Banzai Pipeline


During the winter months, Landscape photography can be a bit lackluster at times, so doing a little shooting inside helps to keep things interesting. Todays image features nothing more than liquid dish soap and its intense colors. To do this shot, I filled a tray with soapy liquid, and then used an old tennis racket frame I had, to dip into the liquid. When the racket is carefully lifted, the soap stretches across the frame and starts this interesting swirling motion. Colors and patterns vary greatly,and do not usually last long till it pops. I basically pre focus on a spot and then put the racket in position, and quickly fine tune things. To really bring the color to life, I used a technique called cross polarization,which uses a sheet of polarizing material on the light source and then a polarizer is also placed on the lens. My title references the surfers paradise in Hawaii called the Banzai pipeline because I thought the soap looks like a huge crashing wave.

The Invincible Machine.

Nothing is really invincible, but this machine found in an old mill seems to be very well-built and has the name invincible on its front. A sticker on the beam says invincible cleaners, but I have no clue what it did in the mill operation. Evening light was pouring in the windows while I was lighting the gears and barrel, so we have a cold verses warm effect.This was shot in the same place as yesterdays post, and thanks to no heat inside, temperatures were near freezing, which was actually colder than it was outside. Perhaps that comes from the stream that runs under a portion of the building.

The Barrel Room

Todays image is another from my series taken at an old mill, and features a room full of old wooden barrels, along with a variety of tools used by the mill in its heyday. The round stone, serving as a table in the foreground weighs 2000 lb and is not going to move anytime soon. The image was shot using deer spotlights that I have placed diffusion on to soften the light output, and each exposure was approximately 30 seconds in an almost totally dark room. The windows were covered with black fabric to block the outside light from having any influence on my light painting, and were uncovered at the end to get the window detail. The lanterns were lit only by my spotlights to give a glowing effect. Because the spotlights are so intense, I use a technique where I pulse the trigger on briefly ,then off and keep moving across the scene till the shutter closes. A half second worth of spotlight is all it takes to light an object at f11 or f16 at iso 200. I also use a fairly inexpensive wireless remote to fire the camera from across the room, so I never touch the camera once I get started.

Classic Victorian

Just wanted to let anyone that might be following my blog to know that I do not just do light painting, so I felt I would share an image of what I consider to be a beautiful old Victorian home . It was shot with a Nikon camera that I had specifically modified to capture only the infrared spectrum. I used to use an expensive filter to do it, but that got to be a real nuisance because the filter was so dark, you had to remove it to focus on every new shot. The modified camera can almost be handheld,but I still insist on the tripod. I mention handheld because with the filter, you had daylight exposures in the 4 second range.

Antique Biscuit Box & Tins

Once again, thanks to the generosity of many people I meet, I am lucky enough to be allowed to photograph items that are a part of their lives, and at the same time, express my creative side through my photography. Sometimes these people own things that are so cool, I just have to ask if I can photograph them. The antique biscuit box and old tins shown here are one such example. Owners Margi and Dan have quite a selection of quality antiques they sell, and they were more than happy to let me capture some that have a personal connection. The grained wood box supporting everything is a family heirloom from the 1800s, many of the tins are early 1900s and were found in old general stores. Margi’s great great uncle was Newton Graybill who operated an old general store until the mid 1900s in Richfield,Pa, and in the late 1980s, a huge public sale was held featuring countless new merchandise items from the 1900s. Margi was able to buy several items from that sale. The old calendar reads 1922, and the american lady shoe sign is early 1900. finishing off the image is a door that is original to the house from around 1790. I light painted the whole scene with deer spotlights that have snoots and diffusion that I added to control the power they have. I use many types of flashlights and flash to do this,but I favor my spotlights the most. small items need more subtle flashlights, so its good to have a variety.

A Life Well Lived

This photograph is one in a series I am doing at an old mill that is literally frozen in time. I picked the title because the man who ran this mill had very conservative beliefs, and knew the value of working hard and saving money. He was so diligent with his finances that he established a foundation that still oversees this mill for tourists to visit to this very day. What you are looking at in this photograph is the mill office/post office that served residents in the small surrounding community for decades. I placed a pair of shoes at the chair to allow the viewer to imagine the man who once sat there, wonder at the tales he could tell, and appreciate how simply he lived, and most likely more fulfilled than the majority of people today. Picture yourself sitting down after a hard day in the mill, snow blowing outside and a warm fire in the stove, as you turn on the old radio, you sip some tea, and rock yourself to sleep by lantern light. A little imagination can take you to great places.

From Dawn to Dusk

Winter has once again relinquished its icy grip, and today temperatures climbed to the high forties.       I personally enjoy a good hard winter, with lots of snow and intense cold, but this winter season has been a real let down thus far. Thank goodness a good batch of fog rolled in overnight to envelop the landscape in an atmospheric wonderland, full of opportunities for photography. Once again, I had every intention of sleeping in, but looking out at 5am, I saw the fog building and figured I better get moving. As I dressed, my mind rapidly ran through all the locations I could think of and I finally decided to head to this church which sits on a hill overlooking a valley. Floodlights at the church backlit the fog, and as I worked the possibilities, I kept thinking, boy it would be great to have the sanctuary lit, and to my delight, a car pulled in and a member of the congregation agreed to turn them on. While I am pleased with my result, I must say the shot was taken at the very edge of where the ambient light starts to overwhelm the interior light and I literally got a few shots off till the balance tipped too far.If the interior had been lit a half hour earlier, the result would have been even better. Thanks to Glenn Buffenmyer for helping to make this church shot possible. The second image is an afterthought that I added tonight after shooting it on the way home this evening. I luckily had my camera with me to capture this colorful sunset. The best part is the images took only a few minutes on the computer instead of the hours I invest in the light painting photos here. If anyone cares to click on my gallery pages at the top of my page, you can see a couple other church location images under the fog gallery.

Unlock your Imagination

I chose the title of todays post after my wife and I went out to eat on friday. The restaurant walls had several quotes stenciled on them, and one by Albert Einstein caught my attention. The full quote reads like this, “I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my own imagination.Imagination is more important than knowledge.Knowledge is limited.Imagination encircles the world”. As an artist, I am constantly looking for inspiration all around me, whether its music, photographs, art,  or in this case an inspirational idea, one can enhance their own artistic expression by unleashing their imagination.

Whenever I read a quote like this, I think to myself, I sure wish I could say something so profound, yet so simple, but you can’t have it all I guess. On the topic of creativity, I have always been intrigued by how some people are seemingly born with the gift of creativity, others seem to learn it along the way, and others do not have an artistic bone in their body. Personally I don’t like to even say I am artistically blessed, because I am a small blip in the creative world, but I do feel I have been given a gift from God to capture the beauty around me. I know this because every time I see a gorgeous sunset or scene, I can feel something inside me stir, and am so grateful to have that feeling.

My image today features old locks and was made possible by the Burkholder family who have an antique business. They allowed me into their home to do two shots I had envisioned in my mind. One of the two images was this old group of keys and locks, and I wanted to photograph them in a way to accent their aged quality. I decided to use some old barn wood I had, and put some old lanterns in there as well. I light painted the scene to bring out the textures and shapes, and to make the lanterns glow,I held a lit match near the wick to simulate the glow, simply because these old antiques could not be fired up. The door in the photo is from an old prison and provided the background to complement my shot.

So in conclusion, I wholeheartedly believe that imagination is more important than knowledge, and I encourage anyone that follows my blog to imagine the possibilities you have each day to photograph what you love, and do it in a way that pushes your photos to the next level, and as you do so, may you find great satisfaction in producing something you are proud to put your name to.

A Fleeting Moment

I was hoping to sleep in this morning, but I woke up early thinking about several photo projects I am planning, so I bundled up and headed out for a potential sunrise. Temperatures were right at 20 degrees,which is not that cold, but when the sunrise is a bust, it seems colder as you wish you were home in a warm bed instead. After conceding the sunrise was not happening, I headed home and suddenly the rays broke through the clouds and side lit the plowed snow along this country road. It only lasted a minute or two, but I had my gear on the seat and captured the fleeting moment.

Graceful curves

Yesterday I was sure the winter weather was going to come up short,but this morning we woke to nearly six inches of fresh snow. I spent most of my day inside doing light painting on a couple new subjects, but still found time for a quick winter shot. This is located at the same place I posted two days ago. The graceful curves of this wrought iron gate caught my eye as fresh snow accented the lovely lines.

A chill in the air

Tonight you could feel the cold raw air on your neck as a wintry mix moved into our area. Freezing rain, snow and everything in between are possible,but unfortunately it sounds like it will be just a small storm. For those who enjoy taking photos, it’s the kind of storm that leaves you wishing for a good old-fashioned nor’easter that drops inch after inch all night long, and as you lay in your warm bed listening to the wind howl, you anxiously await first light and the glorious landscape. Tomorrow I am shooting a few antique items using light painting, so unless the storm surprises me, I plan to be inside most of the day. This image was taken last year about the same time as everything was covered by freezing rain, and I found myself rushing around to catch the endless possibilities that were melting before my eyes. Author Bill Watterson once said “getting an inch of snow is like winning 10 cents in the lottery” and that sums things up pretty well.

All Fired up


Actually I get fired up when thinking about potential subjects that I want to shoot, and the fire extinguishers are something I have seen for several years. I finally asked permission to shoot them,and even though I enjoyed trying, to be honest,I was planning to do better than this. The pile seems to have grown higher than I remember with newer models tossed on top, and even though I was hoping for lots of rust, flaking paint and so on, I gave it a go anyway. As I was standing there waiting for darkness, I noticed this rusty old farm implement behind the building and the owner said I could give that a whirl too, so I rushed around trying to see some sort of composition in near darkness. The resulting photos are not my greatest works to date, but not every shot is going to be a winner every time. Still I had fun lighting the stuff and practicing my techniques. I got a brief glimpse inside the place I took these, and it appears they have some really interesting old machine shop items that have lovely curves and angles to try light painting on. I am hopeful that the owner may allow me to try something on one of these old classic machines sometime.Thanks to Mr Martin for letting me try these shots.

Dreams of Europe

Todays image features a small village in Pennsylvania that was created by a Husband and Wife, who enjoyed traveling throughout europe and wanted to re-create the beauty they had experienced there.As a landscape photographer, I have dreamt of visiting places like Prague,Paris, Vienna, among a long list of others.The architecture, antiquities and sheer beauty have always been beckoning me, but for now this is as close as I can get. This village has numerous homeowners who have quaint shops, and while the concept seems great, public support has not always been what was hoped for. Periodically I make a brief stop there to dream of european adventures that someday will hopefully come to fruition. This image was taken yesterday after a brief shower, and includes the large fountain within the main village courtyard. I used wireless flash triggered by radio poppers to sidelight the cobblestone and fountain details.

A glimpse back in time



This photograph features the old equipment in a water powered grain mill. This amazing set of machines are still functional, and start right up with the twist of a shaft, which runs two stories to the basement. In the basement there is a huge tank that holds water in reserve, and at a moments notice, the entire operation is ready to go.The date on the machines says patent-1893, and the craftsmanship and build quality is characteristic of an era were necessity was the mother of invention,  This is another example of painting with light, and the photography session lasted almost 2 hours and the merging of all the pieces took about 3 hours, but I go in circles sometimes trying to decide which effect I want to pick, so that complicates things a bit. As I have warned in past posts, never bump anything in your shot while doing this, and as usual, I kicked the shovel halfway through, but luckily I had it captured already. Try and find something built to these standards nowadays, and you will be looking a while or digging pretty deep in the pocketbook. The two lower photos represent the base layer on the left, upon which the image is built and that image is a very flat,subdued, dark image,upon which the highlight images are overlayed, and a single light painted sample section,on the right, which includes the flashlight source where I have the arrow pointing. I generally try to keep the light source hidden by my body or simply turned away, so the camera cannot see it. A snoot or shield on the light can help, and even if you see the light source, its irrelevant if that section is not being used.

Frozen in Time

Old man winter made a brief comeback today in the form of temperatures that hovered around 12-15 degrees at daybreak. Cold conditions like this can provide some interesting possibilities if you are dressed properly and look long and hard enough.This image was captured at the edge of a local pond. It’s a wonder I even go near this pond, because it’s the same place my father made me wade into when I was around ten years old. I had pushed my friends sled across the frozen pond, and of course it went in the only open hole on the entire pond, so that evening when my father found out, he loaded me in the car, drove me to the pond and made me try to recover the submerged sled.I got to about waist deep, till he said get out, and then promptly drove me to buy a new one for my friend. Suffice it to say, I never pushed any sleds across frozen ponds from that day forward. That was decades ago, but it’s indelibly etched in my mind.

The doctor will see you now!

This light painting effort from my shoot today includes some of the tools doctors used in days gone by, and reminds me that I am happy to be living in modern times. This small grouping of medical items came to me courtesy of the local historical society, who I have been working closely with to highlight some of the pieces in their collection. The doctors bag is well-worn and one can only imagine the stories it has seen, while the smaller cases still hold pills that would have been prescribed at the turn of the century. The round device in the foreground was used to heat the clear glass domes which, when applied to the body would draw blood out through a vacuum effect,  curing the patient of whatever malady they had, or so they thought. The tiny metal device near the glasses would slice the skin with a series of very sharp blades. The two remaining items are what I believe are an early microscope, and a syringe.

The photograph of the doctor was added after my shoot, and was photographed in a locked display case. it was downsized from the larger photo, and I added it because I just felt its nice to see the people who made a difference in their communities and this doctor was one such person. He is Doctor John Franklin Mentzer, born in 1862, and it was said his service to the community could hardly be equaled. He was a Physician, a postmaster during President Benjamin Harrison’s term, Was director of a trolley company, and was a county treasurer as well. In 1904 and 1908, he was a county delegate to the republican national convention, which nominated Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Howard Taft. He died in 1958 at the age of 96.

One important point for those wishing to try this type of image, is you absolutely cannot bump anything during your light painting, or you will not have registration between the various pieces. I bumped the microscope about a half hour into shooting the scene, and thankfully I had that half of the shot already captured. This technique takes a certain amount of dedication to your photography, but I thoroughly enjoy the creative process it entails.

No Pain, No Gain

Although we still have not had any significant snowfall this year, I thought I would share an image I took exactly one year ago during the same week. I mention in my about me section that photographs can trigger many memories, and I remember this day like it was yesterday. A fast-moving storm coated the region in fresh snowfall just in time for weekend shooting, and as I drove around looking for images, I found this church and cemetery ready to greet the new day. Winds of 25mph plus were howling as the front moved through and even using hand warmers left me in a good deal of pain from the wind chill. I composed this image this way to direct your eye through the scene, going from the stones to the church to finally the sunlit clouds. Despite the brutal cold, I enjoy feeling the wind, snow and cold hit me, verses sleeping in a warm bed and watching the world go by. As they say, no pain, no gain.

Winter Wonderland

I am hoping the image that I shot tonight will be the last Christmas related image I post for the season, but who knows?  This old sleigh is part of the Christmas decor at the Foxchase golf course banquet facility in Lancaster County. Each year the owners bring the old classic sleigh out of storage to brighten the season for all the events held in their Palmer room. I have seen it for several years, imagined what I might do with it, and finally decided to ask permission to shoot it. I shot it with a small flashlight, and went so far as to shoot through the branches of the tree to cast the shadow on the back corner. the blue cotton comes from using my flashlight on its cooler blue light setting and then shifting my white balance to something in the 4000 kelvin range, to give the blue snow effect. I also brought the packages in the right corner to hide carpeting that I felt hurt the image. My wife wrapped the fake packages a few years ago for my escapades each year. The owners say the sleigh dates from about 1902.Now just imagine traversing the countryside on a cold winters night, full moon illuminating the landscape, and fresh snow whipping around you, as you hold the reins in this classic ride.

A Spot of Tea?

Hopefully those following my work will bear with me posting Christmas images after the fact. I hated to let them fade into oblivion without sharing them this year yet. The doll display is part of a Christmas Tree event done bi-annually at Historic Poole Forge in Lancaster County, Pa. A local Doll club does an outstanding job setting this scene up. I lit each doll separately to bring out details. The other shot is in a local town and features a tavern dating back to 1746. For those taking notes, I brought the Christmas decor from home that is hanging on the post and zip tied it to add a little extra to that area. The lamps are really green and I lit everything else. All I needed was a little snow, but this year is a real bust for snow so far. Another interesting bit of info is the fact the wreath was about 8 feet off the ground, so I used an 8 foot stepladder that I modified to accept a steel post, and that allows me to attach my camera and shoot things approaching 10 feet off the ground. I must use a laptop to fire the camera to avoid any movement on the ladder though.

Old Time Thresher

This is an antique Messinger Thresher that I photographed this evening using my light painting technique. The machine dates between 1912 and 1920 and was made in Tatamy, Pennsylvania. The image was taken at Burkholders Evergreen Farm in Denver, Pennsylvania, and the owners were gracious enough to give me access to photograph this beautiful old machine. Light painting can be a very involved process and sometimes I  go in circles trying to decide which lighting effect to use from the myriad of shots I do on these images. Tools I incorporate into creating these shots are spotlights [with diffusion], regular flashlights, radio slaved flash, laptop, so I don’t move the tripod mounted camera at all, and a good dose of trial and error. Every subject has certain reflectivity and getting the angle correct between the light source and camera can be tricky sometimes. I think I incorporated about fifty-five different shots into the final result. I prefer to do more shots quicker at exposure times of 20-30 seconds each, instead of locking the shutter open for minutes at a time only to find out you overexposed half the image and just wasted 4 minutes for nothing. The older I get, the more I seem to appreciate the skill and craftsmanship that generations past put into their creations. If you click on my galleries, under Amish, you can look at the middle row, 5th one down and see the amish using a metal version of one of these machines.

Christmas Past and Present.

Well obviously Christmas is past, but since I love all things related to Christmas, I asked permission to shoot the Christmas display at a local shop tonight. That shop, called Sheldon’s Gallery and Frame Shop, features fine art and a variety of wonderful gifts throughout the year, and the owner was gracious enough to grant me access to shoot what I consider a lovely scene. The bottom image was taken of the exterior of the neighboring building and the gallery a year or two ago, and is also quite impressive architecturally speaking. I remember the evening quite well as a snow emergency was declared, yet I decided I was going out shooting anyway. The town was absolutely silent in a blanket of white as I happily took in the still of a winter’s night.

Full Moon Rising

Today was full moon, and It reminded me of a shot I took last month during full moon. As a photographer, I make every effort to plan ahead as much as possible, and by using a free program called – The Photographers Ephemeris, which uses google earth to show you sun/moon locations, I previewed a few potential places I wanted to shoot to see if the full moon would be in the right spot. This farm, complete with a flooded field yielded the perfect opportunity. The key to capturing such an image is to shoot when moonrise happens right at sunset, so exposure can retain detail in the moon and the landscape. It’s a fleeting few minutes.The glow on the water is all real, and a slight breeze almost ruined my shot. Instead of rushing around back roads, I arrived, set up my tripod, aimed exactly where the program said the moon would rise and simply waited for it to appear.The accompanying buggy shot is taken from the same location a few days later. The water just sits here from the summer floods and has covered the road numerous times. I made over two dozen trips to this spot, which is approx 15 miles away to capture this unique double horse-drawn buggy image. A link to the Sun/Moon tool is in my blogroll. Try it on your home address to see its accuracy.

1893 Folk Art Clock

This post features my latest image that I shot this morning, and showcases the 1893 folk art clock, created by the gentleman shown above. He was Peter Kurtz, a native of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. His highly detailed and intricate folk art clock was made in 1893 and his obituary listed him as being of  “a quiet, modest and retiring disposition”. He was born in 1832 and was the last of nine children. I lit this shot primarily with small flashlights to bring out the intricate detail in this amazing piece from the past.

Confectionary wonderland

This sweet little scene is just one small portion of a grand gingerbread creation done by RLPS Architects in Lancaster,Pa. Every year near Christmas, the employees create a very unique gingerbread village and then they open their doors on select evenings for the community to enjoy. This year featured a beach theme,and was simply amazing.

Old Coffee Grinder

This is another image that I used my light painting technique on. The shot took almost 2 hours to complete,with over 75 exposures being shot in a dark room. You must keep light from your flashlight off the light colored walls when using this technique, otherwise you will have highlights showing up all over the wall. The shadow on the wall further showcases the lovely old coffee grinder.

Christmas Memories

This lovely scene includes the Christmas tree of Claire de Perrot, a very kind and caring lady, who granted access to both myself and good friend Morrie to allow us to photograph this Christmas tradition that goes back many years in her family. Each Christmas Eve, the tree is lit with real candles as Worshipers leave the service at the Moravian church, which can be seen through her picture window in the quaint town of Lititz,Pa.

Church Sanctuary at Christmas

church interior.

The result of my two-hour light painting session at a local church. This location originally caught my eye because of its lovely curved wooden pews and carved end details, stained glass, and festive Christmas accents. Special thanks to Pastor Miller for granting me access to this lovely sanctuary.