2019 Draws to a Close

I visited a long time friend this past week who lives in Manheim,PA and when I drove through the town square I was struck by how charming it was so I decided I needed to come back and try and get a shot before everything got taken down. The bottom image was my first attempt and was taken the next evening after my visit and to be honest I thought this would be it. That all changed when I was heading out and looked back to see the top image in my rear view mirror. I knew it was supposed to continue raining all night and through the morning so I set the alarm for 5:30 am and headed over hoping that morning traffic would not make it impossible to get the shot. If you look at the top image, you can imagine what having one car parked in the foreground would do to the shot. All the reflections in the wet street would be blocked, so when I saw it was clear I quickly got set up and started shooting so I would have something at least. To my surprise no one parked in front and before long the black sky started to brighten as daybreak inched closer and the shot I envisioned came to life. I hate pitch black skies and if I had shot in the dark, you would not even see the trees that stand out against the blue sky. For the bottom image I used a polarizer to cut glare on the wet brick and because of that the reflection of the tree really popped against the backlit brick. Maybe next year I can get lucky and have a snowy version of the square. Here’s wishing everyone a Happy New Year! Continue reading

Lititz Christmas Window1

 

I have been fairly active shooting scenes relating to Christmas in the town of Lititz, Pa but not as on the ball posting them, but hopefully this will be the start of sharing new images. This shot features the window of the Atlas general store which has a cool display of what appears to be rolled paper made into trees.

Bundle Up

I will be sharing my images from the town of Lititz,Pa over the next week or two and they are all done using flash and light painting techniques. I go for a somewhat nostalgic feel and my hallmark effect is the cool versus the warm. This shot features a yarn shop that had a sheep in the window and a tree with knitted hats and scarves.

The Pharmacy

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This local pharmacy has been an anchor in the local business community for years and since I was doing a little photo series on shops in the town, I felt it was a definite choice for photographing. I went inside to see if they would like a shot done and I asked if I could add some garland above the one sign to give it a little more seasonal feel? They said certainly,and I set out to capture the top image on a very nice December evening. I really wanted to do a shot of the entrance as well because it has this neat old curved metal sign that been there since the 1930s and has eye-catching orange lighting behind it. The employees were all very helpful and I was told the sign could be set to stay illuminated all night so it was ready to shoot at dawn the next morning and they would also leave a few inside lights on as well to look like they were open, and as we were talking the pharmacist said yeah the weather looks like it will cooperate as well. I went to bed thinking how I was going to do the shot and when I woke to my alarm at 530am, it was pouring outside. I knew it was going to be a treat trying to get this in the pouring rain and the following describes the ordeal.

I brought an 8 ft ladder, and on the top of it I thread a steel pipe that goes up another 6 feet and then I mount my camera anywhere I want along the 6ft pipe. I recently bought some inexpensive plastic camera bags that are made specifically to protect your camera and lens while shooting in the rain and that is how I started the shoot but I noticed the image on my tablet had rain drops on it and realized the rain was blowing onto the front of my lens, so I now had to strap my umbrella to the steel post as well to keep the front dry.Now the thing about this whole angle you don’t realize, is that there is only ten feet from the pharmacy door to the street behind me and my ladder is literally sitting on the very edge of the curb as far as it can go. So my camera is about 12 feet off the ground with an umbrella strapped tight above it and on top of that I must climb the ladder,try to compose and focus at that height and not fall to the ground,all in the pouring rain. This was shot with my widest angle,which is a 17mm and it was just able to get the composition with the decorated street light and the sign. It is a minor miracle this even turned out because even with the umbrella,it was still getting rain on the lens occasionally which meant I had to climb the ladder,dry the lens off and pray that I did not shift anything while doing all of that.To my surprise all images were in register from the shoot.I love rain and the reflections it provides but I still have not come up with a foolproof rain shooting strategy. The sign also posed serious challenges because it picks up every reflection of light,color etc and the blue light from early morning was what I liked in the end. I tried lighting the letters with my flash but I found out chrome doesn’t play nice with flash and there were very few angles that the added flash looked decent on,so in the end I just waited till the ambient light matched the sign light and was as balanced as possible.

The Hunters lair

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This is the second image I shot at the mansion tree event. I originally was not really interested in shooting this room,but I decided to see what I could do and am rather happy how it turned out. A good place to snuggle up on a cold winter night while you dream of hunting.

Sleigh Ride Friends

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Well it is the time of year I simply love taking photos of all things Christmas related, and the coming weeks will feature scenes from a holiday tree event as well as scenes from Lititz ,Pa and shop windows there. This is the first shot featuring two bears riding in a very nice miniature sleigh as they head through some deep snow at the mansion tree event.

A Warm Seat Awaits

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Actually a warm seat awaits across the street at the Tomato Pie Cafe in downtown Lititz ,Pa. I photographed this ice sculpture yesterday and thanks to a stretch of bitter weather, it is still hanging around from last weekends fire and ice festival. The cafe recently added sunday hours and judging by all the footprints in the snow,it seems half the town was headed there. I light painted the scene to add some texture to the snow on an otherwise overcast and flat light morning. I would have preferred fresh untouched snow but folks must have been out and about saturday night leaving all the tracks so it works for a cool shot. This was the first day temperatures climbed to the freezing mark and seemed downright balmy while I shot this.

Keep The Lights On

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This is the second image from the historical society property. It was dark at this point so I had to use a long exposure of between 30 and 60 seconds to get the sky to show some color. The texture in the snow is from being shoveled but it still looked decent. the lamp-post had to be lit with my spotlight because it does not seem to work. This former residence is now part of the historical society property and now houses all the research data and information for those researching the history of the area.Of special note is the large clock on the right side of the image,which once stood a few blocks away at a bank until it closed and has now been situated here as yet another piece of history to enjoy.

Illuminating History

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This is my second attempt at shooting this location,which is a local historical society.This time we got just enough snow to cover the grass so I went for the shot in case we get no more snow this year. I took my own luminaries along to add a little seasonal cheer.I drove by the location two hours before and nothing had been shoveled but when I returned the walkways were done but that was okay.Numerous cars slowed to look and several people walked by and asked what the special occasion was and I said just a photo shoot going on,and they all said how beautiful it was with the luminaries.Tomorrows post will feature a second shot I did after this one from up the sidewalk looking the opposite way.Special thanks goes to Cynthia for turning on lights inside for the shot.

Gingerbread Courtyard

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Every year the folks who work at RLPS Architects come together to create a spectacular gingerbread creation,and I have been lucky enough to be invited to shoot along with the main photographer who always documents this for them.Each year I walk in,I just stop and stare at all the details and funny little vignettes they come up with. This scene of a town square is just one small corner of the creation. The following paragraph is from their website and describes the display better. I did not do too good a job this year with my shots but it’s always fun trying.

Drawing from images of Scandinavia, employees and their families spent countless hours transforming various edible materials into picturesque cottages, unique shops and mining operations. The candy structures are positioned along a fishing pier made of pretzels and mountains forested by ice cream cone trees coated in sugar sprinkle foliage and icing snow. The raw building materials for these creations included over 70 pounds of Charms hard candy, 30 gallons of icing and more than 50 pounds of candy, pasta, crackers and cereals.

 

The Abbey in Cape May

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Headed to Cape May for a day to shoot the many Victorian homes that make the town such a popular destination year round.Even though there was no snow to be found,the town was still dressed in its Christmas best and was very neat to see. This place is located right in the downtown and is referred to as “The Abbey” and If Senator John McCreary were somehow to return to Cape May today, he wouldn’t have much trouble recognizing his summer residence. Standing proudly at the corner of Gurney Street and Columbia Avenue. A Scottish immigrant who made his fortune in coal, McCreary was one of many wealthy Philadelphians who chose to summer in Cape May. With the arrival of the railroad in 1863, Cape May became a popular resort for the upper classes. These visitors did not, however, stay in the huge hotels that Cape May was famous for at the time. Instead, they built huge wooden homes, “cottages” and “villas” where one family could retreat in privacy. I photographed the home from across the street and included an arrangement with a bow that was situated on a pillar at a church. I saw on the net that the average rental price at this home for a week in peak summer is $12,500, so I most likely will not be seeing the inside anytime soon. In contrast,I slept overnight in my truck there and was as cozy as most people in the fancy houses right next to me and I shot this at daybreak while everyone else was still sleeping.

Beautiful Shapes

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This home is another gem from the town of Lititz,Pa. It shows what real architectural style can look like and what is lacking in todays cookie cutter home construction.The wrap around porch is amazing, the dome is super sweet as is the peak on the left. Seeing the reflection in the wet road made me stop to get this shot on Christmas eve as I headed home from a family get together.

Banking on My Patience

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My photo today will be a bit long-winded but for those who enjoy my ramblings both literary and photographically,this will be perfect.I began this evening photographing Christmas displays ten miles away and was on my way home at 8pm when I called my wife to say I would be home in 15 minutes. As I drove home in the rain,I began to take note of lights reflecting on the road and as I drove by this Bank and its Community Christmas tree all lit up, I knew I had to try to capture it.

I found a store across the street with an awning that provided cover from the rain,set up my tripod and began to figure out how I was going to light the place and deal with several issues that I needed to overcome. The biggest issue I had was one lone car parked right in the middle of the shot, but I figured it was a night all but one store was closed and the person would leave soon. Well I began capturing the scene and lighting the building and then a second car pulls in, and I started to get a little frustrated.

The second car had a girl in it and she proceeded to play games on her phone for 20 minutes till some guys showed up,one of which owned the other car,and I was sure they were all leaving after they got in both cars.Well guess what,they all sat there doing who knows what for at least ten minutes until the one car left. Ten minutes later,it returns and you guessed it,more sitting there doing nothing.Now you must understand the street around me on both sides has absolutely zero cars in any space so these two in the middle of my shot were a tad frustrating.

At one point I checked in with my wife and said it might be late because I was determined to outlast these nitwits and get my shot.So at exactly twenty minutes before ten, the one car leaves and just the girl remains playing on her phone again,so I decide I am going over and offer her five dollars to just move the car already and as I ask how long till she is heading out,she answers, in a minute,so I keep my money and I think, finally. Well guess what,twenty minutes later she is still sitting there. While waiting I had some dude ask for a dollar,which I obliged and then two nights later the same guy asks again,to which I said hit the road this time.I also almost got hit right in the middle of the road because I was over by the bank and was watching a guy heading toward my camera across the street and started walking while focusing on the guy in case I had to give chase and all of a sudden I hear tires screeching and the car bumper is about two feet from me.Needless to say the woman was a little irked at my lack of concentration on the road traffic.

Well in the end all the cars left,and I was soaked but I captured the shot I had imagined was possible. After shooting multiple frames of lighting, it was literally the last 10 shots that really brought the image to its optimum. I had a couple of spots on the road that showed very little reflection or color and I figured out by blasting the buildings up high with flash that the light would reflect on those areas and that’s were the beautiful blue on the road emanated from.The final time to get this shot was exactly two hours and I think the odds of being able to duplicate this shot anytime soon are rather slim,and you can usually bank on my patience getting a great image.

A Night in Paris

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This image of the Bulls Head Tavern in Lititz ,Pa reminds me of paintings I have seen of Paris that show street scenes bathed in luscious light reflecting the warmth within on the rain-soaked streets. Painterly is the word that comes to mind and the contrast was pretty extreme so it’s a minor miracle I got something decent. Would have been better when the daylight was fading but thankfully it was still pouring and the reflections were great,even though I had to stay under my umbrella to shoot it. The bonus element in the scene that I like is the original 1963 london cab which one of the owners parks out front on many nights.

A Little Tomato Pie?

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This Christmas window is located at a restaurant called Tomato Pie in the town of Lititz,Pa. It was pouring the night I shot this,and the main reasons I chose this view was the fact I wanted to stay dry and the overhang provided cover. Notice the many different tomatoes scattered throughout the display. This shot required some compromise because if I raised the tripod,I would get car lights reflected in the glass and the building in the distance would get cut off, and I would have preferred to be more parallel but the rest of the scene would have suffered. This would have been a good night to have a warm cup of soup and a sandwich while you watch the dedicated photographer working outside.

New Kid on the Block

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This is another one of my Dreamy Christmas window photos from the town of Lititz,Pa. My title refers to the fact that this shop is new to the downtown area and has a wonderful selection of home decor and holiday items,and they offer a full compliment of interior design services.The owner graciously helped me out by adding the small tree and wreath as accents to my window shop image.This image required me to use a polarizer to help remove the reflections of passing cars in the window glass and I also used a piece of foam to block reflections that were impeding the view of the gorgeous stars in the corner.This building once housed a great camera store that I frequented many moons ago,and the new owners have given it a lovely new coat of paint and made a very inviting place for shoppers to frequent.

The Glorious Poinsettia Tree

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Residents in the small town of Lititz,Pa have many unique traditions that make the community special and one that I find particularly beautiful is the Lititz Moravian Church’s Annual poinsettia tree that is set up on thanksgiving weekend in preparation for the first Sunday of advent. The tree features one hundred poinsettias given in honor or remembrance of someone and stands approximately twelve feet high. The beautiful tree is only up a short period because it cannot be watered in the sanctuary.

I remembered this is the time of year the tree is assembled so I headed over to see if there was any chance I could have access to taking a photo and I was pleasantly surprised by the gracious reception shown by the Pastor to my request. I essentially was given full access to do something for an hour and these two shots are what I accomplished. The well-known Moravian star is hanging at the front but was real tough to incorporate in my composition and was unlit at the time,so I never thought about including it till I decided to light it with my spotlight,but by then I was locked into my composition. The entire sanctuary was dark for my shots and I wished the lights could have been turned on but I forgot to ask about that,so I made due with my spotlight to do everything you see here.Even the lantern in the top photo on the upper left was lit using my spotlight ,and I think it looks like a real candle in there.I feel so blessed to have been given the opportunity to capture something so beautiful. Maybe someday those who view this image will get the chance to see this display in person.

It’s Ewebiquitous

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Well it’s that time of year when I like to check out and photograph the unique shop windows in the quaint town of Lititz,Pa. This year the first one to catch my eye was the newly opened fiber arts destination with the catchy name of Ewebiquitous. I usually like to shoot horizontals but this one worked out in a vertical and features the exterior decorated window box and the sheep dressed in knitted Christmas stockings looking out the window. The owner had closed the shop for the day but graciously allowed me to come inside to light the yarn with some flash to highlight the colors.

Lobster Buoy Collection

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This home in Rockport Massachusetts beckoned me to capture its unique seacoast charm after I noticed the many old lobster buoys adorning the entrance. As I was speaking to the owners wife,she told me her husband had collected these authentic buoys along the shoreline years ago and this quaint scene had been featured in magazines more than once.

I Had A Dream

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Every winter I find myself thinking of different images that I would like to create or hopefully find somewhere to shoot. For years I had this dream of getting out after a heavy snowstorm and building some nice snowmen,dressing them in colorful accents and placing them in the perfect scene.Well this exact scenario came to fruition recently thanks to a family that decided to get out and spend some quality time together in the snow. My wife was headed to work one day and called me to say I needed to check out five well done snowmen she had seen, to which I said yeah right.Upon further consideration I thought I better at least look and see if her suggestion was worth a shot and to my surprise it was absolutely perfect.

Not only did this family of five create one snowman for each family member,but they added colorful accents,had them positioned nicely,and even kept the ground covered in snow so no ugly grass showed. Add to all that the fact that the house was glowing with warm illumination and the trees were adorned with snow and I had all the elements to make a picture perfect moment.When I pulled into the driveway and rang the doorbell,no one was home and I was only 30 minutes from needing to set up for the shot so I visited a few neighbors who kindly gave me a work number for the owner and thankfully he said go for it and he would be home in a little while.Its not everyday someone calls you to shoot a snowman photo,so I am sure he thought this seemed a bit strange.I lit the scene with my flashlight to bring out the details and make them stand out in the scene. Many thanks to mom,dad and the three girls for your ambition and creativity.

Tree Farm

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This lovely farm sells Christmas trees and they were generous enough to allow me and a friend to capture a few images.We arrived under heavy cloud cover but within a few minutes the sky started to open and I captured this shot as the first rays of sun illuminated the house and barn but still left the trees in shadow.

Wrap Them Up

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Another Christmas has come and gone and my wife was busy tearing the tree down last week and I noticed this assortment stacked in a basket waiting to be wrapped up. We had two trees this year and these were from the cool tree. Our other tree has lots of red and gold glass ornaments which are my favorites,but the blues look nice too.I lit these in a dark room with a small flashlight from various angles.

Light in the Storm

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This is an exterior shot I did at the church I posted yesterday. I actually drove many miles in a raging snowstorm to shoot on this particular evening and it was quite an undertaking shooting in heavy blowing snow. I used an umbrella as best as I could but the camera was rather wet till I finished. Driving home was a nightmare and even seeing the road was pretty tricky at times. Still nothing ventured,nothing gained.

Inspirational Architecture

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This church sanctuary is perhaps the most elaborate undertaking I have ever decided to capture photographically. I first drove past the church on a trip and I was so impressed with the exterior,I decided to inquire if I could possibly see the inside and make an attempt to capture its grandeur? The church secretary coordinated my visit to allow ample time to shoot uninterrupted one afternoon and with the help of my good friend Morrie, I was able to pull it off. When people say it’s a small world,I now believe it because halfway through the shoot,the Rector comes in to say hi and I told him where I was from,and after some more conversation we both realize he was the pastor who had officiated my wedding almost twenty-five years ago.

This has to be the most beautiful church I have ever been in and the details are just amazing. From the arched walls to the wood ceiling to the stained glass and lights,everything reminds you of a time when things were built with great pride and workmanship and I feel blessed to be given the opportunity to capture it. The church is St Luke’s in Lebanon,Pa and for those interested in photography,I lit it using available light along with a tiny monster flashlight from Nitecor that really puts out the light in a small package. The light helped me bring out the roof detail among other areas in deep shadow.I also used my newly purchased wi-fi device called the camranger,which hooks to your camera and sends wireless images to a tablet,so I can now walk around lighting things while seeing the result right on my tablet in my hand and never needing to go look at the shot on the camera or laptop. You can change shutter speed and practically everything else on your camera remotely.

I was wrapping up the photo session and several times during the shoot I mentioned how I wish we could light the candles that were set up for Christmas,and literally a minute before I was ready to tear down the tripod, the organist comes in and nonchalantly says would you like the candles lit? I said absolutely and that extra touch just added to the shot.

The Historic Smithton

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Todays photo of the day features the Historic Smithton Inn located in Ephrata ,Pa. Innkeepers Dave and Rebecca Gallagher have painstakingly restored this beautiful property and it now functions as a highly rated B&B welcoming guests from all over the world who are visiting quaint Lancaster County. This year marked the 250th anniversary of the inn and the owners have hosted many events over the past year,which have benefitted many charities. Of all the folks I have worked with doing photos,Rebecca has been one of the most appreciative,which makes my efforts easier. I probably spent close to three hours bringing this image to completion and it included dozens of images.

The middle image is the starting point with no light added and the top image is after adding light from various angles. If you notice,the lamps were not lit when I got there,so I used a spotlight to light them and the ground below them.Most other areas were lit by flash.Take special note of the unique three-dimensional design on the wall shown up close in the bottom photo. I have no idea how that was done,but it is very unique.