Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Lot of Texture

This picture started as a simple door that I shot early this year at the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum.  The roof above the doorway had been removed since my last visit in 2012.  I made the shot using a Lensbaby, but I still think the picture needed something else.  So I processed the picture using the new Flypaper Presets for Nik Color Effects and then finished it off with a texture from Flypaper Textures.  Now I think the image has sufficient texture and that something else!  

You can get a discount on flypaper products if you use the code “donr”.  

P.S.   I will be teaching a light painting workshop at this awesome location in late April.  Drop me an e-mail if you would like more info.  

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Learning to Paint


Last winter I was on Skyline Drive with Denise Silva (my partner at Road Runner) and we pulled over to shoot these fantastic crepuscular rays of light.  For the last couple weeks I have been going through images from this year and decided to see what I could do with this one.  The original image was a little noisy due to shooting at ISO 800.  The shadows also lacked detail, but what is important are the horizontal lines of the mountain ranges contrasted with the beam of light.  I decided that reducing the detail by using Alien Skin Snap Art could help me achieve the desired look I was seeking.  While Snap Art gives you plenty of presets, in this case I felt it necessary to do manual adjustments to give a painted look and also achieve the necessary level of detail.

I have taken a class on photo painting and with a lot of time and effort can do some of this by hand in Photoshop, but Snap Art saves a ton of time!  If you are interested in a discount on Snap Art, please send me an e-mail. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Light Painting


A couple weeks ago I took a group from our Meetup to the Lonaconing Silk Mill.  At this point I have been to the mill more times than I can count, however, I seem to always find something new to shoot.   In the light painting above I can’t take credit for the arrangement.   I had found some items arranged on this shelf and told one of the participants, suggested she give it a try and I would help with the light painting.  The participant was a teenager and in this case I really enjoyed watching the creative process.  She started out by looking at the arrangement of items in front of her and after what seemed like a few minutes started rearranging items to suit her taste.   In my opinion she came up with a much stronger design than what was on the shelf a few minutes earlier.   I found it fascinating to watch this young talent at work! 

By the way, I used the new Perfect Photo Suite from OnOne Software to process this image. 

We will be going back to the Silk Mill on March 29th, so check out our Meetup page if you would like to join us!  

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Winter has arrived




Last weekend I had the pleasure of taking a road trip with friends Donna and Jeff.   Our eventual destination was Johnstown, PA for a little Urban Exploration, but along the way we had a great time shooting barns and frozen lakes.   I live in the Washington DC area and some winters it does not get cold enough for the streams and ponds to freeze.   It was a real bonus being able to get in a little macro ice shooting. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

My Latest Light Painting


Two weeks ago our Road Runner Photography Tours Meetup Group spent the afternoon and more importantly the evening at Carrie Furnace in Rankin, PA.   We had 15 photographers clicking away on everything from some standard light painting like the train car above to my friend Jeff spinning woolies.   I always find it amazing how light can turn the ordinary into something extraordinary.   The giant thermos on rails above in my opinion is a boring shot during the day, but throw in some light painting of the foreground and a 2 minute exposure of the moving clouds and you get something much more than ordinary.  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Gas Deck


High above the ground at this old iron furnace is the gas purification deck.  I’m no expert on the steel making process, but it is my understanding the gases that resulted from the process of making iron were captured and reused in other areas of what was once the Homestead Works. Today Carrie Furnace is what remains, a small part of what was once a vast steel mill on the Monongahela River.  Last Saturday I took a group from RoadRunner Photography Tours Meetup to this really cool site.  We are currently making plans for a return trip next spring!    

I’m just starting to process the images and am really looking forward to working on the ones that were made after dark! 

The image above was made with Topaz Black and White Effects with a little of the original color mixed in.  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Closed for the Season

Last weekend we wrapped up our photography tour in Cape May, NJ.  Every time I visit Cape May I find more to like about this little town on the shore.  This year my tour partner Denise Silva and I arrived a day early to do some scouting and that included exploring the little coastal towns along the South Jersey shore.  Each town seems to have a unique personality.  Considering that these towns are so close to each other it is quite surprising they are so different from each other.  I really enjoyed working with the different levels  of photographic talent, some of our more experienced participants were a great source of inspiration and it was great to help our beginners improve over the weekend. 

My only disappointment was not being able to find an open shop for Ice Cream.

We will be going back to Cape May next October.  We would  love to have you join us in the great location!  

Monday, October 21, 2013

White Oak Canyon After Dark


This past weekend Road Runner Photography Tours held a Meetup in the White Oak Canyon section of Shenandoah National Park.  We had great conditions for waterfall photography because Mother Nature was kind enough to provide a mostly cloudy day, and for a photographer this is perfect for waterfalls.  After dark myself and a few others decided to hang out and provide some of our own light.  Considering we had a 2 mile hike out in the dark I only did this one shot of the lower falls, but I’m really happy with how it turned out.  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Remembering the Smokies

I’m taking an evening off from photographing fall color to work on some images from the Smokey Mountains this past spring.  We are planning to tour the Smokey Mountains again in 2014, if you would like to join us please check out the Road RunnerPhotography Tours site.  Spring in the Smokies is always a nice time!  

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Almost Back to Nature

Last weekend I visited Scranton Lace Factory for the second time this year.  While I think my first visit was very productive, last weekend offered me the ability to slow down and really work on some things that I had missed and work on some things that needed improving.   But after about 5 hours on site I hit a mental wall and it was time to pack it up and go home.   My friend Jeff Johnson seemed to also hit his mental wall about the same time as I did, so this worked out perfectly.    

For me good photography requires thought and concentration and as a result I get mentally tired after a period of time.   I also notice that if I am preoccupied or bothered about something, the quality of my work suffers.   At the same time I know several photographers who don’t seem to suffer from this condition.   As they say,  we are all different and as time goes by I find that I need to worry less about what works or does not work for others, instead learn what works and does not work for me.   I have always felt that photography is a journey, but today I would likely call it a creative journey and photography just happens to be the medium I use to express my vision. 

This weekend I start what will be a couple weeks of Nature Photography.  I will be leading a photo tour in West Virginia and I’m really excited to get back to nature and share the experience with a group of people.   Then over the next couple weeks I plan to chase the fall color into Pennsylvania and then back to Virginia.   

By the way, the picture above is the last remaining loom at Scranton Lace. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Carrie Furnace

In November we will be hosting a rather unique meetup at the Carrie Furnaces in Rankin, PA, but first a little history.  The Carrie Furnaces were part of the Homestead Steel Works located on the Monongahela River outside of Pittsburgh.  Today all that remains on this site are the number 6 and 7 blast furnaces.  Built in 1907,  the furnaces produced iron for the Homestead Works from 1907 until 1978.   

This facility appears quite large when you first visit, but as I researched the history  I found myself wishing that more of the site remained.   The unique thing about our visit in November is we will be the first group to ever photograph the location after dark!   I’m really looking forward to light painting parts of this facility.

For the picture above, I used a Lensbaby Composer Pro with a double glass optic.  Considering that pipes seemed to run in every possible direction, I used the Lensbaby to help simplify the shot. 

If you want to see more of this great location, check out the small gallery I posted on Flickr.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


When I press the shutter these days I try to not only envision what I see through the viewfinder, but also what I envision in my mind.   Recently I was talking to another photographer who commented that he strives to get it right in camera and was not interested in playing on the computer.    When you take the image the camera has no idea about your creative vision, it just captures the photons.   I think most of us see the scene in our minds first and sometimes do not consider that the electronics of the camera might not be seeing the same thing.

This image is a good example of that concept.  I took it a few months ago while leading a tour at the Trans Allegheny LunaticAsylum.  When I pulled up this image the other day, I felt that it was more of a cold stark image and did not fully reflect what I saw in my mind when I took the picture.  In order to get a darker and I think creepier picture I used Topaz Adjust to realize my vision. 

This month Topaz is putting Adjust on sale for 50% off the regular price.  Just use the code “septadjust” at checkout.  You can also download a trail version of the software.  

Friday, August 16, 2013

Cowgirl in the Rain

Last Tuesday evening I was at the Prince William County Fair with a great group of folks from the Road Runner Photography Tours Meetup!   We were doing just fine and then mother nature decided that things should get more interesting.  So the heavens opened up and we decided to try and get under cover.  While hanging out someone noticed the great lighting that was on the cowboys and cowgirls.   Photography is all about capturing a moment in time.  Sometimes when we are lucky our work shows that exact moment.  

Monday, August 12, 2013

Working the Details

I love car shows but my issue has always been that they tend to be held during the middle of the day.  Not the best time of day for photography due to often harsh lighting conditions.  Recently I heard of a show in Great Falls, VA that is held early Saturday mornings.  That helps with nice light but distracting objects are another factor with car shows.  With lots of people walking around and backgrounds beyond my control, it’s really hard to get a nice shot of the car.  So that left me with one option, work the details.  I decided when I arrived that I would just use a Lensbaby with the Sweet 35 lens.  This lens lets me focus reasonably close and due to the out of focus edges keeps the viewer’s eye in the middle of the frame.    

In case you are wondering, this is the rear of a ‘63 Corvette with a split rear window.  

Monday, July 29, 2013

Palouse Day Eight

What a great trip we had  to The Palouse.  Eight days on the ground and covering over 1800 miles made for an epic photographic journey.  Best of all was sharing this with a great group of friends who are equally passionate in our pursuit of photographic art!  The photo above is of the iconic Dahmen Barn wheel fence in Uniontown, WA.    I shot this using an infra-red converted D200

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Palouse Day Seven

On our seventh morning we were lucky enough to find this crop duster working a field.  We had seen these planes earlier in the week, but never so close to the road.  At times my 80-400mm lens was too much, especially when he would fly overhead.   It was amazing to watch as he never sprayed the road or us for that matter.   I think he made about a half dozen passes before moving on.  The hard part was choosing a favorite from the 170 images I took of this plane.  

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Palouse Day Six

Regular readers of my blog know that I love old cars and trucks.  The Palouse was a jackpot for these old gems!   I shot this one with my infrared converted D200.  

Monday, July 15, 2013

Palouse Day Five

On the afternoon of day five we took a 2 hour drive to Palouse Falls.  It is remarkable how much the landscape changes when you leave farmland of the Palouse area. 

What you cannot see are the wall to wall line of photographers that were on both sides of me at sunset.   Luckily I had staked out my spot before the crowds arrived. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Palouse Day Three

As I continue my series of one picture from each day in Palouse,  I think day 3 was a little harder than the first two.  Now don’t get me wrong,  I really love the truck above and barns that I posted last week on Road Runner Photo Tours, both also shot on day 3.  It’s just that much of the work in between these 2 images fell short of my expectations.   In my opinion you can't hit home runs every time!   

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Take Time to Photograph the Flowers

Last Sunday evening I grabbed my camera and tripod and did a little photo walk around the neighborhood.  I like traveling to great locations but don’t forget the locations next door!   In the case of the flowers, I just setup my tripod on the sidewalk of a neighbor’s house and clicked away.  

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Palouse Day Two

During our trip we stayed in Moscow ID.  This great old barn was just outside of town so we got to shoot it in a variety of light.  I think this morning was one of my favorites.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

All Roads Lead to Jerome


This little church is located right in the middle of Jerome, VA, but I’m getting ahead of myself.   I was hiking on Sunday in the National Forest and I usually have my IR Converted D200 with me when I hike.  After finishing my hike I decided to do a little back road scouting and came upon this church.  Years ago my family had a small house in the Shenandoah Valley and it seemed like we always would see road signs pointing to Jerome.  I don’t think I ever followed those signs, but I’m glad I did this past weekend.  

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Palouse Day One

I just returned home from a week in The Palouse with my tour partner Denise Silva and 5 of our friends.   The Palouse is located in south eastern Washington.   It is easily the most beautiful farming country I have ever seen.  We had a great but grueling week.   We drove over 1800 miles during 8 days, but traveling in a Cadillac Escalade made the journey quite enjoyable. 

I spent a good part of yesterday evening downloading and cataloging images from my recent trip to The Palouse.  My cataloging process starts with importing the images into Lightroom and adding keywords and geotaging.   After ingesting over 5000 images, I started the long process of reviewing and editing.   The image above is a favorite from the first evening.  

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Pink Panorama

I just arrived home after spending a week in the Palouse region of Washington.   This spring has been pretty much nonstop photography and I have been loving every minute of it!   One of my problems has been staying current on image processing.   It seems that some photographers are really proficient at processing and posting while still  on the road or very soon after returning home.  I fall into the second category where I work with my images sometimes weeks, months or years after a shoot. 

In the spirit of much delayed image posting, here is a panorama I shot at the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum 2 years ago.  I will be leading  photo tours of the Asylum in July and September. Please call the Asylum to register if you’re interested in attending.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Stop the Car!

Last weekend I was driving through Pennsylvania with friends when these clouds appeared.   Knowing there was an old abandoned industrial site at the next exit, we hoped the clouds would last.  We shot this scene for about 10 minutes before the texture in the sky disappeared and the day went back to being overcast.   But not all was lost,  the weather was perfect for waterfalls and out next destination was Ricketts Glen.  

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Last Saturday I got together with some friends to shoot wildflowers.  Normally we would get up early for such an event, but the weather forecast called for clouds so we figured we would be okay starting later than normal.   The only problem was moments after we starting working, the sky started clearing and the wind picked up making our efforts a bit more difficult and we soon decided to leave. 

Over the last couple of years I have given considerable thought to the concept of quality and quantity.  I have decided that I’m  happy if I get a good picture, after all, this is about my craft and such things should not be rushed or diluted by volume.   In this case I think the picture above was worth the effort.  

Friday, May 3, 2013

Start Big

Usually the advice one hears when learning something new is to “start small”.  When it comes to light painting I did just the opposite.  I learned to light paint landscapes first and  then learned to light paint small scenes.   I’m sure the typical advice to start small is good advice, but in my case I don’t think it made a difference.   Light painting is a trial and error process for the most part and it just depends on your ability to visualize a scene and adapt your technique to get the direction of light and exposure you desire.  

Monday, April 29, 2013

A Quick Update

My Blog updates have been a little less frequent than I would like.  I have been fairly busy shooting recently and just returned home from a week in the Smoky Mountains.    Rather than heading straight home I took a 3 hour detour and spent a day at Old Car City.  I’ll post more on both trips soon.  

Monday, April 15, 2013



Getting to this point was easy, going further would have been foolish.   I visited this site a couple months ago, the plant in the background looked appealing, but with large sections of the cat walk missing this was not the way to go.  

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Odd Numbers

While waiting for spring, I’m digging into the archives for some material to share.  This shot was taken a couple of years ago in Cape May with my friend Tony Sweet.  Tony teaches in Cape May each year and when his busy schedule permits, he invites friends to join him for a couple of days of pre-workshop fun.   

Monday, March 4, 2013

Stepping Back in Time

This quaint little place is called Melvin’s.   Actually that’s just part of the name, but for me Melvin’s works best to describe the location.   The place is part junk yard, part car collection and of course a repair shop.  I shot this on my second visit to Melvin’s last fall.  Unfortunately this great location is not close to home, but you can be sure I’ll stop and visit whenever possible.  

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Something Different

During my recent trip to St. Albans my friend Denise Silva was working on some self-portraits.  Considering this was  a former asylum, I was striving for a look that might fit a former resident in distress.  

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Something Simple

A few weeks ago I visited St. Albans in Radford, Virginia.  The former school and asylum is now undergoing some modest redevelopment, but is still open for ghost tours and occasional photo tours.  Much of the facility I found lacking because there was just not enough decay.  But this is a personal bias and I suspect others might find this a fantastic location.  One high point was when I visited the basement and found this small cell,  I felt like I hit the jackpot.  The texture of the peeling paint is some of the best I have ever seen.   

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Classic Shot


I think most of us have seen this shot before.   Not my version mind you, but shots taken by others.  It is a classic, as far as DC monuments are concerned.   Sometimes I struggle with shots like this, because if everyone else has done it why do I want to?  Is it just to replicate someone else’s work, or is there some way I can make it mine?   I have not answered this question in my own mind yet, and I’m not sure that I ever will.  But I think the question is worth pondering. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Barren and Blue


Winter is turning out to be a slow and non-productive time for me this year.  So I’m digging into the archives to post another shot from the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum.     

Monday, January 21, 2013



Two weeks ago I made my 2nd recent trip to Pennhurst Asylum.   While the campus is huge, most of the buildings are off limits due to asbestos or other hazards.  Currently the site is used as a mulch facility, haunted house and paranormal tours.  Only recently has the owner been open to photography tours.  The scene above is the raised sidewalks that connect most of the buildings.  Under the sidewalks are tunnels, but we did not have access to them this time.  

Monday, January 14, 2013

It's how I feel

After I finished editing and processing this picture I realized how my emotions influence my work.   Suffice it to say that today I was not in one of my better moods.   Thus I think I ended up with a picture that perhaps conveys a sense of my mood.    Some will just see an old car, but I think others might sense just a bit more.  

Friday, January 4, 2013

Every Picture Tells a Story

A couple of years ago I was shooting at Lorton Prison with Corey Hilz and a couple other friends and just before our time was up, Corey found this picture of an American flag inside one of the maximum security cells.   On my next trip to Lorton I made sure to find this cell.  On the inside of some of the cells you find a variety of drawings, posters and such that perhaps provide a little insight into the former residents.  Finding an American flag in a place like this is a favorite of mine. 

A few years ago access to Lorton was limited to a select few, not because of any arrangement, because it takes time to navigate the necessary channels.  Well now the secret is out an a number of photo clubs and groups have been shooting this place for the last year.  So last fall I was looking for this cell to work on this shot once more.  I was certain I was in the right area, but this cell eluded me.  Then I found that someone had shut the locker door so the flag was not exposed.  I’ll never know for sure, but I suspect it was another photographer that thought they had found something unique and by closing the door would deprive others of getting the shot.