Thursday, October 1, 2020

An Incredible Beach Sunrise

Ocean Grove Sunrise

I finally got out for a sunrise and what a sunrise it was!
Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game. - Babe Ruth⁠
I've always liked this quote - Babe knew a lot about striking out but it didn't keep him from being one of the all-time greats and setting records that took decades (and drugs?) to break. ⁠I chose this quote because I almost stayed home on the morning I made these images. I woke up early but wasn't convinced that the conditions were going to be overly favorable, it would have been easy to go back to bed. I chose to go anyway and was treated to one of the best sunrise photo sessions that I have had in a very long time.⁠

I arrived rather late - about 6:10 AM for a 6:37 AM sunrise but I am quite familiar with the location and already had a composition in mind so I really need the extra time to scout. I was walking down to the water when I noticed a photographer with a tripod set up at the end of the pier; I asked if I was going to be in his way and he assured me I would not. It seemed to be that he was only interested in the horizon but it didn't matter, he was gone about 10 minutes later.

I set up with the remains of the jetty as my foreground, grabbed a few images and then a fisherman looked at me, decided he wanted to get in the picture and stood right in the middle of my composition. DAMN! I had to move.... All was not lost, though. I moved to the other side of the pier, got Ralph in the frame and squeezed off a few. I guess I should thank Mr. Fisherman but not today. The fishing must not have been very good because a few minutes after making me move, he went back to where he was - as did I.

This was right about the time that the sun started peeking over the horizon. This was also when the waves were getting a bit larger, more frequent and reaching me. I got so engrossed in the scene playing out in front of me that I did not notice the encroaching water. That is, until it washed over my feet and lower third of my tripod! Yes, I ended up getting wet to about four (4) or five (5) inches above my ankles and the first two sections of my tripod – it wasn’t fully extended. The soaking repeated a few times but after the first there was really no reason to move; actually, the exact opposite was true. I was in the perfect location this morning.

As the sun was moving higher on the horizon, I adjusted my composition to get in tighter on the rocks and crashing waves while still getting some of the Golden Hour color. I was so engrossed in what was happening I failed to see the low-battery warning light flashing. A quick look in my bag for my back-up battery yielded nothing. I never put it back in my bag after charging it! Having a spare battery is a great thing – leaving it on your dresser isn’t……. A few minutes later everything went dark, the battery was dead.

It’s just as well. I was losing the light; my feet were soaked, and I had to get back to the house to work. That is the one silver-lining to this pandemic – I now work from home full-time and so getting ready for work is simply sitting at the computer and logging in. It also gave me an opportunity to upload my images to see what I got. A few quick edits and then sharing with some friends for initial feedback. Their reactions confirmed my excitement and I spent much of my lunchtime refining the images. It wasn’t until this second editing session that I noticed the little blue float and rope tangled up in the rocks. It appears in a few images, but I would like to have been a bit more deliberate and purposely include it in a few compositions. Fortunately, it is still there, and I can go back whenever I want. Perhaps the next time I will go for a sunset and get that wonderful golden glow on the face of the rocks!

Thanks for stopping by, I hope you enjoyed the images.

    Technical information:
  • Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T3i (crop sensor - 1.6 factor)
  • Lens: Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
  • Tripod: MeFOTO Roadtrip Classic
  • All images - ISO 100
  • All focal lengths are as-recorded - the full-frame equivalent would be the value shown times 1.6.
  • Focus was done manually. The camera was in "aperture-priority" and all images are at f/8.0. The shutter was tripped with a wired remote.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2020

I Am Back with a Few Changes

The sunrise, of course, doesn't care if we watch it or not. It will keep on being beautiful, even if no one bothers to look at it. - Gene Amole

I am back

After taking the past two (2) months off, I have decided to continue with this blog. There were times during my hiatus when I thought about quitting for good and there were other times when I found myself at the keyboard getting ready to write. I didn't want to do anything until I was convinced one way or the other.

What is Changing

My main goal is to keep the blog informative but also fun; fun for my readers and for me. That means I will be focusing more on my photography, including the “where”, “what”, “how”, and “why.” My goal will be to publish one (1) or two (2) posts per month on a regular basis, with “special bulletins” if I feel there is something timely that cannot wait. Gone will be the “series” that I have been doing, including “Improve Your Photography”, “Behind the Image”, and “The Jersey Shore.” I had moved “Improve….” to a new blog a while back which is now defunct. Once the pandemic is over, I may start a new blog – “The Real New Jersey” or something like it.

What isn’t Changing

In addition to presenting my work, I will continue to bring interviews, app reviews, and product reviews as they seem to be quite popular and bring value. I will continue to use quotes as inspiration for my work, hopefully you will find them inspiring as well. Lastly, you can count on some humor along the way.

In Closing

I would like to end by thanking you for your support over the past 3 ½ years. If there are any topics you would like to see covered here, please let me know in the comment section below or send me an email – – and I will do my best to bring that content to you.

About The Image

The above image, "Sunrise - Ocean Grove, New Jersey" is my first in quite some time. I was awake and debated about whether to get dressed and drive all the way to the beach - I mean, it's nearly five (5) miles! 😉 I believe I made the right choice as I was treated to a spectacular sunrise. It also gave me an opportunity to disassemble my tripod when I got home as I was not paying close enough attention to the waves and the bottom two sections were treated to a bath a few times - as were my feet and lower legs.... I was quite surprised to discover how much sand had gotten into the legs and locking mechanisms!

    Technical information:
  • Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T3i
  • Lens: Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
  • Tripod: MeFOTO Roadtrip Classic
  • Focal length: 32mm (full-frame equivalent: 52mm)
  • Exposure: 1/15 sec @ f/8.0, ISO 100
  • Focus was set on the rocks approximately in the middle of the jetty.
  • Focus, shutter speed, and aperture were set manually. The shutter was tripped with a wired remote. (Note: I will be discussing "manual" at a later date.)

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!

Monday, July 13, 2020

I Am Taking a Break

You may have noticed that I've not been actively blogging lately - my last installment was an interview a little over a month ago. I hadn't planned on taking time off, it just happened to be that my time was needed elsewhere.

I have a list of things I want to write about and even started writing a few but things just never fell into place. Some of what I want to write requires me to spend time in parks and they are just too crowded these days. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned people into nature lovers, rushing to parks that they might normally just drive by without notice.

One reason I love landscape and nature photography is the solitude; the increased popularity of the parks pretty much guaranteed company. I also hibernate somewhat during the summer months, the heat and humidity of New Jersey summers tend to sap me of all energy and desire to be outdoors. The last couple of weeks have been brutal - whenever I have ventured out to fire off a few frames the lens immediately fogs and it takes a while before I can start to use the camera. It has been maddening because Tropical Storm Fay blew thru here last week bringing us some incredible cloud formations.

All of that aside, there is still a lot of photography to be done indoors and still a lot to write about.

So, why take time off? I think I need to "recharge" a bit. I have been writing about photography for almost nine (9) years - I had a blog hosted on Wordpress before moving to Blogger more than three (3) years ago and was part of a blogging community named, Niume, before it folded. While I have enjoyed sharing my knowledge, images and stories I haven't quite "gained traction"; it seems as though I am (mostly) writing for myself, seeing very little legitimate traffic and virtually no interaction with my readers.

Earlier in the year I removed the "Improve Your Photography" series from this blog and created a new one specifically for that series. The thought was that I didn't have a primary focus (yes, I suppose pun intended) to this blog so I was turning towards more of a spotlight on my photography. The interviews seem to be quite popular so they will remain a special feature from time-to-time. What I learned was that, despite heavy promotion, very few visited the new site. I was encouraged one day when I saw a spike of 100's of views on each of the posts only to come to the realization that two of my blogs had 1,000's of views from Romania overnight; an obvious attack on the Blogger platform. All of the posts on that site have been reverted to "draft", at least temporarily, while I re-evaluate what I am doing. I don't know why I am having trouble with readership and want to take some time to figure it out.

The same goes for this blog. Where do I go from here? Do I keep writing or just retire the site and move on? I don't have any answers right now. I have spent the past nine (9) years writing and more than five (5) years trying to establish some type of freelance photography presence - maybe I am spreading myself too thin. One of the goals of the blogging (and YouTube channel) was to help generate interest in my work and provide an income stream to help support my passion. I can tell you that the "income stream" has produced not as much as a "drip" nor have I seen a growing interest in my work.

Social media - primarily Facebook and Instagram - seem to bring about a better response though only slightly.

So, with that I am going to close out this post. I don't know when I will be back but will announce on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram when I am ready. You can follow my work on social media at the links below. In the meantime - thanks for stopping by.

Social Media links
* Joe Valencia Photography on Facebook -
* Joe Valencia aka Wandering Photographer on Twitter -
* Joe Valencia on Instagram -

Monday, June 8, 2020

Interview with Professor of Digital Media Technology Sue Urbine

This interview is a bit different. I asked Jim Klenk, Sue's brother-in-law, if he would write the introduction for me. Jim approached me with the idea of interviewing Sue for the blog and I thought it would be nice to hear what he had to say. This also brings a bit more insight into who Sue is than I could have provided. I would like to thank Jim for taking the time to write such a great introduction.


I met Sue when she was in 9th grade. At the time I had just begun dating her older sister at Rutgers. Sue was different than most junior high students as she was extremely focused and driven. Her interest in photography was inspired by photos she had seen in The National Geographic Magazine. It's important to note that at this time in the late 70's the internet had yet to be invented. Newspapers and magazines were the primary vehicles used to share information. There were no cell phones, no selfies, no Facebook and or Instagram. Photographs were taken with film that had to be developed. The only instantly available photographs were from a Polaroid camera and the quality was no where near that of our digital photography era of today. The best photographers in the world worked for National Graphic. The pictures featured in their magazine were literally some of the finest photography on this planet. The exquisite shiny photographs spoke to her and she was hooked.

Sue's parents wisely reinforced her interest in photography! Her father built her a dark room in their basement. My first recollection of her work are some black and white photos that she had take of Bruce Springsteen in concert. She was shooting in B&W because she was concerned that if she used a flash her camera and film might be taken away from her. Driven and wise beyond her years she was literally off to the races. She took photography classes in high school. Her instructor recognized Sue's potential and continued to fan the flame of interest within her.

As I continued dating Sue's sister she became her family's official photographer. She would always gather and arrange everyone at all family gatherings to capture a group shot. Needless to say Sue's passion for photography continued to grow and was full blown by the time she entered college. She made a wise deal with her school. Sue was given a custodians closet to use as her darkroom and she agreed to photograph all events at the school.

By the time Sue was graduating from Clemson her parents had moved. Her father built her another darkroom in their new home. However Sue never moved back home as she had secured a job and didn't use the new second darkroom. Her knowledge and passion for chasing and capturing light still continues to grow. While sharing some of my favorite shots from a photography group I joined Sue and her husband pulled out beautiful waterfall pictures from the same location! Occasionally she will share with me a shot she captures for herself. Seeing the world thru talented trained eyes is a blessing in itself.

Over the years Professor Sue has shared her exploits about teaching her students. She no longer instructs how to develop film the old fashioned way with chemicals. Capturing the light and processing the images have become the main focus. She genuinely cares that each of her students get a proper photography education and will hopefully become enlightened and energized as she once was. Her children capture great photographs as well, go figure... They all went to the University where Sue teaches. They are talented musicians and artists. Sue's husband has taken some amazing photographs as well. His method is quite simple. He told me that he stands next to Sue and does exactly what she says!

This picture sums things up nicely, it's one of the shots her husband took while standing next to Sue and listening to her directions.

The Interview

Personal questions

What is your favorite childhood memory?

My favorite childhood memories are of the summers I spent at Lake Hopatcong, NJ with my family. Swimming until our lips were blue, picking wild blueberries, fishing, and sailing with my father.

What’s the best advice anyone has given you and who gave it to you?

Jay “Doc” Smith was my high school photography teacher who encouraged me to pursue my dream of becoming a photographer. He told me photography is about passion, patience, and practice.

What is your favorite thing to do when you aren't photographing or teaching?

I enjoy reading both mystery and feel good inspirational novels. I take long walks in the woods in my backyard where my mind can relax and enjoy nature.

If you could spend an hour with any famous person, past or present, who would it be and why?

I was fortunate to meet Ansel Adams when I was in high school but can’t remember anything he said because I was so awestruck. I recall his hands were big and soft and that he smelled like Old Spice when I was expecting him to smell like fixer. If I could meet him again, I would discuss the early years of photography when images were formed on glass plates. It was Adams who said, “You don’t take a photograph, you make it”; I try teaching this concept each day in my classes.
(Joe: I’m not sure I would remember much either, there are few public figures that I admire as much as Ansel.)

What is something that most people don’t know about you?

Each semester, during the third week of photography class, I lecture on top of my desk as we discuss perspective.
(Joe: That is quite a unique approach and I would be quite effective.)

What do you think about when you are alone?

In no particular order I pray, I think about how to improve my classes and engage this generation of students, I think about what I’m going to serve for dinner, and what the golden hour is going to look like today.

What would you like to be remembered for?

How I raised my three children, being a good wife to my husband Shawn, and doing my best to be kind to others.

Professional questions

Why photography?

My background is in Industrial Education primarily in the printing and publishing fields. Those skills are extremely technical and finite in their application. Photography is an escape to infinite possibilities of light and composition.

What is the greatest challenge you face teaching photography on a university level? Greatest reward?

My teaching philosophy for photography is a simple equation: Photography = Art + Science. Teaching students the relationship between light and composition (Art) plus the technical skills of Photoshop and digital output devices (Science) is my greatest challenge. My greatest reward comes when the students don’t realize that two hours have passed and they don’t want to leave for their next class.

What is your greatest professional achievement?

Professionally, my goal is to teach students the needed skills to find meaningful employment in the print publishing industry. Personally, my goal is to inspire each student to be the best person they can be. My greatest professional achievement is when both goals are reached and the student becomes the master.

If you could share a gallery show with anyone past or present, who would it be?

If I could share a gallery show with anyone it would be Steve McCurry from National Geographic. I have been a fan of his for decades and when he came to campus for a lecture and showcase, I ask if he would speak to my students. He taught in my classroom for over an hour. His work with National Geographic has been awe-­‐inspiring and the documentary of the last roll of Kodachrome film is a crowd pleaser in my classroom.
(Joe: Great choice! I have checked out his work and it truly is awe-inspiring. How great it is that he agreed to speak with your students.)

Where do you draw inspiration from and what is your favorite part about the process?

Inspiration comes in all forms but to me it’s all about the light. I wait for light, I chase light, I think about how to manipulate light on my subjects, and then I capture it. Additionally, I’m a huge fan of Scott Kelby and Colin Smith as I follow both of them on the Internet. I’ve been using Photoshop since 1990 and recall how I anxiously awaited for the new addition of Photoshop User Magazine to arrive.
(Joe: It’s all about the light…. I follow Scott and Colin, too. In fact, I have interviewed Scott – check it out, here.)

What is your favorite location to photograph?

The easy answer is wherever I am at the moment. However, I tend to migrate to wide-­‐open spaces such as beaches, mountains, or anywhere near a water source.

What is your favorite piece of equipment?

My Canon Camera and my tripod, I don’t leave home without them.

How did you get your start and what advice would you give to someone looking for a career in photography?

I started as a yearbook/school paper photographer in high school and continued on that same path in college. I took photography classes throughout my undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate education while studying printing, publishing, instructional technology, and human resource development. My career goal was to be a trainer in the print/publishing industry. After graduating from Clemson University I went into industry as the manager of the film prep division of Jersey Printing. A year later I was asked to join the faculty at California University of PA in the digital media technology program. Each day I have the opportunity to inspire students, future educators, and future photographers, to reach their potential and achieve their career goal. My advice to any and all of them is to follow the light.
(Joe: Great advice!)

Bonus question:

What are your Top 5 "Deserted Island" albums?

  • Fleetwood Mac Rumours
  • Bruce Springsteen Born To Run
  • Chicago Greatest Hits
  • James Taylor Sweet Baby James
  • Jackson Browne Running on Empty

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!