Finding Local Inspiration: Fall on a Farm

Fall has officially started on the east coast of the United States! Temperatures have finally mellowed, pumpkin spiced everything is available for sale, and the trees are starting to show their fall colors. So last weekend I headed out into rural Virginia to get a few images in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

One thing I often hear from new photographers is that they don't have anything to photograph, and they can only travel once or twice a year. That sentiment represents a lack of creativity! There are photographs to be found everywhere you look. So today I'm sharing over a dozen images that were all taken within a 300 foot radius of a farm house in rural Virginia - all made on the same day (although taken at different times to reflect changing sun conditions).

You don't need need to travel to exotic locations to make some photographs, and I challenge you to find some local inspiration in your back yard!

A white picket fence surrounding the property lines. 

A white picket fence surrounding the property lines. 

Playing with reflections and silhouettes in the window. That's actually my mom sitting at the kitchen table.

Playing with reflections and silhouettes in the window. That's actually my mom sitting at the kitchen table.

A shed sitting along the edge of the property.

A shed sitting along the edge of the property.

A pile of fresh leaves on the lawn

A pile of fresh leaves on the lawn

Two ladders leaning up on the side of the workshop

Two ladders leaning up on the side of the workshop

Peeling paint on the side of the shed

Peeling paint on the side of the shed

Playing with the high contrast late afternoon shadows on the leaves

Playing with the high contrast late afternoon shadows on the leaves

The view from the back of the property

The view from the back of the property

Looking over the fence toward the neighbor's farm

Looking over the fence toward the neighbor's farm

The tree in the front yard

The tree in the front yard

A workshop with an old horse-drawn carriage in the back

A workshop with an old horse-drawn carriage in the back

A pile of leaves on a table in the yard

A pile of leaves on a table in the yard

Photographing the Tour de France with the Leica Monochrom

If I told you I was going to photograph the iconic finish of the famous cycling race, the Tour de France, in Paris, you would naturally start to envision the types of photographs I might take. Like a high speed photograph of the moment when the winner crossed the finish with his hands thrust up in victory. The sort of photograph that could be put on the cover of an illustrated sports magazine and sold on newsstands around the world. A photograph that a few die-hard fans, sponsors, and probably the athlete themselves, would ever want to own or hang on a wall.

That's what you'd think if I told you I went to photograph the Tour de France.

Now if I also told you that I photographed the Tour de France with the Leica M Monochrom - a camera that only takes black and white photographs, and is not remotely close to the type of camera used to take the magazine cover images I described a moment ago - you'd think I was crazy (stupid).

Not only am I crazy (stupid), but I actually chose this camera to photograph the race.... On purpose. Right. While every other serious photographer is wielding a serious dSLR with a 70-200mm zoom and maybe a monopod, I'm shooting a small, manual focus camera that maybe shoots 2 frames per second..... In black and white.

What the hell was I thinking? For starters, without press credentials, there was no way I was going to get into a location that would offer the type of images illustrated sports magazines would want. Second, even if I took those glaring sharp images with creat color and detail, who is ever going to look at them? And third, I like to make art, and taking "serious" photographs of the race wasn't the sort of artistic look I wanted. So I set out with the goal of making artistic and creative images of the race. I wanted to make photographs that were completely unlike anything else that anyone else would shoot that day......

Of course I photographed one of the American women riding - Alison Tetrick

Before selecting the camera I would shoot for the race, I conceptualized the images I might want to make. I started by looking at past photographs of the Tour finish in Paris; most of which were the high-speed action shots that I wasn't looking to emulate. I then started to research locations and the race setup. The peloton of the Tour de France will do 10 laps along the Champ de Elysees as part of the ceremonial finish, so I knew I wanted a chance to photograph the riders as they ran that circuit. Why?

If you have never watched a professional bike race, then watch the following video clip, which was filmed on my iPhone, to understand how fast this race whizzes past.

Now imagine trying to get dozens of artistic and creative shots, with different focal lengths and effects, in that short window of time. Not happening. My only chance to build a mass of different photographs was to get 10 laps of them. I also read that lining up on Rue de Rivoili was a great spot for spectating, as it wasn't hard to get a spot along the barricades. The only variable was security - with the recent string of terrorist attacks in Paris, I knew the French Gendarmerie would be all over the place. Despite my best efforts, I couldn't find a lot of information about what areas of the route would be open to spectators..... I suspect it wasn't published widely to prevent any ill-intentioned persons from using the same information for less noble causes. As anticipated, the Gendarmerie had blocked off Rue do Rivoili on the park side - an area that used to be a great spot to spectate from because it was in the shade!

Anyway, back to the decision process..... If I had 10 laps to photograph the riders, then a slower camera could suffice to capture the action. And I knew the images would ultimately be presented in black and white to neutralize the bright colors of the race. Teams and sponsors cover the riders in an array of vibrant colors and bold designs to attract the attention of viewers, and I didn't want these designs to overpower the underlying theme of my images..... Motion.

When I really sat down to think about it, the motion of the race is what I wanted to capture. The riders whip around at speeds in excess of 30MPH and create a whooshing sensation as you stand along the spectating route. The tempo and speed are what make this race so impressive; hundreds of men going full speed inches apart from each other and with the grace and poise to make it look easy. That's what I wanted to capture.

I decided that it came down to either the Leica Q or the Leica Monochrom for this task. The Q images could convert to black and white, and its auto focus and faster shooting speed might be handy. But I also liked the idea of shooting some images at 50mm, and ultimately opted for the camera with interchangeable lenses. And, I would be doing some street and night photographs during the remainder of my weekend in Paris.

I packed two lenses to photograph the Tour: the Leica 35mm Summarit f/2.4 and the Leica 50mm Summicron f/2.0 (1983 Made in Canada edition!). The Leica EVF-2, a spare battery and some memory cards rounded out the kit. Lightweight, easy, and no frills. We also packed some cold drinks and snacks, as the plan was to watch the women's race and Tour de France caravan (a parade of sponsors) before the men entered the circuit. It was going to be a long, hot day, but we were ready (except the sun screen, doh).

Access to the route was very tightly controlled. Security inspected all bags closely - to the point they opened my wallet and flipped through it. Cool, and thank you to all the French security forces who made the race safe and enjoyable.  I got to an open spot in the barricade right as the women started to come through for their first laps as part of their race, called "La Course".

The women's race was a great chance to get dialed in for camera settings and configuration, and gave me a chance to work on my timing for panning shots. The women riders mostly preferred to be in the center of the road, or the opposite side; later I'd find myself wishing the men would do the same as they got too close at points!

As the ladies entered their last lap of La Course, it was clear something was afoul. Each team has a set of cars carrying the team director, mechanics, and spare bikes that follows the riders. If a rider has an issue, they can drop back in the peloton to their team car and get service (there is also a neutral service car that will help everyone.... But you might not like the equipment they give you). As the women entered lap 10, we could see the team cars at the back of the race suddenly stopped. A friend of mine watching the race on broadcast TV texted me the verdict- a big crash just happened with a bunch of riders caught up. On that last lap there were several different crashes, leaving the peloton in battered shape as they passed for the last time. Those riders who had been caught in an accident, many of whom had bandages and torn jerseys to show for it, finished their last lap at a more relaxed and casual pace as their chance to win in front of the Arc de Triumph passed. The crowd was wonderful, cheering extra hard for these battered women who fought to finish; as a photographer I was appreciative that the slower pace gave me a chance to get some different images.

At the conclusion of the women's race, we had several hours before the men would arrive. To fill the time, the Tour organizers arrange for the Caravan to pass. The Caravan is basically a sponsor parade. Each of the major race sponsors has floats with people dancing and singing. See the Tour elsewhere in France and the Caravan will throw out treats and freebies to spectators. But by the time they reach Paris, there are no more freebies to be had. Thankfully the Vittal float, which is for the official bottled water provider of the Tour, had "freebie" water sprayers to help cool the crowd. I could have asked them to pass a few more times.

Now all of this probably sounds like there was a lot of action to photograph, but that was hardly the case. There were hours of nothingness, followed by a flash 10 seconds of racing, followed by 10 minutes of waiting before the race came whipping past again for another 10 seconds. The street became rather crowded as the race approached, and since we had secured a space along the barricade, there was no choice but to stay and bake in the sun. At points we'd sit on the ground cramped into awkward positions and on the hot asphalt just to give our feet a short reprieve. I don't say any of this in an attempt to elicit sympathy - I had the time of my life - but getting these photos wasn't just a show-up-and-aim-affair, it required dedication and a lot of patience for 10 seconds of shooting opportunity.

Speaking of, let's get back to the photography. As I mentioned earlier, I brought two lenses for this shoot, but started with the 35mm Summarit for the women's race. In my pre-visualization of the images I wanted to make, I determined that I would be using slow shutter speeds to create the blur that viewers would associate with the motion of the race. Unfortunately, it was so sunny that with the base ISO of 320 on the Leica Monochrom, I had to shoot at apertures between f/11-16 to create shutter speeds in the 1/90th of a second range. While I might have preferred a shallower depth of field before I started shooting, not knowing exactly where the cyclists would line up on the roadway made a wider depth of field ultimately more favorable. At f/11-16, I could guarantee that the entire roadway was in focus, so I just had to be attentive to the timing and panning of my camera. Easier said than done!

As the riders would pass on their laps, I had a few minutes to review the images from the last lap to evaluate and make changes before they came around again. By the end of the women's race I had some images that looked like definite "keepers" on the LCD screen; more importantly, I felt dialed in for when the men would come through in a few hours.

Unfortunately, the sun and clouds felt like changing pretty significantly in that time. The women raced around 1:30pm, when the sun was directly overhead and very bright, but the men came through in the 6:30pm hour, so the light had faded and wasn't as harsh. As a result, all the settings I had dialed in earlier were completely moot! I ended up shooting at an ISO around 1600 to give me shutter speeds in that 1/90th range. But as I reviewed the images after that first lap, I had a lot more blur than when I'd used that same shutter speed with the women. Apparently the men are going even faster than the women and a shutter speed of 1/125-250th was more appropriate for getting the same level of blur. I'm sure some math geek can translate shutter speed (at the same aperture) to the speed of the bikers.... It probably involves terms like "square root" and "differential equation." Feel free to comment if you feel like doing some math.

After a few laps at 35mm, I switched to the Summicron 50mm with the idea of getting more close-up shots of the riders. Bad plan. Well not really, abstract is abstract, but there is too much shutter lag with the Monochrom to really try and frame and shoot like that. Using the 50mm turned into 'spray and pray' shooting, which I really hate, so I returned to the 35mm focal length for the remaining laps.

I found that shooting the high speed action of the Tour de France caused me to ditch some of my normal photographic techniques. Most notably is that I did a lot of chimping (checking my work on the LCD screen) - I would NOT recommend trying to shoot an event like this with a camera like the Leica M-D that doesn't have an LCD screen, unless you have balls of steel. I also spent less time framing each shot.... Okay, I spent no time framing. I would make decisions before each lap about my shooting objective for the next lap and would stick to it. Am I shooting them head on as they approach? Panning as they pass? Shooting their shadows and tires? Once I decided on the objective for that lap, I would do some test framing, but mostly hoped to get lucky!

Considering I brought a cricket bat to a baseball game with the Leica Monochrom, it performed surprisingly well; however, I attribute the success I had not to the camera, but to the pre-visualization and knowing what I wanted before I clicked the shutter. The Monochrom isn't the tool for getting that home run magazine cover finish line image, so don't try to use it as such. I wanted to bunt for a base hit, and I was able to use the camera to achieve that result. For all intensive purposes, I had to fight the Leica Monochrom to get these photographs. It's a camera that forces you to slow down. It's a camera designed for thoughtful and deliberate photography, not haphazard and reckless shooting. But it is possible to shoot the Monochrom with such abandon, and the result is stunning.

Would I bring the Leica Q next time? I'm not sure. I would have had a completely different shooting experience, and probably would have tried to get different images. For instance, I would have probably tried to get more blurring of the uniforms and jerseys to create images with a colorful smear. I wouldn't have gotten these photographs.

Overall, I am thrilled with these results - they are the abstract fine art photographs that I set out wanting to create. There isn't too much emphasis on the individuals of the race, rather these photographs capture the spirit of the race. The Tour de France has been running for over 100 years - it's a race that has (and will continue) to inspire millions around the world. Cycling is one of the most popular personal activities, and the photographs I made could easily hang on the wall of a cycling enthusiast who wants to capture the underlying spirit of their sport....... Motion.

Quick Shot: Alone

It was a long hike to get this photo.....well, it was a long hike where I got this photo! After several miles of uphill through a swampy and overgrown mountainside in Wales, I began descending a steep rock face. Looking up along the cliff during my descent, I found this lone tree perched on the cliff. A lone tree would have been photographic, but the bizarre crooked shape of this tree really made the shot!

Photographed with the Leica SL and Leica f/0.95 Noctilux lens. 

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Quick Shot: Rain Storm

Bad weather makes for great photographs, which is contradictory to what most people think. I get a lot of comments from folks on the street who see me with a camera and remark "what a great day for photography" when the sun is shining and not a cloud in the sky. The problem is, nice weather is boring. There isn't drama and contrast to it.  

On the other hand, crap weather is great for photographs, even if it's not great for standing around in. For this particular shot, I had some of both. The sky was sunny and nearly cloud-free over my right shoulder, but to my left was a pop up rain storm and heavy clouds. The contrast was remarkable, and made for some great lighting and drama to photograph. 

I emphasized the dramatic clouds  and contrast of the rain over everything else.... I cropped to 16x9 to give a dramatic air to the whole photograph and converted it to black and white using Nik Silver Efex. Photographed on the coast of Wales with the Leica SL and Leica 24-90mm lens. 

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Quick Shot: Hidden London

I have been working on cleaning up my laptop's hard drive for the next photo adventure, which will be a BIG one and unearthed several shots from London that were hidden in the depths. They are all interesting photos with some cool stories, so let's explore what lingers in the dark corners of my folders.

An old church in downtown London was converted to an outdoor park after burning down

A classic outside the Portobello Street Market

Back entrance to the Apollo Theatre

A construction project silhouette against the bright white clouds on an overcast London afternoon

Keeping with the construction theme - some scaffolding raising up from Soho into the grey skies


Quick Shot: Train Lady

Over the weekend, I took the train down to London's King's Cross station (where the platform 9 3/4's is run by enterprising  Brits happy to make a buck on folks dying for a photo op). My last trip through London was to purchase the Leica M-P 240, so I hadn't become familiar enough with the camera to shoot at the speed and comfort I wanted. For this trip the goal was simple -  capture some interesting photographs of life in London.

This quick shot embodies the interesting photograph goal; I was sitting on the train as we rode home from a full day of walking and was enjoying being off my feet for the first time in hours. I stared out the window dazing off in reminiscence of the afternoon I'd spent in town. In the reflection of the window I could see the woman sitting two rows in front of me looking out the window, also deep in thought.  I debated what sort of adventures her day had included; she was dressed rather well and that only furthered my speculation. Did she see a play? Was she out on a date? Was she visiting a lover?

I decided to try and photograph the woman's reflection - the seats in front of me totally obscured any view of her, but her reflection with the context of the train chairs is what intrigued me. I rarely use a live view function on any camera, but this was the perfect occasion - I needed to line up the camera's angle relative to the sun and window to maximize the reflection without creating obstruction from the chairs. I selected an aperture with a narrow depth of field so that only her face would be in focus and took one shot. A quick black and white conversion in Nik Silver Effects and I had my train lady!

Comment and let me know what you think the "train lady" was doing in London.

The Power of the Darkroom

Since I've started working with enlarging my film negatives in a darkroom, I keep getting the same series of questions.......

  1. Darkrooms still are a thing?
  2. Isn't it expensive?
  3. Why not just scan and print your negative?

All fair questions. Let's break down the power of the darkroom.....

1. Yes, darkrooms are still a thing, but increasingly rare. Where I live outside Cambridge, the closest public use darkroom is a little more than an hour drive away, but it's worth the drive. While I could (and will eventually) build a darkroom in my house, that will have to wait until I am not living abroad, so a public darkroom is the way to go. There are several websites dedicated to helping you find a darkroom, such as http://www.localdarkroom.com

2. Name something in photography that is not expensive and you win a prize. For me, darkroom printing is no more expensive than my inkjet work. My consumables are the light sensitive papers and chemicals. In my case, I don't pay for chemicals because I have instead opted for a membership at a darkroom (The Photo Parlour), so my chemical cost is really my membership cost. Factoring in the cost of paper and assuming I make around 50 prints a year, my cost per print is around $3 - and that's good and large paper (8x10 or bigger). In digital printing, my costs are ink and again paper. The paper I was using, which is again a high quality paper, cost $2.75/sheet and my ink costs were about $2 per print. In fact, all factors considered, I once calculated that my "startup" cost for inkjet printing was almost $1000! 

Let's assume I make 50 prints at 11x14 per year. My cost per print in the darkroom, including my membership fees, is about $4/print (also assuming some margin for mistakes and re-prints/ test strips, etc). The cost for the same 50 prints done at home on my inkjet printer is $5/print (I probably have less "waste" since a printer is a very.... mechanical..... object!). 

Bottom line - it's always cheaper to mail order print, but that removes the "art" from a lot of the work. I enjoy watching my prints appear before my eyes, so for me, the costs of personally printing are worthwhile. And, in my current situation, the darkroom doesn't cost more than inkjet!

3. I really didn't appreciate the true magic of the darkroom until I began using it. This sounds stupid to say, but I always thought about my prints as having one single proper exposure. I thought there was one version that was the "proper" version (as conceived by the artist, not technically proper) and you print that version. I was blown away when I watched prints that were dramatically different come from the same negative...... slightly longer exposures in the enlarger made some prints darker and moody, while the same negative with less exposure time was light and bright. I was blown away. I can make two different prints with two different moods from the same negative? I know, it sounds stupid, but I never really considered this.

Suddenly a new world was unlocked. I now visualize an image thinking "is this a dark and moody photo, or a light and cheery photo?" ---> I am thinking about the development and enlargement before I take the picture. With digital photography I would think about the end product, sure, but I didn't think in the same tonalities and with the same possibilities that film has stretched me to consider.

The best example of how to get the different tonalities is best seen in a test strip. Check these photos below - the different slices are the same photo, but different lengths of time in the enlarger. Each has a different look and feel and none of them is "more correct" than the other.

Let's revisit a recent negative - one of a boat on the beach of Dungeness. I scanned and posted it several days ago, but let's review the original negative....... looking at it below, it's fairly dark and the image we see is a digital machine's (scanner) literal interpretation of the negative. There isn't much creative interpretation - the scanner is just trying to represent the negative in a series of shades of grey - really simplifying my image into a series of 1's and 0's. How sad.

Obviously, this is a lovely photograph! But it's not the print I imagined when I clicked the shutter. The print in my head was much lighter. MUCH lighter. It was almost white sky and the boat was very light, as though it was drawn in pencil. It was a happy photograph, while this is a little dark and moody. Off to the darkroom!

I did a test print and decided that my first print would be at an exposure of 10 seconds with no dodging or burning - just a straight print. Here's what that looks like:

This is certainly lighter than the scanned "literal interpretation" from the negative, but the sky is still too dark for my liking. I ran another print at  5 seconds, but that was too washed out - needed more contrast. To boost contrast in a black and white print, we add magenta filters, so I went crazy and added 50 magenta to the filtration (for scale, 15 is more "normal"). I ran another test strip and determined I liked the look of the print at 9 seconds. I realize this almost the same exposure as the previous print, but the magenta filtration requires more time to compensate, hence the minor change in image time. Here's the print at 9 seconds with 50 magenta in the filter (I also burned the bottom right part of the rail a little more.

Perfect! This is actually my final print - there are several others that I used to tweak the dodging and burning and show slight differences in the foreground, but this was my final version. 

So why bother with the darkroom - that's why! Look at what an incredibly diverse set of prints I got from a negative that, to the scanner, looked very dark. The darkroom has unlocked my creative potential and has me visualizing my artwork in a whole new way.

Quick Shot: Dungeness

I spend most of the week researching the places I'll spend time exploring on the weekend. When I found my way to some photographs of Dungeness, I knew I'd have to take a day trip to see it in person.

Dungeness is home to one of England's still operational nuclear power stations and sits along the southern coast, just a few miles from France. In fact, it's so close to France that my cell phone starts to provide me with text messages welcoming me to an international destination! Along the beach leading to the power station is a bunch of, well, junk. But it's very photogenic junk!

With the Leica and Rolleiflex T in hand, I took about two dozen images of the junk around the Dungeness Nuclear Power Station. I haven't finished the roll from the Leica, so all of these are from the Rollei. I think it's one of the more interesting piles of junk I've had the chance to photograph in England!

PS - keep your eyes out for power lines in these photos that lead from the power station!

Quick Shot: Accidental Ceiling

I had an accidental M.C. Escher moment when I took this photograph - I saw this ceiling and was drawn to the variety of domes and shapes. The Escher effect was certainly amplified by converting it into Black and White. Now it has that look of so many of Escher's drawings.... you just aren't sure which was is up, but your eye is captivated by the shapes and geometry.

I say this was an accidental Escher moment because I didn't realize I had taken this photograph! The church we were in didn't permit photography of any type, so I was putting the D800 away while sitting on a bench in the center of the dome. Apparently in the process of stowing the camera, I hit the shutter once, which isn't uncommon since I usually walk around with the camera in the on position and without a lens cap so it's ready at a seconds notice. The photograph was actually cropped because you can see the top of my head in the original. 

Now I certainly don't recommend taking photos someplace where you are requested not to, but accidents do happen, and this one worked out well.... especially since I normally get shots of my feet accidentally.  So my apologies to the church, but I couldn't resist using such a neat looking accident! However, if I sell any of these prints, I'll give a portion of the proceeds to the church as compensation for my accident.

Quick Shot: Black and White Cliffs of Dover

We have been in the United Kingdom for just over a month, but I have been so busy moving and getting settled that I haven't taken much time to go on road trips and photograph this beautiful country.

This weekend we set our sights on one of the most famous attractions in England - the White Cliffs of Dover. The cliffs are chalk based, which gives them their brilliant white color, and Dover is the closest crossing point between England and France. In fact, we could see the coast of France in the distance and our cell phones switched to a French carrier! 

Over the course of several hours we hiked (and picnicked!) around the cliffs to capture their beauty. I was aided by some changing weather too - it rained twice separated by bouts of intense sunshine. I was constantly taking my coat on and off to cope with the rapidly changing climate, which was partially due to strong gusty winds along the coast.

I knew that I wanted to capture several images during the day - the first was a black and white photograph that demonstrated the contrast between the brilliantly white cliffs and the surrounding landscape. Other photo projects, which I'll feature in future Quick Shots, included creating a 10 image panorama.... stay tuned!

This was shot using my Nikon D800 + Nikon 14-24mm wide angle lens. Black and white conversion done using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2. 

The White (and black) Cliffs of Dover.... Look closely to see one of the rainstorms along the horizon!!

Quick Shot: Inbound Storm

I dream about clouds.... or at least dream about the opportunities to photograph really rich and detailed clouds like the one featured in today's quick shot. 

This photograph was literally a "quick shot" - I was on a cruise through coastal Alaska when I happened to notice this big thunderhead in the distance. I immediately pulled out the camera and took a few quick snaps of the storm before our ship passed through the storm.

Photographs of clouds can be really hit or miss - but this one I think is a hit, especially in black and white. What do you think?

A thunderstorm brewing over the islands of coastal Alaska

Quick Shot: Brakeman

I hardly ever take photographs of people - I much prefer landscapes and nature scenes - but sometimes a face and personality take me and I've got to capture it. This gentleman was one of those people.

This is no model, he's an employee of the White Pass Railroad that runs through the Yukon in Alaska and Canada. As the train's brakeman, his job is to get off at the stops and assist passengers with boarding the train and notifying when everyone is onboard, which is how I met him. We had taken a long snow shoe hike and at the completion of our trek, were to be picked up by the train and taken back into town. I had my camera handy as I was boarding the train and snapped one shot of his face before climbing into the railcar.

What captured my attention was the warm and welcoming smile, but the worn look on his skin. He has a very friendly persona, but you look at his face and know he must have some great stories to share. Unfortunately, I don't know anything more about him, but I liked his face enough to make a quick portrait.

Shot with the Nikon D800 and 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. Converted into black and white using Nik Silver Efex Pro.

Quick Shot: Rocks and Waves

Like my 10 minute photograph from a few days ago, this is a merge of several photographs to create a temporal photo. Unlike the one from earlier this week, this photo only represents about a minute of time because the sand kept shifting my tripod, making it difficult to keep everything perfectly stable.

Thankfully, three photos was all I needed to catch the drama of the waves and some nice clouds! This photograph was taken near the fishing pier at Leesylvania State Park and I used two stacked neutral density filters to create a long exposure. To create the final image, I merged these into a 32 bit photo in Adobe Photoshop Photo Merge. I then used Nik Silver Efex Pro to convert the photograph to black and white.

When I took this series, I wasn't optimistic about the outcome, but the final result was much better than expected! In fact, it's one of my favorites from the weekend. 

The dramatic rocks and waves at Leesylvania State Park were captured with a merge of three photographs

Quick Shot: World Trade Center Memorial

This weekend I travelled to New York City to spend a weekend taking in the sights and sounds of the Big Apple before our upcoming move to the United Kingdom. Our trip was complete with all the normal sights - Times Square, Lady Liberty, B&H Photo (ok, it's a sight for photographers) and the World Trade Center Memorial.

Although I've been to NYC post-9/11, it was before the memorial pools had opened, so I was looking forward to seeing the completed memorial and paying my respects. Like many Americans, 9/11 represents a turning point in my life - I probably wouldn't be where I am in life today without that fateful day. Words cannot express the emotion experienced at the 9/11 memorial.

I wanted to photograph the memorial in a way that showed off the former WTC towers, but also highlighted that New York has continued to grow and thrive post-9/11. I knew that any image I took was going to be in black and white, I just needed to find the angle that I liked. As I walked around the pools, I looked for a location that let me tell the story of 9/11 while also showing how NYC has re-built from these attacks. When I arrived at this point in the pool, where the words "World Trade Center" appeared on the memorial, I knew I had my spot.

I shot on a tripod with a neutral density filter to get a long exposure to capture the flowing water. The final image was edited in Nik Silver Efex to create the black and white photograph you see here. 

Creating this photograph was a very emotional experience and I hope this photograph reminds you to honor and remember the victims of September 11th, 2001.

The 9/11 Memorial at the site of the World Trade Center in New York. 

Quick Shot: US Navy SBD-5 Airplane

The Douglas SBD-5 "Dauntless" was one of the US Navy's most prolific killers during World War II. Unfortunately, after the war ended, most of the aircraft were left to decay and today there are only two SBD-5's in the world that can still fly....

... and this is one of them!

Based at the Dixie Wing of the Commemorative Air Force in Georgia, this SBD-5 is still airworthy and flies routinely. I am always excited to photograph aircraft like this that are so rare - it's my chance to capture one of the few remaining pieces of US history. 

It was pouring rain all day during my shoot at the Dixie Wing, but the rain stopped long enough for a few rays of sunlight to peak through the clouds, creating a dramatic cloud scene. I got my shot and minutes later it was back to a solid grey sky and pouring rain - but that was okay!

I like this photograph in black and white because it shows off the drama of the sky and gives the aircraft an old and majestic feel. I am very pleased with how this photograph turned out, but more importantly, am satisfied that I captured one of two airworthy SBD-5's left with the beauty and glory it deserves!

One of two airworthy Douglas SBD-5's remaining in the world, located at the Dixie Wing of the Commemorative Air Force.


Quick Shot: Norfolk Southern

Trains are a fascinating part of American history.... I've always enjoyed photographing trains, but I particularly adore the opportunities I have to photograph trains that are still moving America's economy today. 

Two weeks ago I found this Norfolk Southern train stopped for service and jumped at the chance to photograph it. The train was carrying railroad ties and was being used to lay and repair track along southwest Virginia. The locomotive was dirty from use, but still had a majestic look at it sat on the tracks.  

It's an incredibly simple photograph, but I love the detail in the train and surrounding scenery. I particularly like the photograph in black and white, where the symbolic Norfolk Southern jumping horse pops on the front of the locomotive. 

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