Monday, June 6, 2022

Dandelions - The Unseen Beauty

Dandelions - The Unseen Beauty

Dandelions, Like All Things In Nature, Are Beautiful When You Take Time To Pay Attention To Them - June Stoyer

The Lowly Dandelion

Ah.... The dandelion.... When it goes to seed, the dandelion is a single-use "toy" for children (young and old 😉); to the average homeowner it is a weed that needs to be eradicated. When it comes to me, I rather enjoy the way they look when they are yellow and am amazed at the complexity of the head when it goes to seed. It wasn't until I starting working from home full-time in March 2020 that I really discovered the wonder of this lowly weed.
If dandelions were hard to grow, they would be most welcome on any lawn. - Andrew Mason
It was then that I started turning my camera on things I found in my yard and, subsequently, discovered the beauty of many things we simply ignore in our everyday lives. This was the beginning of my "Backyard Boredom" ("Backyard Discoveries") project which proudly included the dandelion. I couldn't go anywhere so I started taking a good look at my back yard for inspiration. You can read all about the project here and here.

When life is not coming up roses look to the weeds and find the beauty hidden within them. - L.F.Young

Brevity is the word of the day and so I am just going to let the images speak for themselves. Let me know your thoughts about the dandelion in the comments below. Are you one who enjoys them or do you immediately reach for the Ortho sprayer to kill them?

If you enjoyed this post, please do me a small favor and share it with others. You will find buttons for many of the popular social media platforms at the bottom of this post. Thank you!


    Technical information:
  • Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T3i (crop sensor - 1.6 factor)
  • Lenses: Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
  • Tripod: MeFOTO Roadtrip Classic
  • ISO 100
  • All focal lengths are as-recorded - the full-frame equivalent in parenthesis.
  • Shutter tripped with wired shutter release.



Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Beauty in a Parking Lot

Beauty in a Parking Lot
All photos are copyright Joseph S. Valencia, All Rights Reserved. They may not be used in any way without express written permission of the photographer. If you wish to use any of the photos you may contact the photographer at valencia32photo@gmail.com

Roses

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." - William Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet)

I was in the parking lot of a local supermarket the other day waiting for my wife to finish her shopping. I was parked next to a "divider" with various bushes in it; among the bushes I found the beauties. I will freely admit that I am not very knowledgeable about plants and flowers but concensus seems to be that these are hybrid tea roses - specifically Adolf Horstmann.

As is often the case, the first thing I did was take out my phone and fire off a few images. The camera has a macro-mode so I used that and got in close. The first image shown here is from the phone, edited using Lightroom for Mobile on my Samsung tablet. I am always impressed by how good the images are coming from the phone, I wouldn't want to make a large print but they are nice for sharing online.

The rest of the images were made with my DSLR, as listed in the section below.

I quickly set up the tripod, attached my remote release, and mounted the camera. Quickly was key; one of the biggest obstacles in flower photography is wind and I could feel a slight breeze starting to blow. The closer you get to your subject, the more pronounced the problem. Of course, one way to combat movement is with a fast shutter speed but it was a cloudy, late afternoon and there was a lot of dark green to contend with. I don't like boosting my ISO beyond 400 and even that is a last resort. This meant working quickly, while at the same time being patient - sometimes having to wait a while for the wind to stop.

“We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses blooming outside our windows today.” – Dale Carnegie

I ended up with about a dozen different images of three (3) different blossoms; not bad considering I was leaning against my car and didn't move more than about five (5) feet the whole time. It is amazing what you can find if you just take the time to stop and smell the roses. 😃

I'm sure most of us see the plants growing in, and around, parking lots but how many actually stop to look at them? Do we notice but not really see them? What is the most unusual place that you have made images of flowers? What is the most unusual place you have made any image? I would love to hear your story in the comments below.

You can see more images from this photo session by visiting my Instagram - @Valencia32Photo.

If you enjoyed this post, please do me a small favor and share it with others. You will find buttons for many of the popular social media platforms at the bottom of this post. Thank you!


    Technical information:
  • Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T3i (crop sensor - 1.6 factor)
  • Lenses: Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
  • Tripod: MeFOTO Roadtrip Classic
  • ISO 100
  • All focal lengths are as-recorded - the full-frame equivalent in parenthesis.
  • Shutter tripped with wired shutter release.
  • Aperture-priority was used for all exposures used in this post
  • Information in parenthesis after exposure settings indicate "exposure compensation" setting, if used



Thursday, May 19, 2022

Art Exhibit - Summer Nights

Art Exhibit - Summer Nights

Summer Nights

“Holler if you’re ready for some summer nights.” – Rascal Flatts

I am happy to announce that I will have two (2) photographs, Childhood Memory Maker and Splash on the Rocks selected for the Summer Nights exhibit at The Gallery @ Thompson Park. I am even happier to announce that I will be joined by my daughter, Katie, who also will have a photograph in the exhibit. Check out Katie's Facebook page. The show runs June 3rd to August 10th, Wednesday to Sunday 12pm-4pm. There will be an Opening Reception on 3 June 2022 from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM.

All artwork is available for sale with 30% of the proceeds going to the gallery to help continue programs like this one. This is my fourth time exhibiting at The Gallery having participated in Into the Woods, The Silence of Winter, and Neon Spring. I will leave links to blogs posts about those exhibits below.

Childhood Memory Maker

Childhood Memory Maker is one of my favorite images and is an example of one of those times that keeping your eyes open pays off. I had stopped at the beach in Spring Lake because I saw one of the jettys covered in sea gulls. I walked over to the jetty and took a number of images of the birds, ocean, and rocks. I came away with a few reasonably good images but as I was walking back to the car I came across the winner!

I learned a long time ago not to put my camera away until I get back to the car. There have been a couple ocassions when I lost a great opportunity because I wasn't ready. I found this child's shovel abandoned in the sand; immediately drawn to it, I set out to find the composition. I knew it had the potential for being a special image but didn't realize how good it would be. The way the shovel is perched at the top of the "wave" of sand, perfectly undisturbed sand surrounding the shovel, and alternating pattern of light and dark sand repeating throughout was almost too good to be true.

I have been asked if I set this shot up and the answer is, "No, this is scene is exactly as I discovered it."

“Because there’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it’s sent away.” - Sarah Kay

A Splash on the Rocks

A Splash on the Rocks is from a series of images I made during sunrise at Ocean Grove. Whenever the ocean is involved (or any constantly changing subject) you never really know what you are getting until after the shutter is tripped. Sunrise at the beach is a special thing to witness and something I don't do nearly enough. While most sunrise/sunset photographs are wide-angle and show as much of the landscape (or in this case, seascape) as possible, I also like to get a bit more intimate with the scene.

Luck was with me this particular morning, the tide was rising and there were plenty of good-sized waves to add interest. After getting my rising sun peeking over the horizon I decided to get closer to the jetty to capture the interaction between the waves and jetty. One of the biggest challenges capturing water is choosing the right shutter speed for the ocassion. A high speed shutter will freeze the water, showing each individual droplet, bubble, and anything caught in the wave. The slower you go, the more "fluid" the water gets, blurring detail while showing motion. I prefer the slower speeds as I feel they have a calming affect to the viewer. There is just enough blur in this image to show motion, yet enough detail to show bubbles in the water and droplets flying away from the splash.

I hope you can get a chance to stop by the exhibit to see my photos up-close-and-personal but also to see the work of so many other talented artists - such as Katie. I also hope you will consider making a purchase while there to help support the arts and local artists.


If you enjoyed this post, please do me a small favor and share it with others. You will find buttons for many of the popular social media platforms at the bottom of this post. Thank you!




Saturday, May 14, 2022

Backyard Discoveries: Azaleas

Azaleas

Azalea Japonica

It was two (2) years ago that I published Lily of the Valley closely followed by Backyard Discoveries here; I also published My COVID-19 Backyard Boredom Project on my other blog. This blog post is a continuation of the project.

Capturing the Images

I live in a neighborhood where everyone has a mailbox at the end of their driveway, most with small flowerbeds planted around them. We have daffodils and a clematis planted in our bed and I often find myself sitting in the street setting up my tripod during various stages of the daffodil's life. I can only imagine how entertaining it must be for any neighbor watching as I try to stand up. 😉 😄 The other side of the driveway has two (2) small shrubs (I forget the name, but they are some type of dwarf shrub), the azalea bush, and an evergreen tree that grew up out of nowhere. I never really paid much attention to that side of the driveway but something caught my eye the other day and I am glad it did.

I noticed the red petals of the azalea against a dark green background, and wondered how many times I have looked at them but never really saw them. I ran (okay, I didn't run, I slowly walked) into the house, put the mail on the table, grabbed my gear and headed back out. It was an overcast day with a bit of a breeze making it challenging to get sharp images - I like to keep my ISO at 100 whenever possible, going as high as 400 if I have to. For those blooms in deep shadow I used a large aperture in order to keep the shutter speed up, something I usually don't do with flowers. The limited depth of field turned out to be a good thing in many of the images, would you agree?

The next day I was back out to the azalea bush again, the sun was out and there was almost no wind. The images used here were made over this two-day period.

Processing the Images

When I started my digital photography journey I shot exclusively in JPEG, mostly because I didn't understand RAW but also because I wasn't a firm believer in Photoshop. I was of the opinion that it was "cheating" and felt that way until a friend brought up Ansel Adams. Ansel was not only a master photographer, he was a master printer; spending hours perfecting the print with dodging and burning, along with other techniques. I realized that Photoshop, and Lightroom, were digital darkrooms and that it was okay to use them.

The majority of my post-processing is done in Lightroom, the only image in this post that saw any Photoshop work is the first one - that is actually a two-image focus stack that was blended in Photoshop after some editing in Lightroom.

Ordinarily, I would open up the shadows, bring down the highlights, bring up the "whites", darken the "blacks" and then do some fine-tuning of the overall exposure, contrast, vibrance, etc.... That was my "standard" editing workflow for quite some time; about the time of my "backyard discoveries" project I started modifying how I edit my flower images and I couldn't be happier with the results.

I start in the Calibration panel by tweaking the Red Primary, Blue Primary, and Green Primary saturation - I don't do anything with the hue or shadows in this panel. It is then that I go up to the Basic panel setting my white balance and then using "auto" to see what Lightroom thinks the image should look like and give me a jumping off point. This is the point that I start to deviate from my "normal" workflow.

Now I darken the overall image, especially the shadows. I use masking - often a radial filter - to work on my subject, brightening it up, opening up some of the shadows, bringing up some vibrance and fine-tuning the contrast. Depending on the image, I may then duplicate this mask, invert it, and further darken the background while decreasing saturation. I like the way this isolates the subject and creates a moody feel to the image. I have the RAW image, as-well-as the finished image, shown here so that you can see the difference.

The Rest

You can see more images from the two days I spent shooting the azalea bush by visiting my Instagram account - specifically here and here. You can see some other examples of this editing technique here and here.

If you enjoyed this post, please do me a small favor and share it with others. You will find buttons for many of the popular social media platforms at the bottom of this post. Thank you!


    Technical information:
  • Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T3i (crop sensor - 1.6 factor)
  • Lens #1: Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
  • Lens #2: Canon EF 75-300mm f/4.5-5
  • Tripod: MeFOTO Roadtrip Classic
  • ISO 100 (unless otherwise noted)
  • All focal lengths are as-recorded - the full-frame equivalent in parenthesis.
  • Shutter tripped with wired shutter release.



Sunday, April 24, 2022

Artistic Photography

Artistic Photography

What is "Artistic" Photography?

A friend of mine was "challenged" on Facebook to post an "artistic" photograph every day for ten (10) days. Dave is a retired sports photographer (see Interview with Sports Photographer Dave Schofield) and I love seeing his sports photos but he is also an accomplished landscape and travel photographer. His artisitic photos encouraged me to start doing the same, leading me to this blog post.

A quick search presented the following: "First and foremost, artistic photography has to be transformational, not merely representational. While you might happen to capture an incredible scene on your way to work, your photo can’t be considered art unless it has been changed in some way by your intelligence and thought process."1

The article goes on to say that this doesn't mean the image has to be manipulated or set up - it could be the act of "framing" the subject of the image or your choice of exposure. I tend to agree with this assessment, for the most part. The author of the article brings up some interesting points and I would recommend reading it (after you finish here, of course!) and have included a link below.

Moth Orchid

This beautiful blossom was found in the greenhouse at Deep Cut Gardens in Middletown. I had some time to spare before a meeting one day and decided to explore the greenhouse; about the only place at the park I wasn't very familiar with. Usually I will sit among the trees on the terraced grounds leading to the Rose Parterre but this day was a bit chilly and I wanted to see what was in the greenhouse.

I was initially drawn to the orchid's shimmering white petals with the yellow column; it is quite a stunning plant. I wanted a nice, tight shot and made a few images from different perspectives. When I got home I was happy with the color image but also thought it looked good in black & white. I took a closer look at the image when I was looking for an "artistic" image for Facebook. I started doing some creative editing using Lightroom and Silver Efex 2 Pro resulting in the final image presented here.

You can see another example of a Moth Orchid, this one in red, on my Instagram feed - here.

White Tulip

The white tulip is the only color image in this post, although, it is almost monochromatic. This image comes from an April 2012 trip to Deep Cut Gardens; at the time the parking lot had a median strip that served as a flower bed - the tulip was in that bed. I stopped at the park on my way home from work - it was still a couple hours from sunset but the sun was still fairly low in the sky. I was able to achieve the black background by metering, and exposing for, the brightest part of the white petals and setting the aperture "wide open" at f/5.6.

As usual, I checked the image on the back of the camera and was happy but it wasn't until I got home that I got the full effect. The background was darker than I expected but I was most happy about the hint of red in the background. The red streaks in the white flower, in addition to the blurred red tulip in the background, gave a nice accent to an otherwise monochromatic image.

Sunset @ Manasquan Reservoir

I know, a black & white sunset is insanity! Right? Well, for the most part sunsets (or sunrises) feature beautiful, multi-colored skies and, maybe, a lovely body of water. I cannot argue with that but I think the right sunset can be far more dramatic and awe-inspiring in monochrome. That is the case with this sunset, captured at Manasquan Reservoir in Howell. I was shooting a series of long exposures because there was a bit of a wind, the clouds were moving at a decent pace but I mostly wanted to smooth out the water. I was happy with the color version (you can see it here) but when I converted it to black & white and did some editing I thought it was much more dramatic.

I like using long exposures for sunsets because it takes something we all know quite well and makes it somewhat foreign to us. We cannot "see" a long exposure with our naked eyes, it is only something we can experience thru photography. I tend to use faster shutter speeds for sunrise because I am typically at the beach and the ocean waves can give some rather unpredicable results.

Moravian Cemetery - Hope, New Jersey

Raise your hand if you are a fan of the original Friday the 13th movie! Keep them raised if you recognize this scene from the movie. This is where Annie gets dropped off by the trucker before she heads down the road to Camp Crystal Lake. I have been wanting to visit this cemetery for years but never got the chance. This past October I finally got there. We had spent a few days in Pennsylvania, coming home thru "The Gap" and I realized remembered we weren't too far away. It was one of those days where we had nowhere to be and all day to get there so I set the GPS and headed back in time. We actually passed right by it without knowing.

The road is rather busy and there is no room to park so I pulled into the church parking lot, crossed the street and set the camera up on the corner. I have to admit, it was rather creepy being there and a level of uneasiness came over me. I was happy with the resulting image but it wasn't until I created the sepia-toned image shown here that I felt I had really captured the mood. You can see both the sepia and color image here. I am hoping to get back to capture a full moon over the gate and may even venture out on a Friday the 13th - unfortunately, the next full moon to fall on a Friday the 13th is 13 August 2049 and I will probably end up missing it.

Ocean Long Exposure

Remember a couple paragraphs ago I said I don't usually shoot long exposures at the ocean? Here is one of the exceptions. I purposely set out to shoot long exposures at the beach and headed to Spring Lake where I knew there were drainage pipes leading into the water. The pipes are held in place with pilings on either side. This location is the second of two that I visited that day. Since I was rather new at ocean long exposures I shot a lot and a variety of shutters speeds ranging from the five (5) seconds shown here to more than four (4) minutes. What I discovered was that there wasn't much difference in the resulting images. I found the black & white to be more dramatic than the color, especially since it seems to disappear into a vast nothingness.

So....

I have many other examples of what I consider to be "artisitic" images - you can find them in my Instagram feed (@Valencia32Photo), my Facebook page (JoeValenciaPhotography), and my Portfolio. Let me know what you think of the images here and tell me of some of your experiences in the field.

If you enjoyed this post, please do me a small favor and share it with others. You will find buttons for many of the popular social media platforms at the bottom of this post. Thank you!


    Technical information:
  • Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T3i (crop sensor - 1.6 factor)
  • Lens #1: Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
  • Lens #2: Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS
  • Tripod: MeFOTO Roadtrip Classic
  • ISO 100
  • All focal lengths are as-recorded - the full-frame equivalent in parenthesis.
  • Shutter tripped with wired shutter release.



Notes

1. Quote taken from WHAT IS ARTISTIC PHOTOGRAPHY? on WallArtPrints.com

Friday, March 25, 2022

Art Exhibit - Neon Spring

Neon Spring

“It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.” - Rainer Maria Rilke

I am happy to announce that my photograph, Elegance has been selected for the Neon Spring exhibit at The Gallery @ Thompson Park. The show runs April 1st to May 21st, Wednesday to Sunday 12pm-4pm. There will be an Opening Reception on 1 April 2022 from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM.

All artwork is available for sale. This is my third time exhibiting at The Gallery having participated in Into the Woods and The Silence of Winter. I will leave links to blogs posts about those exhibits below.

Elegance

This may well be my favorite photo of a flower that I have ever made. It dates back to an early spring trip I made to Deep Cut Gardens in 2012. The parking lot used to have a median in which seasonal flowers were planted - I was lucky enough to be there when the tulips were in bloom. I got down low (it was a lot easier back then....), a telephoto lens (135mm/216mm) at f/5.6 gave me a nice, shallow depth of field. I metered the white blossom, causing the background to be dramatically underexposed. When I got home and uploaded the image I noticed the faint red tulip in the background - to me it made a good image even that much better. My only regret is that this was done before I learned of the power of shooting RAW and only have a jpeg to work from. 😔


If you enjoyed this post, please do me a small favor and share it with others. You will find buttons for many of the popular social media platforms at the bottom of this post. Thank you!


    Technical information:
  • Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T3i (crop sensor - 1.6 factor)
  • Lenses: Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
  • Tripod: MeFOTO Roadtrip Classic
  • ISO 100
  • All focal lengths are as-recorded - the full-frame equivalent in parenthesis.
  • Shutter tripped with wired shutter release.



Thursday, March 10, 2022

Sunset at Fisherman's Cove Conservation Area

Sunset at Fisherman's Cove Conservation Area

Fisherman's Cove Conservation Area

Fisherman's Cove Conservation Area is part of the Monmouth County Park System and, according to their website, is "the last undeveloped tract on the Manasquan Inlet." It is a place that has been on my radar for a while and I have spend a lot of time on Google Maps/Google Earth exploring the area. I suspect it is rather crowded during the summer, as are most places along the Jersey Shore are, so I had set my sights on an autumn visit that never happened.

Last week I had "one of those days" at work and for my own sanity I packed up my gear, heading out to chase a sunset. Having checked the forecast and ClearOutside, then checking the location of the sun with SunCalc (see my review - here) I decided on Fisherman's Cove. I gave myself about a 50/50 chance of having good sunset conditions but any time out with a camera is a good time so off I went.

The sun was setting at 5:49 PM and I didn't arrive until shortly after 5:30 PM, usually I like to arrive at least 45 minutes to an hour early, especially when I am somewhere new. My Google Maps scouting time proved to be very useful as I already had my composition worked out before I even left the house. I set up and within a few minutes of arrival I had some test shots done and I was ready for the show to begin. The images presented here are shown in the order they were made.

Once I had Shot #1 in the bag I moved to my left a bit to see if that was a better composition - I wanted to take advantage of the curve in the beach and wasn't able to from my first position. The move proved to be just what I needed! While I like the first composition I feel the second to be considerably stronger. That's not to say there isn't room for a change - a lower perspective might be nice and moving more to the left and closer to the bench could get more of the curve of the beach. The more I look at what I captured, the more possibilities I come up with. I definitely need to go back a few more times before the crowds come.

If you enjoyed this post, please do me a small favor and share it with others. You will find buttons for many of the popular social media platforms at the bottom of this post. Thank you!


Technical information:
* Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T3i (crop sensor - 1.6 factor)
* Lenses: Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
* Tripod: MeFOTO Roadtrip Classic
* ISO 100
* All focal lengths are as-recorded - the full-frame equivalent in parenthesis.
* Exposure and focus were "manual"*
* Shutter tripped with wired shutter release.

Note: I noted that my focusing and exposures were "manual" and here's why. When shooting a sunset (or sunrise) exposure can get a bit tricky at times and the meter may not give you the results you are looking for. In these cases I will use the histogram and the preview on the back screen as a guide. I have to be careful with shadows and take that into account with my exposure. Using manual focus is mostly for convenience. Since I am shooting a (mainly) static landscape once I set focus there is no need to change. Under most circumstances I will shoot using Aperture-priority and auto-focus.

Monday, March 7, 2022

Art Exhibit (online) - Landscapes

Landscapes - Art Room Gallery exhibit

Landscapes

I have been submitting some of my work to local and international exhibits lately. Locally, I had prints in two (2) exhibits at The Gallery @ Thompson Park that I have already written about (see links below.) In 2021 I entered the Monmouth County Senior Art Show (senior?? ouch!) and was selected for the exhibit but did not place in the Amateur Photographer category. Two years ago I had a black & white image selected by Blank Wall Gallery in Athens, Greece - it wasn't hanging on the wall but displayed via large projector in a rotation with others (see link below.)

It is my pleasure to announce that I have, once again, been selected by an international competition to be included in an online gallery exhibit presented by Art Room Gallery. The theme of the exhibit was "Landscape" and it was open to any 2D medium; the three (3) winning entries were watercolor painting, photograph, and oil painting, respectively. While I would have liked to be in the Top 3, I am happy to have received a Merit Award for my work.

You may recognize Reflecting on the Spectacle of Autumn from an earlier post, Scouting New Locations, while Reflecting on a Kiss would be new to you unless you follow me on Instagram or Facebook. Both images have become some of my most popular captures with both currently over ninety (90) "likes" on Instagram and more than ten (10) comments each.

If you enjoyed this post, please do me a small favor and share it with others. You will find buttons for many of the popular social media platforms at the bottom of this post. Thank you!


    Technical information:
  • Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T3i (crop sensor - 1.6 factor)
  • Lenses: Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
  • Tripod: MeFOTO Roadtrip Classic
  • ISO 100
  • All focal lengths are as-recorded - the full-frame equivalent in parenthesis.
  • Shutter tripped with wired shutter release.



Friday, January 21, 2022

Art Exhibit - The Silence of Winter

The Silence of Winter - Art Exhibit

The Silence of Winter

“There is something strange in the silence of a winter view: Something seems to happen, but nothing happens, as if all reality is frozen!” ― Mehmet Murat ildan

I am happy to announce that this image, Lone Pine Seedling, has been selected for the Silence of Winter exhibit at The Gallery @ Thompson Park. The show runs February 4th to March 26th, Wednesday to Saturday 12pm-4pm. All artwork is available for sale. You may remember my post from last October announcing my participation in another exhibit at The Gallery - Into the Woods - Art Exhibit.

This image was first featured in my blog post, Playing in the Snow, last February along with others. I love the snow, as long as I don't have to drive on treacherous streets, and try to get out to play whenever possible. One reason I love shooting in the snow is that it simplifies everything; this image is a perfect example. This sapling is growing thru a lot of dead leaves and branches with even more in the background. The snow covers the distractions and all that is left is the tree.

The tree is still growing and I hope to photograph it again after, or during, the next storm. We have only had one substantial snow this year but I was unable to get out. This will be an interesting tree to chronicle over the years - it is right over my property line so I can easily keep an eye on it.

If you cannot make it to the exhibit, you may be able to make a purchase on-line – give them a call or send an email. For more information on this or upcoming exhibits, please email ccarlson@monmouthcountyparks.com, or call 732-842-4000, ext. 3343.

If you enjoyed this post, please do me a small favor and share it with others. You will find buttons for many of the popular social media platforms at the bottom of this post. Thank you!



Thursday, December 30, 2021

2021 in the Rear View Mirror

2021 in the Rear View Mirror

Goodbye 2021!

Well.... If I said that the last two (2) years have been challenging it would be like saying Stephen King has written a few good books. A bit of an understatement, at best. I can say that 2021 has been better and I see 2022 continuing the trend. I am speaking from a landscape photography perspective, of course, as the COVID-19 pandemic is still going strong. I have been able to get out more often and see that trend rising next year. While I was going thru images for this article I noticed something that wasn't much of a surprise - there are no images from July and August, the only images from June came from a trip to Hershey - you can read about that and see the images, here. I typically hibernate during the summer.

The lead image is from April and my first visit to Brick Township Reservoir. There are two parking areas - one on the Wall Township side, the other in Brick Township. The panorama was made on the Brick side.

The Gallery @ Thompson Park Art Show

The Monmouth County Park System hosts an art gallery at Thompson Park in Lincroft where they hold shows throughout the year. I learned about these shows some time this past summer and entered the last one of the year - "Into the Woods". I had one of three images selected and sold the framed print. This was my first local art show, there is an upcoming show in January that I hope to exhibit in, as well as others. You can read about the exhibit, and my print, in my blog post Into the Woods - Art Exhibit.

2021 by the Month

January

January found me heading to Manasquan Reservoir to scope out some new sunrise and sunset compositions; all of my compositions up to now have been over at the Chestnut Point area. You may be able to tell from the image here, it was quite cold and a dreary day but that only means you have to be a little more creative with your compositions.

This is a good example of "Know your rules but also know when to break them." Conventional wisdom says that you should never have the horizon going thru the middle of your frame or the extreme upper/lower portion. The fact that the sky was a featureless, gray mass means the less you see, the better.

I was drawn to the broken ice and determined to find a composition. I was similarly drawn to the "Restricted Area" sign so, with both in mind, I composed the image shown here. Getting down low allowed me to include the rocks along the trail and place the horizon closer to the top of the frame. The dead tree produced a wonderful frame for the sign - I found my composition. The sign in dark brown with bright red lettering making it stand out against all of the gray so color was my first inclination but when all was said and done I think it is best as black and white. If you are curious, check out the color version on Instagram - here.

February

The first decent snow of 2021 arrived in February and I love to play in the snow. The abstract was made after the first storm had passed, looking out my back door I saw the shadows of our lilac bush interacting with the "waves" of drifting snow. I am not necessarily a fan of abstract art but when the opportunity arises I jump at the challenge. You can see this image, as well as another from the same day, in my blog post Shadows and Snow - in abstract. I go into more detail about the image in that blog post so I won't repeat myself here.

That same storm brought the image to the right, "Baby Pine AFter the Storm." I noticed the small tree standing tall at the edge of the woods on the border of my front yard. I was drawn to the green and the contrast of the stark white background, if you look closely you can also see some faint shadows from a tree in the background. The last few years have found me dabbling in minimalism more than usual; snow is a perfect partner for this type of photography.

If we fast-forward two (2) days there is another storm dumping snow, this time is was very heavy and very wet. I didn't put the "raincoat" on my camera so I only went out for a short time but I had to capture the small pine tree laden with snow. I chose a lower angle for this image, including some of the woods in the background. I felt that the snow on the tree, as well as the falling snow, was enough to separate the subject from the background. What do you think? Was I successful? I had enough time that afternoon to walk around to the back yard for a few images before being driven back inside. The best of them can be found on Instagram - here - as-well-as a small holly tree that was made the same day as the "after the storm" shot above - here.

March

My first outing in March brought me to a new location, Twilight Lake in Bay Head. I am always on the lookout for new locations and will often use Google Maps to scope out a place. I get ideas for compositions which often pan out but this was an exception. I found a small deck with benches looking out over the lake, facing the setting sun. When I got there I did a few test shots but just couldn't get excited about what I saw. I liked the location so I got busy; the light was fading fast, the sun was quickly dropping behind a church and trees on the other side of the lake. I wanted to use the rocks as foreground, found it was a bit too busy until I moved back a bit and found this wood pointing right into the scene. The duck (or, more likely, goose) footprints sealed the deal for me. This was my composition! The deck I originally found can be seen in the background. Five minutes later, this entire scene was in shadow. A week later found me at Maclearie Park in Belmar, a place I have become very familiar with. If you have been reading the blog for any period of time, you are probably rather familiar with it, too. My normal subject is a small tree at the far western end of the park - often referred to as "The Tree" - but there are times I want to do more. The bench shown in the image at left has always been there, as has the tree, but it wasn't until this year that I began considering it as a subject and not an afterthought. This is one of my favorite sunsets of the year and I have quite a few sunsets this year.

My next March image was one featured in an earlier blog post, Long Exposure Photography, written at the end of March. It is another minimalist image inspired by some that I have seen on Gary Gough's YouTube channel. This particular image was a 5 second exposure, an earlier image of a different section of beach was 260 seconds but the ethereal feel is very similar. That image, along with a couple others, can be found in the blog post referenced earlier.

Check out my Instagram feed for other March images, including The Tree @ Maclearie Park, a sunset self-portrait at Divine Lake, and "Crown of Thorn" made at Deep Cut Gardens.

April

April was a good month for me. We were well into spring, my second favorite season (my favorite is autumn), and I discovered new locations and new compositions at some favorite spots. You've already seen an image from a new location, Brick Reservoir shown at the start of this article, and the image at left is another new spot. This small island and tree are at the western end of Silver Lake in Belmar. I had gone out earlier in the afternoon to check out a different lake but wasn't happy with what I found. Silver Lake was my backup which proved to be a blessing. I love the shape of the tree and, if you look closely, you can see a blue heron perched on top. A wider scene can be found on Instagram - here - as well as a version of this image without the heron.

The sunset at Sandy Hook is another new one for me. I have been to Sandy Hook more times than I can count but don't get there very often anymore. This is actually the first and, so far, only sunset I have there. I had been out at the "Hook" looking for a sunset composition when I found this - the problem was it was a few hours before sunset and sitting on the rocks wasn't very comfortable. I drove around for a while, picking up some images along the way. I have a black & white image of one of the batteries here and another version of the sunset here.

It wouldn't be spring if I didn't have some flowers. A trip to Deep Cut Gardens in Middletown is my "go-to" place when I am in the mood for flowers. There are flowers to be seen year-round, whether outside in one of there many flower beds, the roses in the Rose Parterre and in the greehnouse. These tulips can be found just off the parking lot, lining the sidewalk leading to the koi pond and Visitor Center.

May

I didn't do much in May, the weather was getting warmer and I was staying indoors. I did get out for a couple of quick scouting trips but don't have any images to show here.

June - July - August - September

The heat of the summer found me hibernating, watching a variety of YouTube photographers, writing, and reading. The camera is always ready to go but there is nothing to show you here. All of my photography thoughts turn to October.

In the open I mentioned that I did shoot at Hershey Gardens in June - I won't post the images here, you can see them in the original post - here.

October

Finally, I get to October and spending time outside. I lead off with an image I have been wanting to make for a very long time and finally got my chance. If you are a fan of the 1980 movie Friday the 13th you may recognize this spot. You can briefly see this sign when the trucker drops Annie off and she crosses the street to walk to Camp Crystal Lake. I thought black and white was the best treatment, you can check out both black and white and color on my Instagram feed - here. Let me know which version you like better in the comment section below. October also found me at a new place - Indian Tower in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. We spent a quiet few days in Pennsylvania with friends and stopped at Indian Tower on the way home. I had done a bit of research before we left and this place looked interesting. I was right. I think it would be a great spot for sunrise or sunset if the sun is in the right spot and would be stunning at peak foliage - it definitely has a spot on my "return to" list.

On the way home from Nazareth we stopped at "The Gap", Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area on the New Jersey side. As I got to the beach I saw light on the side of Mount Tammany but it was moving quickly and I didn't want to lose it. I dropped my bag (carefully) to the ground, grabbed my camera and squeezed off a few "frames" before the light disappeared. I came away with the image to the right. I set up my tripod, composed my image and waited for the light to come back. I looked at the sky - almost no break in the clouds but I remained hopeful; I really wanted the sun to light up the exposed rocks. As I was looking up I noticed this bright red tree on Mount Minsi standing out against the surrounding greens and yellows. It turned out to be one of my two favorite images captured at the Gap - you can see this one, and the other, on Instagram - here. It isn't often I can walk away with four (4) or five (5) "keepers" from three (3) different locations in one day. I was very tired but very happy when I got home that day.

November

November found me once again on a quest for foliage, this time I went south to Burlington County. I had been on a scouting trip earlier in the year, one stop took me to Pakim Pond in the Pinelands. You can read about that scouting trip and the two Pakim Pond images here, in my blog post, Scouting New Locations. The first image that day at the pond is the wide shot with the bench, it was right after I made it that I noticed the red tree. I got in tight on the tree, waited for light that never came, and made the image shown here before I had to leave. This is one of my favorite images for the year.

If you remember my April images, you might recognize this next image. Once again I unexpectedly found myself at Silver Lake revisiting this tree and island. This time I was out shooting a sunset at Divine Lake and was heading home along the ocean when I noticed the full moon. I knew exactly where I had to be - Silver Lake! If I had planned to shoot the full moon I could have caught it closer to the tree - stay tuned for a future blog post about the full moon rising over this lake.

My last image from November comes from a place I had been to a few times before but never fully explored. Horicon Lake is a wonderful place to shoot and I had been there a couple of times for sunsets only to be stifled by heavy cover of low clouds. The last time I went I arrived with plenty of time before the sun set so I explored a bit. I followed the road past the boat launch and found that it dead ended with a view of the lake in either side. To my left was a small trail that lead to a lake with dead trees, very much like what is found at Manasquan Reservoir. I set up and waited for the show. The image here is the best of the bunch. This is another location I came across by accident but will return to in the future.

December

We finish off the year, surprisingly enough, with December. The black and white image here was a sunset that I did in Oceanport. As I stated earlier, I am always looking for new locations and Oceanport is one place I haven't shot in years. I grew up there and did a lot in the 80's but never seem to get back much anymore. I happened to be at a wedding reception across the river from this park earlier this year and noticed some really nice trees so I decided to spend some time there. This weeping willow is just one of the compositions I found that afternoon. I don't often convert sunsets (or sunrises) to monochrome but I like the way this one came out. You can see the color image, along with others from that afternoon, on Instagram - here. What do you think - color or monochrome?

The next time I went out with a camera I found myself in Oceanport once again. This time it was a sunrise and my subject was a New York-bound commuter train. I came up with the idea for this a year or so ago but it was a sunset and a southbound train. One of the good things about a sunrise during the week is that commuter trains run quite frequently and so I got three (3) opportunities to capture something. The first time I was on the side of the tracks of the oncoming train but wasn't happy with what I saw. I then moved over to the southbound side with a long exposure - I wanted to capture the headlights and then lights from the windows streaking by. The problem was that there was no light coming thru the windows. The best of the bunch was the one shown here - 1/13th second exposure at f/32 to make the headlights into stars.

I took one last photo trip in December which took me to four (4) different locations, three (3) of which I had not been to before. My first stop was Round Valley Recreation Area, part of the New Jersey State Park System. I had planned to shoot a sunrise at the boat launch there a couple months back but ended up not going. The day started out cloudy and gray so when I got to the lake I was looking for compositions that didn't include the sky. The upside was that there wasn't even a hint of a breeze so the lake was mirror-smooth. It wasn't until I got home that I noticed the small birch tree to the right of the cat tails. I really like this image and would like to go back during peak foliage to see if I can improve upon it.

That brings me to my last image, Cooper Grist Mill in Chester. This was my second stop on my last trip and the only one of the four (4) that I had been to before. I was first at the mill in May 2017 and wrote a blog post when I got home, Cooper Grist Mill. It was raining that day and the only good image I got was with my phone so I was looking to redeem myself. I am happy with this image. This is another place I will re-visit one day during peak foliage - not only because I think it will make a great image but also because I look for any excuse I can find to go to this area. I have a lot of fond childhood memories of Chester and nearby Flanders; I always feel good when I am there and also come away well fed. You can read about it in my post, Ice Cream, Oh How I Love You!

So Goodbye 2021, Hello 2022!

So, that concludes a whirlwind tour of 2021 and some of my favorite images of the year. I suspect 2022 will bring much of the same - busy during winter, spring, and autumn while taking the summer off. I have bigger plans for the year and a few more scouting trips outlined - it is a big state and I have just scratched the surface. I am always looking for new places - if you have somewhere that you like to shoot or even somewhere that you drive past that you think would make a good subject, please feel free to let me know in the comment section below. I am always open to suggestions.

Best of wishes for the new year!

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