Monday, December 31, 2012

Year End and a Favorite

I have noticed lots of photographers posting their 12 favorite pictures for the year.  Considering this is the last day of 2012 I can’t possibly figure out my 12 favorites on such last notice.   One of the other problems is that I still have unprocessed images from this year.   Perhaps next year I’ll think of this concept in time to put something together.

The picture above was taken in Iceland this  year.  This was the first time I had shot this type of composition and exposure.  I was quite excited about this level of color, texture and simplicity. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Saint Elizabeth’s

Last year I was quite lucky to get to spend a few hours inside of Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington D.C.    While part of Saint Elizabeth’s is a functioning institution, much of it has been locked up for about a decade, but is not in the usual state of disrepair that I prefer.   About the time I took this shot I noticed our guide walking away from the building entrance.   Being locked in was only temporary since some of the members of our group had found an unlocked door earlier in the day.  

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Return of the Fabulous Tuckers


I was going through some of this year’s pictures looking for shots that I overlooked or never got around to editing.    Earlier this year I got to spend a morning with the largest private collection of Tuckers.  Considering that only 51 were ever produced, owning 3 of these wonderful cars makes this the largest private collection.   Originally I was not sure how I wanted to process this picture,  but with the benefit of time I decided on a look that I felt was appropriate. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Springtime in the Smokies

I was recently looking through some pictures from earlier in the year and found this double layer panorama that I shot in the Smokies this past spring.    I had not posted it before because I did not liked how the finished product was processed.  So I decided to process it again and this time was able to produce a result that I found acceptable.   

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Back on the Blog


It was not my intention to take a month off from posting to the blog, but last month was the Nature Visions Expo.  Also I've had some other issues that took up time I would normally devote to photography. 
The issues that are competing for my time and attention will likely remain for the rest of the winter, but I’m hoping to still make time to take images and have to settle for less frequent blog posts for the next couple months. 

The shot above was taken at a farm outside of Richmond where the owner has a couple dozen old trucks just sitting in the field.  While normally this type of shooting is nirvana to me, I just was not quite on my game that day.  The harsh overhead mid-day light did not help either.  So rather than fight thru this mental obstruction, I jumped back in the truck and headed for lunch.  Arriving back just in time to catch the nice late afternoon light, I starting making images that suited my desires.  

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Late to the Party

At one time Dan River Mills was the largest textile mill in the south.   Raw cotton entered the plant on one end and the finished product exited the plant on the other.   I recently learned about Dan River and started making inquiries to gain access to the facility.   Last Friday was the long awaited day, with many of the buildings now de-constructed.   In this process materials such as brick and lumber are salvaged and repurposed.  The plant has been undergoing this process for the last 5 years.  I wish I had known of this at the start,  what a great project it would have been to document this process. 

But nonetheless gaining access to this facility was a thrill and I hope to return soon.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012



Usually I avoid shooting during mid-day because  I find the light is often too harsh.  But a couple weeks ago I got together with a couple of friends and we spent the day working the back roads of the Shenandoah Valley.  We stopped at Meems Bottom Covered Bridge,  I had been trying to shoot a panorama inside the bridge but gave up because a car would drive through the bridge every few minutes.  Next to the bridge was a  field of corn ready for harvesting.  Being in the bright light and having left my diffuser at home I decided to use a Lensbaby, knowing the optical effect of the highlights would create a nice effect.   

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Night Photography

With the arrival of fall the days are getting shorter.  With the shorter days it gets easier to do night photography as long as you are willing to brave the cooler temps.  The shot above was taken from the Inner Harbor in Baltimore.  Just one of the many places in our area that are outstanding venues for night photography.  

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Herman’s Jeep

I mentioned working on images of old cars in my last blog so I thought it would only be fair to show one of the vehicles.  In this shot I used the new version of Topaz Simplify for a painted effect. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Herman’s Backyard


On my recent trip to Iceland I had the chance to photograph some old cars on a private farm.   While I was walking around the field I was struck by the grandeur of the landscape.   This was literally the view out behind the barn.  My time on this site was limited so I did a quick panorama to capture the scene.   I do not consider this one of my better shots from the trip, but this was one of those times when just being there was remarkable.   It was late in the evening and most of the light was behind the scene.  I can only imagine what this scene would look like in the early morning light.   

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Prison No More


I like to explore, so a few weeks ago I spent the day driving some back roads and small towns in the Shenandoah Valley.  The shot above is in the middle of the town of Staunton, but you would never think so looking at the picture.  The site is a former jail and before that a mental hospital.  Now the property is being redeveloped into condos.  The current economy seems to have slowed the project so perhaps I will get to return one day before the site is fully redeveloped.  

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Honest Abe

Considering that I live so close to our nation’s capital, I rarely go into town to make pictures.   A couple of weeks ago a few friends wanted to get together and shoot the monuments.  I’m sure glad we did, the afternoon started out raining so we did some shooting inside the Lincoln Memorial.  We noticed the rain stopped and a rainbow appeared over the Mall and behind the memorial we were treated to an epic sunset.  I only got one shot before the sunset started to fade, but for me just this one shot of Abraham Lincoln was worth the trip.  

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Incredible Iceland

I’m just home from a 10 day visit to Iceland.   This was my 2nd trip to Iceland and my love of this country’s landscape grows with every visit.   I’m just starting to take a serious look at my images and will post more in the next couple months.   In the shot above we were pretty much rained out on our second day in the field, but the weather in Iceland is always changing and a slight break in the clouds allowed me to capture mountain peaks in the distance.   I love the simplicity of this scene.  

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Midnight at the Asylum

Most people who spend the night at the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum are Ghost Hunters.  The above photo is from my most recent tour at the Asylum.  I did not have any otherworld experiences, this time.  I did in the past but that is a long story.  As with most of my light painting, this is a composite of multiple images.  

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Beauty of Decay Part II

In my last post I mentioned my love of decaying old cars and trucks.   Another powerful subject is abandoned and decaying buildings.   The shot above is from the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, WV.  If you desire to photograph this type of subject, the Asylum is a great way to do so.   You get to explore several buildings and the photo opportunities are almost limitless. 

The panorama above is taken in the Women’s Auxiliary Building.  The only way to see this building is to sign up for a phototour.   The regular asylum visitors are not taken to this one.  

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Beauty of Decay

I’m a car guy, not the type that spends his weekends working on a hot-rod in the garage, but someone who has spent his entire adult life either working on cars or working with them.   Automobiles are part of the American lifestyle and I admit I’m hooked.  I love to drive and have a real appreciation for the engineering that goes into everything from the new hybrids to cars that you see on the racetrack.  But as a photographer there is nothing I love more than old cars and trucks that have been forgotten.  The gradual decay and the body lines of days gone by add up to irresistible  subject matter.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Big House

Who knew that so many people wanted to spend time behind bars.  A couple of weeks ago the Maryland Department of Corrections held an open house at Maryland House of Correction in Jessup, MD.  Over a thousand people attended on the first of two days.   Upon arrival I was a bit disappointed as it became quickly apparent these were going to be  a quick tour with groups of 50 people taking about 45 minutes each.  So back to the car to unload the backpack and tripod.  I did some handheld shooting but overall things were a bit rushed and as a result the quality and quantity of work was not quite what I hoped for. 

MHC was one of the nation’s oldest prisons when it was shut down in 2007.  The prison site also houses an active prison and inmate labor is being used to deconstruct, rather than demolish the facility. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Making It Your Own

As photographers we often photograph things that others created.   Be it a bridge, building or statue just to name a few.  The designer of the item in question may or may not have had a creative motivation or inspiration.   A sculptor would most definitely qualify as an artist, but perhaps a bridge designer might be motivated more by structural demands than creative ones.   As photographers we have a choice, we can take a documentary photograph or one that is motivated by our artistic vision.   

This past weekend I was doing a little exploration and came across this graffiti.   I took a few straight shots, but after that I decided to do an in camera multiple exposure refocusing on the teeth between each shot as I zoomed in.  In my opinion, this allows me to capture my interpretation of this art work rather than just reproducing someone else’s on a different medium.  

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Hazards of Nature Photography

This past week I made a quick stop at Blackwater Falls State Park on my way home from the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum.  More on that trip in a future blog.   It was a cloudy morning and I had noticed the streams were running nicely so some waterfall photography seemed in line.  Rather than shoot Blackwater Falls from the platform like everyone else,  I have always preferred Elakala Falls.  Gaining access to the multiple falls on Elakala Run gets progressively harder the further down the mountain you go.  There is not an established trail but photographers over time have created a small footpath to the second and third falls. 

I setup this panorama and noticed a distracting dead branch next to the tree on the right.   So I thought I would jump over to the rocks and do a little gardening.  When I reached for the tree on the right my hand slipped and I fell backwards hitting the rock below.  If things had stopped at that point it would not have been too bad.  But an object in motion wants to stay in motion and I was very much in motion.  I then proceeded to fall head over heels two more times before coming to a stop.  By then I was cut, banged up, and bruised from nearly head to toe.    I was very lucky that I did not sustain any serious injury and was able to hike out under my own power after shaking it off and finishing the pano.  

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Dr. Frankenstein’s Art Project

Actually this art project belongs to British Artist Bruce Munro and is currently on display at Longwood Gardens.   Last weekend I braved the 100 degree temps to shoot the gardens at Longwood with friends Greg Daily and Jeff Johnson.  We had a great time, managed to stay dry when a thunderstorm came through and determined that we must return later this summer to shoot the areas we missed.  

Monday, July 9, 2012

Light Painting the Graffiti Underground


For the last couple of years the Graffiti Underground has been a favorite  location for myself and a few of my friends.   Last year Tony Sweet suggested we get together and light paint this unique location.  The Underground, as we call the location, is not in the best neighborhood so we originally decided to try and do this when the weather was cold and night fall came early.

We arrived about 2 hours before dark, did a fair amount of shooting and then starting planning our after dark activities.   To our surprise the place came alive after dark.   While no one bothered us, we decided to move on after a couple shots.
If you decide to take up light painting or any type of night photography please consider the precautions necessary to ensure your safety.  This could be as simple as shooting with a friend.  In our case I suspect the size of our group was a factor in the folks who showed up after dark leaving us alone.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

236 Years Later

Today we celebrate our independence from Great Britain.  On July 4, 1776 we adopted the Declaration of Independence.   I hope everyone who takes a minute to read this post will reflect on what it means to live in our great country.  

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Livestock Sales

On a recent trip through the Shenandoah Valley I stumbled upon the Rockingham Livestock Sales building.  It was the middle of the afternoon so I used my Infra-Red Converted D200 to make the shot.   I’m always looking for places that fit what I refer to as “Americana” and this fits the bill perfectly.  

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Cadillac Ranch

About a year ago I heard of a collection of old cars in Southwest Virginia.   It turns out the owner at one point was in the business of auto restoration.  At the time of my visit he was looking for a buyer.  There were at least 40 or 50 cars in this collection but they were packed tightly together and this limited my particular style of photography.   As I recall many of the cars were old Cadillacs and Buicks, thus the name for this post. 

As in most of my night photography, this shot is a composite.  I lit the interior of each car first and then worked the scene with light.  

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Alone in the Forest

I’m a photographer first,  that much is certain.  When I finished processing this picture I then starting writing this blog.  From the start I was not even sure I would end up with a picture worth sharing, yet as soon as I finished processing the picture I knew what I wanted to say.  As photographers I think we strive to tell a story with our images.  Some images immediately tell a story but those are usually rare and infrequent, and  I would suggest these image are also quite powerful.  It is what we strive to do and most of the time fail to achieve.  

The story is not quite obvious with other images.   In this case the story I’m telling is a stop along my journey as a night photographer.   While I’m pretty happy with my skill set when it comes to taking images at night,  I’m always looking to improve or take my pictures to the next level.  On this night I was using a new light and obtaining a good white balance with this light is was turning out to be quite a challenge.  The benefit of this light is that it will run for an hour with a single charge, something my other high power lights will not do.  But the tradeoff is a very cold light (in terms of color temperature).   

Recently I have been integrating light orbs into some of my night and UrbanEx photography.  There are some who have decided to spend their entire photographic pursuit just shooting these orbs.  Well not me!  I like them, but I will be the first to tell you that I don’t think they are the pinnacle of night photography.   I view them as another technique and not at all essential.  Perhaps this take it or leave it attitude will prevent me from achieving greatness with the orbs but I can live with that. 

As with much night photography you need to pre-visualize the scene.   I originally thought I would shoot the scene vertically and I did, but you will never see that photo because it just did not work.  Luckily I also shot the scene horizontally and I think this works a bit better.    Without the orb this is just a tree lined road and not sufficient to make an interesting picture.  I think the orb adds another dimension to the shot and in this case makes it complete.   Photography is a  journey and you need to work through shots like this in order to work toward the next level. 

In the photo above I was in the Rapidan Wildlife Management area of Shenandoah National Park.  I’m several miles from the nearest real road without cell phone service and thus “Alone in the Forest”.

Friday, May 25, 2012

One More

I just finished my first edit of the field of flowers I wrote about in the previous post and wanted to share one more.   I just love how the edges fold together and the image becomes more about shape and color. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Explosion of Color

It seems that each year I do some flower photography but never quite as much as I wish.  A couple weeks ago I was driving on a highway exit ramp and noticed a beautiful field of poppies in between the highway and the ramp.  I did what I absolutely hate to do and got up before sunrise to shoot the flowers.  I was on site for at least an hour before the light got too harsh.  In addition to using my Lensbaby for most of my shots, I also had fun shooting with my iPhone.  One of the (many) great things about shooting with the iPhone is that I can edit the pictures and post to Facebook and Twitter before I get home.  

Friday, May 18, 2012

Dodge Truck

I shot this old Dodge truck about a year ago.   At the time it was my intention to blog about the shot, but I had a pending invitation to speak about Night Photography and Light Painting at the Loudoun Camera Club and decided to keep the image and several others off the blog until after my lecture.   I did put the picture up on my website, but these days most people spend their time on Facebook and Twitter and I think as a result don’t spend as much time visiting photo websites.  

Back to the picture.  As with most of my light painting the shot is a composite of multiple images.  I keep the tripod stable and move around the scene lighting the truck, and background from different angles.  I find that shooting multiples allows me much more flexibility when it comes to creating the final product.   I had another photographer with me when I shot this scene and sent him the final composite, his reply was something along the line of “I never envisioned that”.  The other part of shooting composites is you really need a vision before you start shooting.  Then you spend your time working to create that vision!  

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Beautiful Day?

I think nearly everyone would agree that the shot above would be considered a beautiful morning and truly it was a beautiful morning, but not for photography!  I have shot this scene on Sparks Lane in Cades Cove several times and each time I’m denied what I really seek.   While I’m certainly happy with the above panorama, I would really be happy if I had a nice layer of fog that hugged the ground with the sun breaking through.   I have no idea how often this occurs in Cades Cove, but I’m under the impression that it happens often enough that many other photographers have gotten the shot. 

The Smoky Mountains National Park is such a wonderful place that it is nearly impossible to have a bad day and fog or not, there are not many other places I would rather be, given the choice.  

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Shupe’s Chute

Last Sunday was the last day in a great week of photography.  I concluded the week at Holly River State Park in West Virginia.   From a photographic standpoint it seems this park is often overlooked because I have rarely seen work that is shot in this location.   The photo above is a feature called Shupe’s Chute.  It sits between the upper and lower falls on an area at the edge of the park.  What you can’t see in the picture is the dramatic water chute that flows about 15 feet before falling into a deep plunge pool.    I tried to get in a better position, but the rocks were very slippery and I did not feel like losing a camera and going for a swim. 

This was my second visit to the park and I find it very appealing so a return trip is a must.  

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Underground

The Underground           

Recently I had the opportunity to do a little urban exploration and photography of an area called the DuPontUnderground.   It is what remains of an old trolley line under the DuPont Circle area of Washington, D.C.  The area is currently being considered for renovation.  The shot above uses a combination of existing light and shadows with a little bit of light painting to complete the composition.  

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Waiting for Spring to Arrive

While spring has arrived in the D.C. Area, it has not arrived in the nearby mountains.  I spent the last 2 weekends hiking in the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia.   The trees are starting to leaf out at the lower elevations.  I’m looking forward to shooting wildflowers, waterfalls, and streams in the next few weeks.    

The photo above was taken on the Rapidan River last spring, an area I hope to revisit this year.  

Friday, March 30, 2012

Dogs Love Trucks

And so do I.  It’s not that I spend much time thinking about my love for trucks but when I see one like this I stop in my tracks.   While I consider myself primarily a landscape photographer, I could easily take a year off and shoot nothing but old rusty cars and trucks.  Unfortunately I just don’t know of enough places where I can find these magnificent machines.  When I do get a line on something like this I don’t hesitate to shoot them.  Experience has taught me they will not be there forever.  A favorite I used to call the “car farm” recently sold their entire collection because steel prices were just too good to refuse.   I can only hope that somewhere people are parking today’s old cars so another generation will have the opportunities I have had in another few decades.   After all it takes time for them to age in place. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Blue Poppies

Yesterday I took a day off work to go to Longwood Gardens to shoot the Blue Poppies with a couple of friends.   Having heard that this year’s display was the best in recent memory I was not disappointed.  Also known as the Himalayan Blue Poppy,  it is my understanding they can be difficult to grow and perhaps the reason why the displays at Longwood vary from year to year.  One of my other challenges is to try and capture something I find compelling and yet different from what I have shot in the past.    Yesterday was a good day!  

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tropical Paradise

What seems like a several months ago now,  I was in Key West taking a well-deserved vacation.  It was not a photo vacation, but I did take some equipment because I was hoping to visit the Dry Tortugas.   There are 2 ways to get there, by boat or plane.  As I recall the boat ride takes 2 ½ hours each way, the plane was about 40 minutes.  I chose the sea plane and I’m really glad I did .  The ride was fantastic!   I really enjoyed shooting Fort Jefferson but wish there was a way other than camping that would allow me to shoot there for either sunrise or sunset.  

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Fabulous Tuckers

A couple of weeks ago an article came across my desk about a collection of Tucker cars in Alexandria, Virginia.  I grew up in Alexandria and was a bit surprised that I had never heard of this collection.   After reading the article, I started making some inquiries and was soon put in touch with David Cammack who is the owner of this impressive collection.  That’s Mr. Cammack in the picture above with car number 1001.   

For those who are unaware the Tucker was the dream of Preston Tucker who created 51 prototype vehicles of which only 47 remain today.  The Tucker was a revolutionary automobile for its time.  For instance, the center headlight turned with the steering wheel when making more than a 10 degree turn.  Only recently have some high end vehicles added headlights that project into turns.  

If you look at my photography you might notice that I shoot old cars whenever I get the chance.  That’s because I love cars!  I have spent my  entire adult life working in the automotive industry and my interest in cars is more than skin deep.  I love design and color, but I’m just as fascinated with the technical aspects.  I spent 3 hours with Mr. Cammack ,only about half the time taking pictures.  As he gave me the tour he kept asking if I had questions, but truthfully, I had few.  I was just trying to soak up everything he was sharing and marveled at some of the unique engineering on these vehicles. 

Photographing these cars was quite a challenge.  The cars do not move and photographically speaking I was not thrilled with the distracting backgrounds.   So I decided to turn out all the lights and shoot with flash.   This offered me a way to control the light and minimize distractions.  

If you want to learn more here is the link to the TuckerClub Website.  

Monday, February 13, 2012

Shooting with the iPhone

When it comes to cell phone photography there seems to be 2 types of people.  You either love it or just don’t get it.    I certainly fall into the “love it” category.  The other day I was listening to an episode of The Grid on Kelby TV and heard a quote attributed to Jay Maisel.   It was something to the effect of  “if you want to be a better photographer, you have to take pictures every day”.  That might not be the exact quote, but it certainly brings home the point I want to make.  The iPhone lets me take pictures almost every day!  That is something that is just not possible with my DSLR. 

In the shot above I was driving down route 7 in Tysons Corner and the road was detoured under the new construction for the Metro.  Traffic came to a stop and with iPhone in hand I got this shot of the massive horizontal crane they are using to construct the above ground sections.   After capturing the picture I later finished it with an app called Painteresque. 

I often post my iPhone pictures on my Facebook PhotographyPage and my Twitter account.   If you want to see what I’m shooting be sure to follow those accounts.  

Monday, February 6, 2012

Tulips Under Ice

Two weeks ago I did a post on shooting tulips in a macro studio.   After spending an hour or so working on the tulips on my workbench, I submerged them in water and put them in the freezer overnight.   Working with flowers in a block of ice is a lot of fun, but at the same time it can be a little limiting.  The composition in ice is set, the only variables are camera angle and lighting.   Still this is something I really enjoy doing when time permits.  

Monday, January 30, 2012

Lonaconing Silk Mill


At first you might think that I’m a little late to the party that is known as the Lonaconing Silk Mill.  Actually I have been shooting this location since the spring of 2011 thanks to my friends Arthur Ransome andChuck  Robinson.  But I never got around to processing many of the images much less sharing them.  Here is one from my 2nd visit early last summer.  This is an amazing location, the mill was shut down in 1957 and everything inside is frozen in time.  Unfortunately the mill is in pretty bad condition and its future is uncertain.  Being able to photograph a location that is untouched for over 50 years has been a real treat.  

Monday, January 23, 2012

Macro Studio

While walking through the grocery store this past Saturday I noticed some small bunches of tulips.  It occurred to me that it had been a couple years since I did any “macro studio” work.   This is something I really enjoy doing but for some reason I find that I don’t do it often.  I must admit that I’m feeling a bit out of practice.  I decided to use a couple of textures on top of the original shot.  It’s not that I wanted to go “grunge” but felt the basic shot was a bit boring and ordinary.    

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Guest Photographer

A couple months ago I was asked to be a Guest Photographer on a site called Fotopelak.   Besides posting to Twitter, Facebook and my Blog, I don’t spend any time publicizing my work. I would rather spend my time making pictures than trying to promote my work.  In spite of this, over the last couple years I have been approached by a number of people in regards to my photography.  With so much photography on the internet it is truly amazing that my work occasionally stands out.   

After getting the request I had to decide what to share.  While I consider myself a nature photographer I decided to submit a collection of old cars.  Click here for a link to my gallery.

Monday, January 9, 2012


Last October I spent a couple days in the Delaware Water Gap area of PA, but upon my arrival I discovered that peak fall foliage had already passed.  I decided to do a quick middle of the day trip to Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton, PA.   While the restoration shop was off limits, there was still a lot to shoot.   If I’m ever back in that area I will certainly head back for a 2nd visit.