

What a year. One of my pro friends recently commented that I had been hitting it as hard as any full-time pro. I have been fortunate and it has been a good year. When I first started writing this blog I expected to try and post something twice a month. This makes my 59th post for the year. I just can’t promise that next year will be as productive, but I’ll try. Also the number of visits to my blog has been quite impressive. I’m honored that people find my work worth following.

The image above was taken at Elakala Falls in Blackwater Falls State Park in West Virginia last September. I neglected to consider my shots from that day when I posted my gallery for that trip and I liked the shot too much not to share.

I think the theme for this year was diversity. While I primarily consider myself a landscape photographer, I shot lots of grunge and even a couple of models. My friend Tony Sweet says there are 2 types of photography, good and bad. I agree 100% and plan to continue following subject material that resonates within me.

I must admit that my passion for shooting was constrained by the realities of life. I didn’t get out and shoot anything related to Christmas and I had really hoped to spend more time on flower photography this year.

I’m on Facebook and Twitter. I have taken to Facebook, but Twitter not so much. I invite you to follow my occasional tweets or subscribe to my blog with Networked Blogs on Facebook. Occasionally I post images on Facebook that can’t be seen elsewhere.

I’m hoping to do just as much shooting in 2010. In most cases I should have something posted every couple weeks.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Surprise Find

The day after Christmas we decided to stop by one of our favorite winery’s before the long drive home from Southwest Virginia. It had rained all day on Christmas and in the morning I noticed that ice was starting to form on the trees. But by mid-morning the temperature warmed up and the ice disappeared, at least at our lower elevation. As we drove up to the winery near the Blue Ridge Parkway, it was a wonderful surprise to find everything coated in ice. Unfortunately the winery was closed because the ice had taken out the power lines, but it provided me with some good subject material.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Car Farm in Snow

I finally got out in the snow yesterday. I spent the first 2 days of the storm digging myself out. So yesterday I decided to take a run to the Car Farm. I have been wanting to shoot these old cars in the snow since the first time I saw them. We had 20 plus inches of snow in most of Virginia and the Car Farm was no exception. I had to be mindful of where I walked so that I would not walk through any of my compositions. With nowhere to put my camera bag I decided to make this a one camera, one lens shoot. After about a hour I had worked the scene and covered the ground with footprints.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Fall Color

During the last 2 weeks of October I did a lot of local shooting. By local, I mean here in Virginia. My first visit to Shenandoah National Park was quite a surprise. It had snowed at the higher elevations. I returned to Shenandoah a couple of days later and had to admit I was disappointed. The color at the higher elevations in the center of the park was less than I had hoped for. My day job sent me to Charlottesville the 3rd week in October for training so every night after class I would head out to either Shenandoah or the Blue Ridge Parkway. I would usually have an hour or so to shoot. The color got much better the further south I traveled. The following weekend I got in some additional time in Nelson County and the lower elevations of Shenandoah. Overall it was not a bad fall here in Virginia.

Click here for a galley.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Early Snow

Back in mid-October Greg Daily and I headed up to Shenandoah National Park to try and get in a morning of fall color. What we got was much more. Overnight 3 to 4 inches of snow had fallen at the upper altitudes. We had no idea until we were within a mile or so of the entry station. The only downside was the park service had shut down the entire center section of the park and only allowed access to a 10 mile section in the north part of the park. I only got a few shots that merit display but the experience was tremendous.

Friday, November 27, 2009

One More from the Model Shoot

I’m finally getting around to editing my shots from the model shoot I did with Greg Daily. The shot above is Alyssa and Adriana. I can’t take full credit, one of the other students came up with this idea but it was such a cool shot I had to try it as well.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Studio Shoot

This past week Greg Daily and I took a class on studio shooting with Jason Kruse at the Studio at Dulles. Considering that I knew just about zip about studio shooting before taking the class, I could not be happier with the results after just a couple of hours. Of course it helps to have a great model and Ela was great to work with. This was an incredible amount of fun and I certainly plan to do it again some time.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Old Truck

I have been waiting to post this picture for some time. I noticed this old truck last winter on the side of the highway in Nelson County. I returned this past fall hoping to shoot the truck with some background color, but I was saddened to learn the vehicle had been removed. With anything that is old and in a state of decay, you’re often better off shooting it sooner rather than later.

I’m always drawn to old vehicles and this was no exception. I took the shot last winter with my Infrared Converted D200. While I took a number of shots, this one has become my favorite. It’s a rather unconventional angle to shoot a vehicle, but I’m drawn to the graphic nature of the composition.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Shooting with the HDR Gang

Last week I took a day off work to go shooting with Tony Sweet, John Barclay, Just Bob and the rest of the HDR Gang. We met up with everybody at Eastern State Penitentiary. Tony made arrangements for us to shoot in some of the closed sections of the prison. While Eastern State is not really busy during the week, this gave us the illusion of having the place to ourselves. We had a great time as always. After 3 hours of shooting we took a lunch break and then part of the group headed over to the “Top Secret” Graffiti Underground. This time we met up with Philadelphia’s finest. It turns out they noticed 3 out of state vehicles and suspected they might be stolen. After we cleared that up they were on their way, totally unconcerned about how we were spending our afternoon.

Click here for a galley

Monday, November 2, 2009

Last Chance for Flowers

This past weekend I attended a Garden Workshop with Tony Sweet and Susan Milestone at my friend Sara’s house.

Heading into this workshop I must admit that I was feeling a bit worn out and not really in the mood. I have been hitting photography pretty hard this year, having a great time along the way, but some other pressing needs are starting to assert themselves. After hooking up with Tony, Sue, and Corey in the Garden on Friday night for a little pre-workshop shooting, I felt myself getting energized and back in the mood. You just cannot hang out with these top notch pros and not get infected with enthusiasm.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Happy Halloween

Last Friday I had an unusual opportunity. I was invited by my friend Greg Daily to do a haunted house shoot. I really don’t do much in the way of people or scary creature photography but I was excited to give it a try. I had lots of ideas on how I wanted to shoot this event but Greg brought me back to reality. This was a volunteer effort and the monsters have families and day jobs and would not be available for a professional photo shoot.

Plan B (in my mind) was to dress in black and try to blend in. I managed to scare a few kids along the way. Perhaps I’m a really scary person in the dark. We literally worked with the monsters between the tour groups which at times were a minute or two apart.

I did a little lightpainting but for most of the shots I just used my R1C1 Macro Flash and a remote SB-800 with a red gel.

Click here for a small gallery.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

West Virginia Wrap Up

I think it is time to wrap up the details of my recent trip to West Virginia. The original purpose of going to West Virginia was to spend the night in the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. I’m very happy with how that part of the trip worked out. See my October 4th post for details and pictures.

Rather than go to West Virginia for just an overnight trip I decided to make the trip a mini vacation. I stayed in Canaan Valley with the exception of the one night spent in Weston. I was hoping to do a lot of shooting at Bear Rocks but I only shot there once because the weather was cloudy and rainy most of the time. This was great for waterfalls!! I did a lot of scouting and checked out locations that I had not visited before. Some are certainly worth returning. I hiked to the top of Seneca Rocks. That was a surprise. The cliffs are only about 10 feet wide at the top and when I arrived at the top the wind kicked up to about 30-40 mph and I could not get down quick enough. There was no way I was taking off my pack and shooting in those conditions.

On my first morning in Davis I met the US Army Golden Knights Parachute Team. They were doing a jump at a fall festival in Davis later that morning. After seeing these guys at air shows over the years it was a real thrill to meet them. I wish I could have stayed for the show.

It was a little early for fall color, although Blackwater Canyon was starting to look nice.

Click here for a gallery.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Junk Cars

I decided during my recent trip to West Virginia to try and seek out a few junk cars to shoot. I found a few but not as many as I had hoped. Many of them had been swallowed up by vegetation or were just not in a situation I found photogenic. On my last day I did find a hidden gem. The “Top Kick’s Military Museum”, a very nice private collection, but I had reached my saturation point and did not give this location the treatment it deserved. Hopefully I can return sometime.

I’ll write a little more about the overall trip on my next post.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Night in the Nut House

Recently I join friends from the Manassas Warrenton Camera Club for an overnight trip to the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, WV. The site was formerly known as the Weston State Hospital and operated from the mid-1800s until 1994. The current owners are operating the site as a tourist attraction. One of the tours offered is an overnight Ghost Tour. Apparently ghost hunting is quite popular because we had to book our tour several months in advance.

The tour started about 9:30pm and we were taken to a floor and given a 15 minute tour, then allowed to work freely for another hour or so. We would then move to another floor. By 4:00am we had covered all of the floors. The staff had a ton of good ghost stories but I was there to make pictures. This was the first time I have done any serious interior lightpainting. As usual, I learned a lot. In photography light is everything. I’m convinced that my prior experience with lightpainting gave me a leg up on this latest venture, but I also made my share of mistakes. One was bringing too much light. All of my lights were brighter than what I needed for an interior environment. A simple Maglite would have been sufficient in most cases.

The other obstacle was each shot required planning and thought. When doing my more traditional photography, I tend to analyze the conditions and react in order to make the best picture available for that time and light. With lightpainting I had to spend much more time thinking about each shot, how to compose, how to light, and how I was going to tie them altogether into a finished product. The other really surprising thing was that I did not take that many pictures, perhaps 25 or so the entire night.

After catching a few hours sleep, I returned the next morning to take a few shots of the exterior. The clouds that morning were great!!

Click here for an image gallery.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Old Rag Once More

It has been my goal to hike Old Rag before I turn 50 for the last couple of years. I’m not 50 yet and a couple weeks ago I met this goal ahead of schedule. I hiked Old Rag several times when I was in my early twenties. I remember it being a tough hike but not something that I had to get in shape for. I’m not 20 anymore so the rules have changed…...

My past trips to Old Rag this year were by way of the fire road. This cuts about 3 miles and 800 feet off the journey. Going up the back way is still a very challenging hike but easy compared to doing a frontal assault. My goal was to do a proper hike and if feels great to have accomplished the goal. The trip stats are 9 miles and 2600 feet of elevation.

I was joined by 3 non-photographer friends. We started at the lower parking lot and made our way up the mountain. As we neared the top the bottlenecks became evident. Old Rag is a very popular hike and rightly so, but there are several places that are narrow or otherwise difficult to transverse. So people would back up at these locations. Also as we neared the top the mountain was covered in clouds. There were many photographic possibilities but a gray sky was a deal killer. Normally I’m quite excited about fog but not in this situation.

While the photo opportunities were somewhat limited, I did come away with the feeling that I can go back and produce some shots that exceed anything I’ve seen shot from this location. I’m sure others have taken spectacular images from this popular peak, it’s just that I have not seen them. That is just as well, when I return I don’t want my vision to be affected by the work of others if possible.

One other interesting tidbit. I had read on and some other sites about the Old Rag Dogs. These are local dogs that go up near the top of the mountain and run a scam on the tourists. People react by trying to give them food and water, and otherwise worrying about their general welfare. I heard some ladies exclaim great concern for these dogs. I tried to explain the dogs are local and doing just fine. But to no avail. These pups are running a very successful operation from the look of things.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cuyahoga Wrap-Up

I think it is time to close the book on our recent trip to Ohio. The old saying, “it’s a nice place to visit” comes to mind. No offense to those in the Midwest region, but Greg and I came home with a renewed appreciation for Virginia. We really did cover a lot of ground in 3 days and came away with some good images to show for it. My favorite of the trip was my previous post of Jaite Station after dark. I did get to do some additional lightpainting and I have posted those results in the gallery. We also owe a big thanks to local photographer Jerry Jelineks for showing us around and providing a wealth of information on the different locations.

Click Here for the Gallery

Friday, September 18, 2009

Lake Erie

During our Labor Day trip to Ohio, Greg and I wanted to maximize our shooting potential. Lake Erie is an hour away from Cuyahoga Valley so a side trip was in order. Originally I had hoped to stay and do some nocturnal photography, but the park closed 30 minutes after sunset and the park police were quite serious about this. The sunset was uneventful, but in spite of the disappointment, I still managed to get a couple of keepers.

The Blog image was shot with my D200 Infrared Camera shortly after our arrival. I used a slight amount of Topaz Simplify to soften the image.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Shooting From The Train

After finishing our 1st morning shoot in Cuyahoga Valley and a late breakfast, we went for a train ride to learn the lay of the land and get a better feel for the possibilities. Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad runs through the park and for $15.00 you can ride all day. It took about 3 hours for the full trip and it was a most enjoyable time. We took our gear in case we decided to get off the train. While we never found anything that motivated us to get off the train, we did see some interesting sights. I used my Infrared converted D200 and shot from my seat on the train. The results were surprising. The train window had lots of reflection and glare but my shots did not contain these distracting elements. The camera is fitted with a filter that blocks visible light so reflections in the visible spectrum were not a concern.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Jaite Station - Rails On Fire

This past weekend Greg Daily and I headed out to Ohio to spend a couple days in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Local photographer Jerry Jelineks was kind enough to show us around the first night and next morning. After shooting a rather uneventful sunset and moonrise at Tinker’s Creek Preserve, I mentioned wishing for a place to go light painting. Jerry knew the spot. We rolled into Jaite around 10:00pm and got to work. Jaite was the location of a former textile mill. When researching the trip I thought the mill was still in existence and planned on doing some serious HDR photography. But a couple years ago the park service remediated the site, so no such luck.

The light painting above is a composite of 5 shots blended in Photoshop. I’m even in one of the shots, or more precisely, my shadow is. I found that trying to light paint multiple aspects of the composition adds complexity to the shoot. So for this shoot the first shot was 30 seconds and I just painted the railroad bed. The next 2 shots were of each railroad track. I increased the brightness of the light as I moved away from the camera. This helped provide a constant amount of light as I ran down the tracks. The 4th and 5th shot was of each building. After combining the images a few targeted adjustments were made.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Eastern State - Part IV

Last week I joined friends Tony, Sara, John, Mark, Bob, Mike, and Doug for a private shoot at Eastern State Penitentiary. This trip was different, we had (at a significant cost) access to non-public areas of the prison. In some cases this offered us shots not otherwise available, in other cases it was more of the same. Perhaps the best part of the day was the camaraderie between the group. Literally it was the fastest 3 hours in recent memory. I had known some of the crew from Facebook and the virtual world, it was really great to meet in person and I felt like we really gelled as a group.

The only downside was that Sara and I needed to get on the road after lunch. Most of the group was going back in to shoot, but considering that we had to drive thru 3 major metro areas to get home, traffic was a consideration.

This time I also tried something new. I incorporated some creative flash photography into my routine. I decided to show a sample of this on the Blog. I’m a beginner at this type of lighting, but hey you have to start somewhere. I’m hoping to integrate a little more flash photography on my nocturnal efforts. Stay tuned….

Considering that I have been to ESP 4 times in the last year, I was starting to think that I had exhausted all the possibilities. In reality, I’m not even close.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Big Schloss

This past month has been the slow season for me in regard to getting out and taking pictures. Perhaps because it has been hot and humid. I’m certainly taking pictures, but I don’t feel like I have been hitting it quite so hard. Instead I have been trying to get out and hike a little more and this past Sunday Big Duke and I did a quick hike up Big Schloss in the George Washington National Forest. As far as hikes go, this one is not bad. About 1000 feet in elevation and a little over 2 miles to the top. The first mile is straight up and then you follow the ridgeline to the top.

As far as hikes go, Big Schloss has one of the best views going. I hope to shoot star trails from this location at some point.

I hate to admit it, but the objective today was exercise and not really photography. I did bring along my Nikon D200 Infrared Camera in the hope that I would get to shoot some puffy clouds from the summit. It was also a chance to use my 28mm PC lens. The panorama above is a composite of 24 images. 12 across and 2 rows. I took the above series, put the camera back in my pack, and headed down the mountain.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A visit with Bambi

A couple of weeks ago Superdog Duke and I decided to hike Shenandoah instead of take pictures. We spent most of the day hiking both Cedar Falls and White Oak Canyon and by the end of the day I’m not sure which one of us was worn out the most. Duke would say he worked harder since he also went swimming in addition to hiking. After a long but really good day I decided to take a trip up to Big Meadows before sunset. The plan was to shoot the deer and then if it looked like a good sunset was in the works, shoot that on the way home. The sunset was a bust, but I got a few shots of Bambi.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

3,391 Feet Closer To Heaven

Last weekend a few friends and I spent the better part of the night on Old Rag Mountain. Camping at the summit is not permitted and personally I had to haul up enough gear, water, and appropriate clothing. No way was I going to add a tent and sleeping bag to that load. It is hard to believe that we spent the better part of 10 hours on that mountain for what amounts to 1 photograph. It really was more than one, but the object of the exercise was to shoot a star trail. My star trail photo is a composite of multiple exposures. I thought about taking a 2nd camera body and tripod, but decided the extra weight and space was just not worth it.

This was my second trip to the summit of Old Rag this year and not any easier the 2nd time. It was hot and humid at the lower elevations and cold on the summit after dark. The summit of Old Rag faces the north. There is a lot of foreground interest at the top, mostly big boulders, some of them 20 to 30 feet in diameter. Facing north allows you to arrange your composition around the North Star. The North Star stays in the same position in the sky and the other stars rotate around it at least that is the visual description. Sorry no lesson on astronomy here!

A few thoughts about nature: No deer or bear on this trip but at the summit the bats would fly over our heads, sometimes only by a foot or so. On the way down I think I saw a spider with every step I took. Considering that snakes are nocturnal, I was on the lookout. A copperhead passed a few feet in front of me when I was only a few hundred feet from the truck on the way back.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sunset at Old Rag Mountain

Last weekend friends Corey Hilz, Bill Gercken, Greg Daily, and I hiked up to the top of Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah National Park with the intention of shooting star trails. We arrived on the summit about a half hour before sunset. I guess a perfect evening would have involved a great sunset and clear skies for star trails. A good sunset was not in the cards. I had time to work a few shots before dark, but not too many. Also, the skies were almost totally clear so I tended to minimize the impact of the sky in my photos. I found this little fern garden a few feet from the summit.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


The secret appears to be out. The McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area is the place to go in July for sunflowers. I even heard that Montgomery County was busing in people for 3 mornings. The only problem was that I only got to go one time this summer. My trusty Lensbaby provided me with the shot shown above. Next year I will have to make a point to get there more than once.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The end of a long day

During our recent trip to Philly, the original plan was to shoot the Graffiti Underground, stop for lunch at an authentic Philly Diner, and finish up at Eastern State. Shortly after arrival at ESP, my friend Sara decided to leave, about 2 hours later she called us to say that she had stopped at Longwood Gardens on the way home. Bill got really excited about the idea of stopping at Longwood, so Corey, Karen and I figured why not. This was my first time there during the summer and as always Longwood does not disappoint. I spent most of my time shooting the water gardens and fountains. By the end of the day I was pretty much burned out, but as I recall Corey and Bill were still going strong and if it were not for darkness, I suspect we would still be there.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Eastern State Penitentiary

The 2nd stop on my last trip to Philly was Eastern State Penitentiary. This was my 3rd trip in the last year and shooting the prison is getting harder. I’m basically a wide angle shooter, that is, I tend to look at the landscape first and details second. Realizing this, I’m trying to make an effort to work the details. It was also quite crowded; we were told that attendance set a record. This of course created some additional barriers to my type of photography.

Click here for a gallery from my first visit last year

Click here for the most recent gallery

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Underground

Last Saturday morning a few friends and I drove up to Philadelphia. This was my second trip this summer and it yielded some good results. The first stop was an area we refer to as the Graffiti Underground. This is an incredible location and the quality of some of the graffiti was the best I have seen. I think the underground is actually the underside of old railroad bridges. The area is so old and it is obvious it has been many years since the area was in use. An additional enhancement in the area is an active playground for paintball games. The splash of small bits of color makes a great location even better.

Click here for a gallery

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Scott Kelby's World Wide Photo Walk

This past Saturday Bill Gercken and I participated in the World Wide Photo Walk. This was a collection of photo walks that took place on the same day all over the world. I chose Fredericksburg, VA. I had heard the Old Town section of the city was quite nice and having never been there it seemed like a good reason to go. It turned out to be a very productive day. The walk started at 10am so Bill and I arrived early to check out an industrial part of town that I had heard about. This side trip was well worth our time, having found among other things an old tank farm. The walk was scheduled for 2 hours, but Bill and I took 3 hours to complete the walk and lost track of the group. Perhaps it was our tripods that slowed us down. I think we were the only people out of about 25 that had them.

The Blog picture was my favorite of the day. At the end of the walk we ventured up to the train station and noticed the interesting graphics of the white lines on the road below. I instantly setup my shot and waited for the right vehicle to drive under. It turned out to be a very long wait. It never occurred to me before that moment that most new cars today are very boring, at least from above their shapes and colors are nothing to get excited about. I was starting to wish for a red Corvette or something equally exciting. I was about ready to give up but Bill suggested I wait because he saw a red truck heading our direction. The bonus was the 3 kayaks in the back! I hit the shutter as the truck entered the intersection and stopped clicking as it went under the bridge. The photo above is my favorite.

Click here for an image gallery from Saturday morning.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Chasing Clouds

Some days the best picture is up. Clouds can be an important part of a landscape shot. The evening that I shot the blog picture was one of those days. I really had no plans to go out that evening, but the clouds were just too good to stay home. If you have ever driven on the road to Old Rag Mountain you will find this landscape familiar. I had noticed this barn several times over the years, but without the right sky it is not a compelling photograph. On the night I shot this picture I was chasing cloud scenes throughout Madison County, thinking this might be a good night I drove over to Rappahannock County to get this shot.

I have also posted a gallery on Flickr of some recent landscape shots with prominent clouds.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Dealing with the unexpected

I don’t know about you, but I often find that I have a pre-visualization of what I am hoping to capture when I head out into the field to photograph. As my skills have progressed this approach has changed. If I’m visiting a known location a certain amount of planning is appropriate. What direction does the sun rise or set, am I looking for a certain type of light, etc? I know some photographers who insist on very detailed planning while others prefer to live in the moment. I think that currently I do a bit of both.

Case in point. Last weekend I went to Graves Mountain Lodge to watch the fireworks. I have been to this area before because it is very close to White Oak Canyon, but I had never seen the fireworks show. I was envisioning a nice silhouetted outline of the mountains to contrast with the fireworks. That is what I imagined, however, that was not the vantage point available. So rather than waste any time looking for a shot that was not available, I decided to try the abstract approach and concentrate on capturing shape and color. I used a variety of techniques but zooming seemed to yield the best results.

I try to approach a scene looking for what is “right” and not what is “wrong”. After that I just get in the moment and stop thinking and start going with the flow.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Elevation 3,291

This past Saturday I hiked Old Rag in Shenandoah National Park. Old Rag is a very popular hike with good reason. The hike is strenuous, challenging, and offers perhaps the best vista in the park. I have hiked Old Rag many times, but that was over 20 years ago. I have been trying to get in a little better physical shape so I could attempt this hike. The only downside was that my hiking buddy Duke could not join me this time. Dogs are not permitted on this trail. We were both a little disappointed when I left home on Saturday morning. After a 2 ½ hour hike up the mountain I finally made it to the summit. It was much better than I remember. The arrangement of boulders and rocks on the summit makes for great photo composition material.

Since it was mid-day I shot mostly Infrared and a little HDR. I also shot some Panoramas with a 28mm perspective adjustment lens. I bought this lens last year, but have not used it often. The lens allows you to adjust the perspective higher or lower after leveling the camera. I’m not sure why, but stitching these images is a little more involved and often requires me to do the layout by hand. The blog picture is made from 20 different exposures.

I was also scouting the site for a possible location for Star Trails. I say possible, because of the necessary variables, clear night, good weather, etc. I’m not interested in sitting at the top of Old Rag in February.

It was a great hike and nice to return after so many years. I’m hoping to return soon, if only for the exercise.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Recently I was asked by a friend to photograph his father’s funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. While I have walked the grounds at Arlington many times and have even attended a few funerals, photographing a funeral is a first for me. Photographing a military funeral is a special event. I can not help but feel a huge amount of pride in my country and respect for the soldiers who carry out this solemn duty on a daily basis. Their dedication, precision, and compassion are evident.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Playing with Flash

I consider myself a natural light photographer. Usually this means that I work with conditions as they present themselves. For quite some time I have been aware of Joe McNally and the really great work he does with small flashes on location. This past weekend I headed out to the car farm with the goal of doing some light painting and off camera flash. The picture above was shot with 2 Nikon SB-800 Speedlights, both mounted off camera and controlled remotely. While I’m a long way from mastering this form of light, I think I’m off to a good start.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Flower Time

In addition to taking pictures of old cars and other grungy things, I do flower photography. I was thinking it had been quite some time since I posted any flowers and it had been even longer since I had posted a flower gallery. Last night I was at my friend Sara’s house and had a pretty good session in the garden. The added bonus last night was that the wind was nonexistent. One of the frustrating things about close-up photography is the slightest wind causes subject movement. Last night I was shooting 1 second exposures with no movement. In the garden this makes for the best possible conditions.

Click here for the flower gallery.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bambi and the Busy Weekend

I’m spending a lot of time shooting lately and the volume of images is piling up. I had intended on posting the results of several different shoots, but time is not on my side.

This past Saturday I got up at 3:00 am to drive out to Shenandoah National Park. The Big Meadows area is home to lots of deer and usually the fawns are everywhere, but it seems that this year something is amiss. Some of my friends have been scouting Big Meadows for a week or 2 and have only reported seeing a couple of fawns. In spite of this news, I decided to push on and join members of the Manassas Warrenton Camera Club at dawn. I teamed up with Bill Gercken and we scouted the length of the meadow to no avail. My friend Alan DeFelice was also there and being a natural with wildlife soon found one fawn hiding in the brush. The problem was I could not get an unobstructed view to take a decent shot. Over near the visitor’s center we found one other fawn and actually got to spend some time shooting.

It started to rain by 8:00 am so we decided to pack things up. I headed out to the Shenandoah Valley to continue my work on the Route 11 project. I had a very productive day covering the area between Mount Jackson and Harrisonburg. It rained for the first couple of hours, but afterwards I was rewarded with really great clouds the rest of the day. During the afternoon I decided to reenter the park and shoot the clouds from Blackrock Summit in the southern end of the park. This is a great spot that is a half mile hike from the parking area and offers some of the best views and unique scenery in my opinion.

Sunday morning Duke and I went out for a hike near Old Rag and then worked the back roads of Madison County shooting HDR Infrared. The clouds were quite impressive.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The City of Brotherly Love

A couple of weeks ago friends Jack, Bill, Kelvin, Tweety, and Ken took a road trip to Philadelphia to shoot Eastern State Penitentiary. This was my 2nd trip and everyone else’s first. I reshot some of my favorites--the Barber’s Chair and Al Capone’s cell are a must. Beyond the favorites, I tried to find some things to shoot that I overlooked during my first visit last fall. We had nice clouds so I shot a lot outdoors.

After finishing up at the prison I swore everyone to secrecy and then took them to the Graffiti Underground. While a closely guarded secret among photographers, other aspects of urban Philadelphia seemed to know all about it. When we arrived a group of young men were descending on the place for what they described as a “War Zone”. We tried to discreetly shoot some of these guys during their paint ball game, but this proved hazardous to our gear and we backed off.

I’m behind on processing and I hope to visit again sometime this year. Hopefully at that time I can get a gallery posted.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Route 11 Project

I spent all day Sunday scouting the back roads around Mount Jackson and Woodstock, Va. A little over a year ago I decided to do a self assignment and shoot the Shenandoah Valley. The plan is to follow Route 11 and the connecting roads. The blog photo was shot last year on Route 11 just below the West Virginia line. That is the starting point and over the next few years I’ll work my way south.

I’m a little backed up on processing my shots, so no gallery link this time.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Ghost Hunting II

Last weekend Bill Gercken and I did a little ghost hunting so to speak. We visited an old asylum that was closed due to a court order. I have shot at old places before, but there was something different about this one. It was creepy at best and perhaps evil at worst. The weird thing about this place was the longer I was there, the more I really wanted to leave. I don’t recall ever experiencing this type of feeling before. This place has been closed for almost 20 years. The buildings are in such a poor state of repair you would think it had been longer. After exploring one of the buildings, we found a room with clean sheets on a bed and indicators of recent activity. This in a building where I would have felt better wearing a Tyvek suit and a hardhat. If I had any doubt about how much longer I was willing to stay, that settled it.

I’m not listing the location this time because I really don’t want to encourage others to go. This place is decrepit and possibly dangerous. While I got a few good photos and know others who have made multiple trips, I have no intention of going back.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Patuxent River Air Expo 2009

This past weekend was the 2009 Air Expo at Patuxent River NAS. I was joined this time by friends Greg, Jack, Alan and his son Christopher.

We had a perfect day!! The clouds were great and the light was spectacular. This year we purchased reserved seats that got us close to the flight line. Air shows are usually free, but paid seats are well worth the money.

New this year is the first female Blue Angels Pilot! Lt. Amy Tomlinson flies the #8 plane. While she is not part of the 6 plane show, I thought this was impressive nonetheless.

During the show I shot over 1500 exposures. I even managed to shoot a couple of handheld HDR (High Dynamic Range) images. I have spent the last 3 days going through images and deciding what to post. Overall I’m quite happy with the results.

Click here for a gallery.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Rolling Thunder – Fairfax

This past Sunday was Rolling Thunder XXII. Living near Washington D.C. it is not possible for one to be oblivious to this annual event. A few days earlier motorcycles start arriving from all over the country. Many of the bikes have American Flags attached and other displays of patriotism. Two years ago I went to Nutley Street in Vienna to photograph the group from Patriot HD. For some reason I missed last year’s event and really did not want to miss this tremendous event 2 years in a row. I think this year’s group from Patriot was the largest I had seen, it took over 30 minutes for all the riders to pass by. Not visible in my shots are the crowd that comes out to watch the rides go by. Just on my section of Nutley there must have been close to 100 people.

I really wanted to go downtown this year, but I had been out all day yesterday at the Patuxent River Air Show and had a lot of yard work at home. So the compromise was to shoot the group from Patriot and try for downtown next year.

Shooting this type of event is a lot different than my normal work. My typical shooting platform is from a tripod and usually I take time to fine tune the composition. I was shooting today handheld with fill-flash from the curb. Bikes were going by 5 feet away at 15-20 mph. They’re close range and moving. Now the last thing I want to do is take static snapshots. So I’m using shutter speeds from 1/20 to 1/250 of a second. I’m panning and zooming. In the current setting there is only so much you can do to be creative. Perhaps if this was a more frequent event I could think up something else to try. Bottom line is many of the shots end up in the digital trash can. Another thing I noticed was that some riders really did not like having their picture taken. Some turned away, some gave me a very unhappy look and others really loved it.

Click here for a gallery.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Last Night in the Smokies

On our last night in the Smokies, Jack Nevitt and I set out for a location to shoot Star Trails. Not just any location will do. Ideally you want a spot facing north so the star trails move in a giant circle. Foreground interest is also important. We found 3 different possible locations and settled on the next pull off above Morton’s Overlook. New Found Gap Road is quite busy and traffic was an issue. To shield our cameras from the headlights of passing cars, I parked my truck at an angle that would afford protection for our lenses.

Lucky for Jack I had a spare body and timer. Jack had borrowed a timer and only realized when we started setting up that the batteries were dead. We then ate dinner and Jack edited his pictures. After 2 hours, we packed up and arrived back in Townsend at 1:00 am.

The tree is lighted courtesy of the passing cars.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


A couple of weeks ago, Jack Nevitt and I spent a few days in the Smoky Mountains.

The weather was great if you were a tourist, but not quite as nice for a nature photographer. In other words, sunny and no fog. While some fog would have been a plus, it was not essential.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

New HDR Tool

Tonight I was working on my images from the Smokies. I decided to try combining my HDR sets with a new software tool, Essential HDR. I had seen a brief comment about the program in one of the photography magazines. The selling point was that it rendered a more natural look than Photomatix. I decided to go ahead and give it a try. As a result, I agree that Essential HDR has a slight edge in regard to processing a natural looking HDR file.

Then I stumbled on something I like even better!!! In the past when combining images with moving water, I often ended up with some artifacts that needed to be cleaned up in Photoshop. I combined several sets with moving water and each time Essential HDR did a perfect compilation with no noticeable artifacts.

I think the program is worth a try. The only downside is the program is PC only. This is sure to disappoint my friends with Macs.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Smokies After Dark

During my recent trip to the Smokies I stayed out after dark on 2 occasions. This was one of them, it’s the old Mill at Roaring Fork.

I’m a big fan of Lightpainting and have introduced the technique to many of my friends and a few workshop students. Lightpainting the landscape is somewhat difficult to tech. You need to be aware of and juggle the variables, strength of your light source, and color temperature of your light source when using multiple lights. At the same time you are dealing with diminishing light as evening becomes night. You also need to constantly adapt to the changing conditions.

In general my formula is:

Start 10 minutes after sunset and shoot for the next 20 to 30 minutes. During this time keep refining your technique and check your histogram. It is quite easy to blow out your highlights. Shooting beyond this time you lose the slight blue color in the sky.

It is not necessary to “paint” every aspect of the composition. In general the subject is not meant to look like a “flash” picture. Paint your subject with light using brush strokes.

In regard to my picture above, I consider it a “fun” shot. The light source was a 2 million candle power spotlight with a homemade snoot. It was probably a little more light than I needed, but you work with the tools at your disposal.

If you decide to try this, consider that many parks are not open after dark and the average park ranger is going to assume you are spotlighting wildlife and respond accordingly.

If you want to learn about Lightpainting one of the best resources on the web is Dave Black’s site.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Lorton Part 3

Last week I made my 3rd visit to what remains of the Lorton Prison. I was joined by friends Corey, Karen, Glenn, Roger, and Bill.

Since this was my 3rd visit and time was brief, I tried to look for things I have not seen before and improve on shots I already have. During this visit I did get a bonus experience. Karen and I were locked in the dining hall for about 10 minutes. Luckily I had cell service and was able to call Corey and within minutes he had arranged to free us from our temporary imprisonment.

It was also pouring down rain during most of our visit, so this time all my pictures were taken inside or undercover.

Click here for a small gallery.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Random Thoughts

I wanted to update the blog since it might be a couple weeks before I get a chance to post new work.

The photo above was the result of a quick trip to the Franciscan Monastery last weekend with Greg Daily. I love Tulips, but it seems like I never have enough time to shoot them. Work, weather, and my personal life seem to get in the way.

It seems that I will miss the Bluebells this year. Bluebells are tough to shoot, but I like the challenge.

I’m missing Redbuds for sure. I have one in my front yard, but my house makes a lousy backdrop.

I’ll be making my 3rd trip to Lorton Prison early next week. I’m lucky enough to get occasional access, but the time on site is limited. You find your shot, take your shot and move on to the next one. You really don’t have time to work the scene or contemplate the possibilities. I’m grateful for the experience nonetheless. I will be looking for opportunities to shoot wide angle HDR panoramas on this trip.

The following day Jack Nevitt and I leave for the Smoky Mountains. In addition to the normal landscape photography, we are planning on shooting Star Trails! If the results are worthwhile, you can be sure I will share the results.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Grunge and Ghosts

I don’t believe in Ghosts, but the location of my latest adventure seems to be a popular place for ghost hunters and kids with spray paint. So far I have not seen any ghosts and I’m not sure why a ghost would want to hang out in such a place.

Click here for a large gallery of photos.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Cherry Trees

This morning I met friends Jack, Greg, and Charles (from the Loudoun Camera Club) at Meadowlark Gardens for an early morning of shooting the Cherry Trees. We elected to avoid the crowds downtown and shoot locally.

This is just my opinion, but I think Cherry Trees are difficult to shoot. While beautiful to behold, I find them hard to craft into a compelling photograph. When challenged, I try to think of how I can approach the scene from a different perspective. This morning after walking around the lake and not finding the perspective I liked, I reached into my bag and grabbed the Lensbaby. I typically use the Lensbaby for close up shots, but I like how it rendered this shot. The bench and cherry trees are all that matter and the Lensbaby helps to direct your eye.

While some might not like the lack of edge to edge sharpness, I like to think it is sharp enough.

Friday, March 27, 2009

First Hint of Spring

Tonight after taking Big Duke for his 2 mile walk I decided to see what I could find in my garden. I started shooting some daffodils and crocus, but settled on this impressionistic image of a red tulip. Spring is just around the corner and I’m going to have to stop shooting so much grunge HDR and get back into flowers and landscape.

Blog picture was shot with a Lensbaby 3G.