Sunday, November 21, 2021

You make the picture you are offered - Dave Schofield

You make the picture you are offered - Dave Schofield

A Late Autumn Road Trip

I was having a cup of coffee last Sunday morning, reading some news online, and just relaxing when I decided to take a look at the weather forecast. The state was going to be almost completely shrouded in clouds, most of them high with some medium, and so I took that as an invitation to take a road trip. There was no rain in the forecast and the clouds would give me a nice, even light which I hoped would help bring out what was left of the foliage. The trip was well-planned with a final destination, and composition, in mind for sunset at Horicon Lake in Lakehurst. It would take me to three (3) lakes in three (3) different counties - Mercer, Burlington, and Ocean.

The first stop was Etra Lake Park in East Windsor. This is the only stop that I had never visited before but saw some images on Facebook that made it worthy of a first-hand look. Pulling into the parking lot didn't instill much enthusiasm - most of the leaves were gone and it was rather barren - but that never stopped me before. I walked down to the lake, saw there was a little bit of color on the opposite shore but was attracted mostly by an old, abandoned house. If you've been following me for any length of time you may have seen my posts about the Sutfin House on Monmouth Battlefield - there is something about an old, broken down building that I find fascinating. I left with one image of the house and made a mental note to come back. After leaving the parking lot for my next destination, Pemberton Lake, I actually drove right past the driveway leading to the house. Being pressed for time I didn't stop but you can just imagine where my first stop will be the next time I am in the area.

Pemberton Lake in Pemberton is somewhere I visited once before but only stopped at the south end, this time I went to the north. I immediately saw a small wooden deck just a short walk from the parking lot and thought it would make a great platform to shoot from. I know what you are thinking, "Why stand on it when you can use it as a foreground or leading line?" Good question! I didn't have enough room to include the deck in a good composition.

When I walked out to the end of the deck I looked out and saw that the water was green, very green. I am assuming it is some type of algae but have never seen anything like it before. There was some decent color but, unfortunately, I was shooting in the direction of the sun so most of it was in shade. The image shown to the right was the "best of the bunch" as they say. If you click to make the image full-screen you will be better able to see what I mean about the water color.

With the sun getting lower in the sky and a drive of about 30 minutes to my sunset location, I had a big decision to make. Do I drive the (nearly) 15 minutes south to Pakim Pond to check the conditions or go straight to Horicon Lake in Lakehurst for my sunset? The sunset conditions were predicted to be near perfect and I had two compositions in mind so I wanted to leave plenty of time but I also didn't want to skip Pakim Pond. The trip had been planned for just three (3) stops and I didn't have a lot of time to spend at any of them. If I went to Pakim Pond I may miss sunset....

I made my decision and soon found myself on the small, dirt road leading to the pond. The sun was shining, the sky was spectacular and, though there were a number of cars in the lot, there was no one near the benches on the shore of the pond. I found a bench I liked, framed it up and made the image you see to the left. If you look closely, you will see a tiny spot of red in the background, just to the right of the bench. That spot of red lead me to the image at the top of this post, which, in my opinion, is the best of the day. This lone patch of color against the deep green of the pines was striking. I set up my composition and waited for the sun to peek thru the clouds that were now rolling in. I looked at the time, it wasn't on my side. At one point I turned, looked up at the sky and said, "Hurry up! I haven't got much time!" It was at that time I noticed I was no longer alone - a woman was standing at the edge of the water taking a photo with her phone. She gave me a look and started to walk away - I told her I wasn't talking to her, didn't know she was there and just thinking out loud. I don't know if she believed me. (If you are reading this, I truly was not talking to you!).

I stood at the ready for a bit more than ten (10) minutes, time was running out - it was 40 minutes to sunset and I had a 25 minute drive! I bracketed a few shots and headed for the car, disappointed that the sun never cooperated.

As I drove east towards Lakehurst and my final destination of the day, it seemed the sky was getting darker than it should be. Clouds.... Lots of clouds blocking the sun. It was beginning to look like the forecast for high clouds was wrong - we were getting blanketed with heavy medium and low clouds which do not make for spectacular sunsets. Since there wasn't going to be a lot of light my selection of compositions dropped from the three (3) I had planned to only one (1) - the image you see here at left. The last time I was at the lake I took a reference shot with my phone and have been tracking the sunset location hoping to have it set over the end of the deck. This day it was setting right between the trees on the far shore, perfect to a possible sunstar and some nice color in the sky. It turns out that the best planned shot of the day did not come off as-planned. It's a nice image but I can't help but compare it to the one I had in my head when I set out from home at 1:00 that afternoon.

Okay, so what does this have to do with the quote? I'm glad you asked. When I got home that evening I was anxious to process the RAW files and see what I got but not really expecting too much. When I got to this red tree I was pleasantly surprised by how strong the image was - especially since I made the image mostly for reference. I thought I needed the sun to light up the tree in order to make it work. When I posted the image, along with how I was initially disappointed, my friend, Dave, commented with the quote you see here. Dave is a retired sports photographer who now turns his camera on his grandchildren and the local landscape, particularly a rather photogenic little tree in a local park. (You can read my 2017 interview with Dave - here.)

The more I thought about it, the more I agreed with Dave. If you want control over all aspects of your photography, be a portrait photographer, shoot products, work in a studio, etc.... You cannot control the weather or anything else in the natural world, that's what can make landscape photography frustrating and incredibly rewarding; sometimes at the same time! I often quote Ansel Adams and will finish this post with another - “Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer — and often the supreme disappointment.”

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    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.



Sunday, October 24, 2021

Into the Woods - Art Exhibit

Into the Woods

The Gallery @ Thompson Park holds several themed art exhibits throughout the year, featuring local artists in a wide variety of media. The current exhibit, Into the Woods, is the first that I have participated in; hopefully it is the first of many. When a theme is announced, artists are encouraged to submit up to three (3) images representing their art to be reviewed by their guest juror. You may not have all your submissions selected; you may not be selected at all – this time I had one of three chosen, The Serenity of the Woods. Once chosen, you have about a week to prepare your art and bring it to the gallery for hanging. All work is offered “For Sale” with a 30% commission for the gallery.

Into the Woods had its opening reception on Friday, 17 September 2021 drawing a nice crowd. The reception is nice because it gives the artist an opportunity to interact with their audience and for visitors to get to know the artists. This was my first experience seeing my work hanging on a gallery wall and seeing the reactions of strangers; I did have an image exhibited in Greece in 2020 (you can read about it here) but was not able to attend for a variety of reasons. It was exciting and scary at the same time – I kept wanting to have a recording device running so I could hear what people were saying, at the same time I didn’t want to know what they were saying! Talk about conflicted!

I was happy that I was able to share the experience with my wife and daughter, unfortunately my son was stuck in traffic on the BQE…. In 2015 we attended the Senior Art Show to see my daughter exhibiting some of her fine art portraits and now it was my turn, who knows, maybe we will both be exhibited in an upcoming show! It was nice to see some familiar faces, too. I was happy to see that I was sharing the experience with two (2) friends, Sue, and Padma. Sue has a unique photograph of a dinosour “sculpture” (it is made of twigs and branches) and Padma has a beautiful watercolor painting. I have links to their entries below, along with a link to my image without the frame.

I am proud to announce here that, as-of this writing, I have sold the framed print hanging in the gallery and a request has been made by another patron to purchase a framed print. I had hoped to make a sale but never imagined I would walk away with two! If you are interested, there is still time to get a copy. The exhibit runs thru 13 November 2021 – follow this link for further details. I would also encourage you to check out Sue and Padma while there and consider bringing their work into your home, too.

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.

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Friday, August 27, 2021

Oh Deer! Look Who I Found!

Oh Deer! Look Who I Found!
"We are part of the earth and it is part of us… the deer, the horse, the great eagle: these are our brothers." - Chief Seattle

We have been getting a lot of deer in our backyard lately, sometimes as many as three fawns. This one was all alone this morning; I decided to try my luck. It could see me moving around in the house so I got down low, sat still for a few moments and quietly opened the sliding door just enough to stick the lens out.

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Monday, August 16, 2021

A Walk in the Park

A Walk in the Park

Out for a Walk

Lake Topanemus Park in Freehold was one of my favorite lunchtime destinations when I was working in Manalapan. It was there on a mid-May afternoon in 2014 that I came across this gentleman walking along the trail. I was immediately drawn to the red jacket so I stopped, grabbed my camera and fired off a few shots. When I got home I was reasonably happy with the image but it didn't knock me out and I got distracted for others so I completely forgot all about it.

This summer I have been re-visiting some of my older images - some that have been edited and others that I didn't give a second look at. This has been a rewarding exercise because I have re-discovered images that have turned out to be quite good. There have been others that I re-edited as my skills at Lightroom and Photoshop have matured.

When I looked at this image, I was struck, once again by the red jacket. I instantly added a black & white layer, made the edits to create the image the way I wanted it. Then I added a layer mask to the black & white layer, painted over the gentleman with a black brush to reveal the underlying color and VOILA! I don't do "selective color" too often but I think it is the perfect treatment for this image. I have included a fully edited color version of the image for reference. What do you think? Color or black & white? Let me know in the comment section below.

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