Hello everybody I hope you have been enjoying this amazing winter we have been experiencing, while I am completely tired of getting out the snow blower the opportunities for photography have been incredible. Since the last time I posted on this blog I have been half way around the world to China as well as Mt. Fuji , Japan and as far north as Yellowknife Canada shooting the Northern lights. However I think the best image I made this winter was right here in Mahwah, NJ at the Ramapo Reservation along the Ramapo River. During the first pretty snowfall of the season I knew the park would be a great place for winter images and as late afternoon arrived the storm had started to break up, it dawned on me that the river set up perfectly flowing west and the potential for some late day sunset color was possible. I found a spot that had a beautiful reflecting pool and then worked on a composition, Mother Nature did the rest.
We are so fortunate to have these resources at our disposal although I have the good fortune traveling around the world to shoot I still think I create my best images here at home in the local parks and trails I have come to know so well.
Have faith the spring and summer will be here soon where you will be reading a post from me complaining about the heat ☺
The culmination of a very long, hard climb on a bone-chilling, dry January day, this image made in 2000, is a portrait of the highest point on Wittenberg Mountain, one of the most dramatic and inaccessible peaks in the Catskills. Although many hikers may disagree with my use of the term “inaccessible” (in truth, it’s not that hard of a climb), it was to us that day. I was accompanied by my friend Ed and dog Jenny. From the parking area, Ed and I crossed the swinging bridge spanning a small creek that leads to the trail head, while Jenny opted to wade the creek. We met at the trail head and marveled at Jenny’s completely stiff, frozen hair. The result of a 5 second immersion in water at 18 degrees fahrenheit. She, in typical fashion, shrugged it off as she flew up the trail ahead of us. Ed and I were moving slower however. At this point in 2000, I was still using my beloved 1972 Burke and James 8×10 inch view camera that sat on a Ries wooden tripod capable on supporting cameras as big as 7×17 inches (film size). Both are now relegated to backup duty because I cannot climb with them on my back. Ansel Adams and Edward Weston both used the same tripod. Its weight combined with the rest of the equipment (plus lunch, water and extra clothing) reached an intolerable 65 pounds. Thus, in 18 degree air, I ferried such a load that within ten minutes I had stripped down to a T-shirt and still soaked it with sweat! The rest of the trip to the summit was a slog occasionally interrupted by a fast downward slide on thin snow-covered ice that brought me painfully to my knees. We reached the summit forest of fragrant balsam and red spruce at lunch time. Within seconds of stopping for a drink of water, we froze in our wet shirts and scrambled for more clothing. Now suddenly we could not get warm! The physical effort had ceased and our bodies were depleted. A quick lunch and warm drink helped but not for long. To add insult to injury a gentle breeze began to wash the summit adding windchill to our problems. I now worked quickly to find my intended image; determined not to freeze on this mountain. The trail lead us to a small clearing with a view facing northeast. High wind clouds dark with moisture began to move in from the southwest. My dog, dry and fed, was shivering from inactivity. I spotted a cliff edge with dead spruce trees leading to a verdant carpet of mountains spread before me. A small spruce crown topped the display. I was ready to work. As quickly as possible, I set up and made the image shown here. Calling it quits was easy. We packed and left having spent all of this energy to make one negative! I did not print this image until an exhibition called for it in 2004. I only print this photograph in large sizes such as 28×35 inches or larger. It doesn’t translate what I felt that day in smaller size. The huge expanse of mountain and sky, shadow and sunlight. The Catskill Mountains in a cold, clear alpine moment. A moment and a day I will never forget.
There is always a story. It never seems to be a simple quiet day of photography when I shoot. There is always a bigger lessons to be learned I guess. I was heading out to photograph an area slightly north of Ellenville,NY in the southern Catskills. A beautiful spot that fellow blogger Dean Cobin had taken me to weeks earlier. My intentions were to shoot the same brook again and explore the area a little further. It’s always interesting to go back to the same spots under different conditions. On this day the stream I wanted to shoot had turned into small ponds because of the fallen leaves, not what I was expecting. Walking was treacherous and I wasn’t prepared to get wet. Mistake numero uno. Having been discouraged I hiked back out and set off to look for a swimming hole named Blue Hole. It was at this point that mistake two kicked in. I didn’t eat and drink enough when I left my house. A headache was coming but I could sense this was heading down a bad road. I was at the intersection of headache and migraine and it was one way on to migraine. Of course mistake three is in now in play immediately. You guessed it….no migraine medicine. I always have some around…..not this day. Now, I had driven all the way up there and I wasn’t letting a migraine slow me down or so I thought. I found the swimming hole I was looking for down a path. Slightly up above the swimming hole is this spot. Amazing moss on the rocks. It looks like flowing hair. However it was on the other side of the creek. At this point the migraine is worsening but I could see the shot. Am I really letting this stop me? To make a long story much shorter I got the shot, smartened up and got out of there as my condition was getting worse. I drove back to Ellenville and feel asleep in a McDonalds parking lot. I woke up an hour later feeling slightly better, got some food and downed some medicine.
Reflecting back it may not have been the smartest move to continue shooting. I’ve had these problems in the past and it can get a little dicey. My preparedness needs to be much better. Lesson learned. You learn every time you shoot. Maybe it’s not always about photography. There are plenty of other realizations that you come to that weren’t expecting as your shooting. Having said all of that I think the image is successful and I will be going back on a full stomach and a bottle of migraine medicine close by.
Another shot from my fall project. I’ve been following the changing fall colors starting in the Adirondacks and will continue into South Jersey into November. I’ve visited the Adirondacks, shot in the Catskills and this past weekend in Harriman State park. Next weekend I will be somewhere in New Jersey. The colors in Harriman were beautiful this weekend. If you love to shoot or hike check out Harriman before the colors disappear.
This image was taken from an outcrop on Pine Swamp Mountain. It was an adventurous morning getting there but I was able to get to the top as the sun was rising. The hike to the top is easy and its a great view. A little tricky to shoot because finding a composition that works can be tough. I’ve scouted this spot in the past and wasted no time figuring out the composition. As the sun was rising the landscape was getting brighter but I was waiting for the direct light to peak through. The fog in the distance was holding nicely. As the light was breaking through the early morning clouds to my left it began to light up the hill in the scene. Landscape shooting is about patience and waiting. Once the light hit the trees I fired away.
I like the bight colors against the overall darkness of the scene. Would I have like better clouds in the scene? You bet. However, you work with the cards that are dealt. I think the image is a beautiful capture of a stunning morning in a beautiful park.
I was recently in the Adirondacks shooting at Connery Pond. I got up very early and drove down a dirt road that led to the pull out near the trail head. It was pitch black as I was driving through the forest but as I turned the corner I saw beams of light being directed in all directions. Groups of photographers wearing headlamps. I wasn’t alone, I should have known. I knew this was a popular spot but I wasn’t expecting this many people. Once I found a place to park I worked my way through the woods to the pond. I could faintly see the largest group beginning to set up their equipment. Not wanting to be a part of that group I decided to set up shop further down to the left. There was a pretty dense fog covering the entire pond rendering visibility to way less than 100 yards. Knowing there was time before I was going to shoot I struck up a conversation with a woman who informed me that the large group was a camera club from New Jersey. To my left about 40 yards away was a photographer that I follow online,Chris Kayler. He apparently got into an accident with a tractor trailer the day before and rolled his car twice. Totaled it. No hospital for him but a trip to the rental car facility and kept the trip moving. He’s young. The quiet sounds of digital shutters began to take hold as the fog began to lift revealing Whiteface mountain in the distance. It really was beautiful. As the fog completely lifted most of the group had left to go shoot somewhere else. I wandered down to shoot a couple last shots by the trail before leaving. After such a large gathering all morning it was down to me and 2 other people on the other side of the creek. As I was packing up it turns out that one of the two guys left was fellow NYNJTC blogger Dean Cobin and a buddy of his. After catching up we decided to go to another location and continue shooting. It’s a crazy small world.
In a quest to find more hikes that have many photo opportunities I bring you Franklin Parker Preserve. The preserve is a series of sandy paths that intertwine around sections of pine forests, cedar swamps, streams and various bodies of water. The preserve is located in the Pine Barrens just outside of Chatsworth, NJ. For people who have never spent anytime in the Pine Barrens this is a great tune up to understanding the environment. Many people have driven through the Pine Barrens on the way to shore and never really paid attention. The Pine Barrens beauty needs to be experienced first hand. It is unique not only to New Jersey but the nation as a whole.
I’ve hiked in the preserve from both ends. There are 2 parking areas that allow easy access. I find shooting early and late here the most beautiful as the light will bring out the textures on the beautiful pines. The preserve is also set up for bird watching with platforms in the large open spaces. All kinds of birds including Eagles make the preserve their home.
It’s funny how the creative mind works. How can two photographers be in the same beautiful location and see the same elements but have two different visions on the final image. I’m fascinated by that process. It may be as simple as something we saw that triggered the process or maybe something deeper. Perhaps unexplainable or just plain innate. Either way here is our thoughts on shooting in the Catskills around Peekamoose Mountain last weekend.
Larry- What struck me about this spot were the long flowing lines and the x shape that formed between them. I tend to look for graphic shapes in my compositions. This was a natural. The x and lines are very strong compositional elements. They define the foreground and help draw your eye back to the cascades. The larger decision for me was how much of the background to show. I knew the cascading water was very important and the key to finishing the composition. The cascades provide the connection of the water from the foreground to the background. However, I wanted the main focus to be on the x and flowing water so cropping out the trees and the rest of the environment behind the cascades became necessary. Once that decision was made I positioned my camera with an 11-22mm lens low to accentuate that dynamic relationship, switched the camera to live mode and fine tuned the final capture.
Dean- Since I have been to this locations many times before I had pre-visualized a completely different shot however since this time I would be able to shoot from standing in the water, which normally due to conditions I have not been able to do this new composition entered my mind. From the new angle I saw the potential for beautifully defined flow lines which would be created with a long exposure, couple that with the perfect flow volume for the pour-offs which I also knew from experience would stay completely defined and clear the combination of the two generally makes for a nice image. The scene had great tonality and I was able to completely see this in Black and White in my mind’s eye. I like the way the image turned out probably one of the best of the day, hey every once in awhile you get lucky and it actually all works according to your plan for those who are interested this was a 30 sec. exposure the light was relatively low so it was easily achieved by stopping down to f22 I was using a polarizer to control the glare.