Roadside Attraction

Fall in Lancaster County, Pa has been surprisingly colorful this year despite being somewhat dry throughout the summer. Right now seems to be about prime time for foliage but hopefully some more photogenic opportunities will present themselves yet. While this scene might not be your typical roadside attraction, I found it to be very appealing with the carpet of fallen leaves and the backlit foliage. I put my tripod as low as it would go to hide not only the street but other distracting items in the background. There is a whole high school campus to my right but you would never guess by looking at the image.

The Magic of Autumn

This is my favorite time of the year and the last couple weeks have me running all over trying to capture what I can before the leaves are gone and Winter sets in. Fall for me is a time where the chill in the air invigorates the soul and colors transform for one last dazzling show of the season. Its taking a walk on a blustery day with leaves crunching under your feet and perhaps a warm cup of apple cider or hot chocolate to take the chill off. This shot is a good example of finding beauty if you look hard enough, it is at the end of a school parking lot but looking west toward the setting sun provided a glorious backlit shot.

Summer Calm

This lovely farm and the daylilies that border the fence made a serene combination for this summer evening photo. I was also highly frustrated by the two horses who kept coming up to the fence blocking my view of the barns. They would stand with their back ends in my shot but not their heads. Every time the camera fired they would either become very attentive or just take off in a mad dash. I did miss a great silhouette shot of the one horse kicking his rear feet out to tell the other one to back off. I tried my best to horse whisper them into a good position but this is as close as I got.

Autumn Arrival

I am certainly slowing down when it comes to shooting, but I still thoroughly enjoy capturing new images. This photograph was taken a few days ago in our local park which year after year never seems to disappoint in it’s display of autumn color. This park is very popular and I even played little league baseball here almost 50 years ago. Not sure if I ever told this story before but down the slope on the right is a pond and when I was in my early teens a bunch of my friends and I were sledding here. It was getting late and to be funny I pushed my friends sled toward the frozen pond so he would have to take a long walk to get it back! The entire pond was frozen except one 10 foot circle of open water at the edge where a spring fed in. Guess where the sled went? It went in and sank like a rock and I cannot remember how but my dad found out what happened the same day, so he loaded me up in the car to go retrieve the sled from the frozen pond! He stood there and ordered me to start walking in till I felt the sled! I think I was about waist deep and crying like a baby because all I could imagine was getting caught under the ice and dying. Needless to say we did not get the sled but my dad drove me to the store to buy a new one and deliver it to my friend’s front door the same night! I can tell you I never did that again!

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 Distlefink

 

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A distlefink is a stylized goldfinch and it appears in Pennsylvania dutch folk art.It represents happiness and good fortune to the Pennsylvania german people.It is a common theme on hex signs and fraktur.The word distlefink literally means thistle finch. I shot this large version which welcomes visitors to the Berks county history museum from both sides. It is in desperate need of a repaint but it still made a fun subject to light paint.The biggest problem I had was avoiding three groundhogs that made their home under the bush and kept coming out after dark, but a little blast from my flash and they would high tail it for a little bit.If you look real hard at the top photo,in the lower right corner you can barely see one of the groundhogs in the grass and I only just saw it was there as I was working on this post.

 

 

 

Steaming Out Of The Past

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I spent two hours this week at the Rough and Tumble historical associations threshermen’s reunion in Lancaster county,Pa. This event features all kinds of old steam engines and rusty iron machinery from the past. To see these incredible machines in operation is something to witness and their whistles are a whole other story,and after standing right beside one when the whistle blew,I can tell you it is something you wont soon forget. These two beauties were lined up at dusk and even though I came upon them later than I would like,there was still enough color in the sky to try a shot. The engine in front is a 1913 Frick Eclipse steam tractor owned by Jim Wright and the one behind is a 1912 Aultman Taylor steam tractor owned by Gary and Russel Bingaman. 

Amish Balloon Sight Seeing

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This series of images were captured on friday evening in rural Lancaster county.The top image was taken as the pair of balloons slowly drifted across the fields on their way to landing on the road.The second image is my favorite and includes a buggy load of locals who rode up to watch the spectacle and the second deflated balloon is barely visible on the right in that image.The third shot includes some Amish volunteers who stepped forward to help fold the balloons up. A young man who was a tourist came over to me in utter shock to tell me the balloons were actually sitting right on the road,and I said relax,you see stuff like that in the country all the time.I was surprised they waved this truck to come through while they were getting ready to deflate.

The Enveloping Freeze

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Finding any body of water around the area that is not completely frozen over has been a bit of a challenge this winter. This partially thawed farm pond was a bit of a surprise with temperatures in the single digits.It must be a spring fed pond to stay open at this point in the season and the temperature at daybreak was a crisp minus 5 degrees.

Winter Zen Moment

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This image features a local farm-house and a gazebo the owners have positioned across the street to relax in. I waited till dusk to capture the glow of the gazebo lights against the cold of the night. I used my flashlight to bring out the stairway path in the snow  as well as the snow texture in the foreground. I once again used my camranger wi-fi device with my tablet  to fire the camera and review the images,all the while from a camera that was close to a hundred yards away. I could not dream of pulling a shot like this off without that device. It does have a slightly slower transfer rate to the tablet at this distance,but that’s still pretty impressive.

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.

Sunset at Suppertime

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This spot is a recent find I made and one I hope to work more in the future. The snow was very textured,possibly from strong winds at some point.This is an Amish farm and I think the light in the house is from a propane or kerosene light lantern.This snow was extremely hard to traverse because it had a hard crust that you would break through and sink eight inches with each step. I also got zapped twice on the electric fence going in and leaving this field,which my friend thought was hilarious. When I stopped to ask about taking photos,I was greeted by a large dog that appeared friendly as I called him over,and then after I was 6 feet from the car,he started growling pretty good and seemed like he was ready to rip into my leg,and thankfully the owner came out and the dog calmed down.

Winter at the Cemetery

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I headed out to a local cemetery to try some light painting this past weekend and once again temperatures in the single digits tested my dedication to the craft. The sunset was nice and the colorful sky in this image is part light from sunset and the city nearby,which gave a neat effect. I used my nitecor flashlight to illuminate the chapel,trees,snow and tombstones. I always am on my toes when I am alone in places like this because I have seen homeless sleeping here,but not with the temperatures we have right now. I was also worried the gate might be closed when I went to leave but thankfully that was not the case.

Glaze of Ice

 

Icy-snow-tree-sunsetOpportunities like this don’t come along very often because freezing rain on top of snow is not that commonplace. The glistening coating makes for a lovely canvas for light to reflect and shimmer across the surface. I had plans for a cool shot after sunset but the sun disappeared behind a cloud bank shortly after this image. A light snow also came last night which has ruined the chance for more images like this but I have no complaints because we finally are having a winter with snow again.

 

A Gift From Above

 

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This brand new chain saw carving was just finished in the last few days and showcases the artistry of Dean Fox, a man with a unique gift and the vision  for seeing something special within trees that are past their prime and destined to come down. This angelic figure was carved from a large tree that had died and church members decided to have this done with the large remaining trunk. One church member commented to me that the tree had a huge lean to it,but with the artists skill,it now appears straight.Thankfully a church member met me this evening to turn on the sanctuary lights,which I felt was important to bring the photo to life. The fresh lacquer gives it a strong golden glow,but that will fade over time.  The bottom photo shows the artist in the beginning stage of carving with his chain saw. John 15:5-I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

 

 

 

Motif Number One

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Rockport Massachusetts was one stop on my brief new england photo trip and shooting this classic scene was among my goals. I learned something new about this spot after hearing a term mentioned by three separate people in about an hours time. This place is referred to as motif number one,and is located on Bradley Wharf in the harbor town of Rockport, Massachusetts.It is a fishing shack well-known to students of art and art history as “the most often-painted building in America.”  It is even listed on my atlas as motif one,which surprised me. It s very interesting to watch the fisherman stand in these little boats in the foreground to paddle out to their fishing boats in the morning. Super storm  Sandy undermined one wall at the harbor but they escaped with much less damage than most. Our motel owner said the water came up to the ice machine there and the motel sits about 40 feet or more above the ocean and they stayed for the whole storm.

Weston Mill

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This is an old mill I photographed in Weston Vermont on my fall foliage trip. Thankfully it was not overrun by tourists and we had the place all to ourselves. I shot it in sun about an hour before and thankfully my friend was patient enough to drop me off for another shot after sunset. The Vermont country store is a stones throw away,so my buddy went there to shoot while I was here. I took my hip waders along and without them,I never would have been able to access this vantage point. Crossing streams that are around a foot deep is always nerve-wracking when you are carrying your gear along.

Vermont Country Store

vermont-country-storeThis little vignette of americana was captured at the Vermont Country Store on my fall foliage trip. I told my friend its somewhat ironic we came across this scene because I have contemplated getting an old pickup and loading it up exactly like this for a shot for the past couple years. I light painted this entire scene in the dark and even blasted a flash into the lantern on the wall to give it an illuminated effect.

Beauty in a Window

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As we drove down the street in Rockport Massachusetts, an art gallery caught my eye because of the warm light inside and the cool light of dusk outside. The owner was getting ready to close for the day so I was only able to get four exposures taken before the lights went out. The title of my image refers not only to the window overall but the lovely portrait showcased in the center. This is the gallery featuring the art of Luisa F.V. Cleaves, a contemporary artist and painter from this coastal town. Next time we pass this way, I will try to slow down and visit the many quaint shops in town. My friend says I get tunnel vision when I am photographing and I know this to be true, because when I was here 10 years ago with my wife, I never stopped to even realize they had shops. We got the absolute best croissants in this town from a place called Helmut’s Strudel shop. If you are ever in Rockport,take some time to visit this talented artists gallery and the many unique shops located along main street in town.

Coming in Hot

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This might be the last pair of images from this subject unless I  come up with something more imaginative. To be honest,I was somewhat disappointed with my burning steel wool result and perhaps that’s because the rusty subject gets lost in the burning embers? I only tried about five steel wool spins due the fact that I was right by a busy highway and I didn’t want the cops harassing me. The bottom image is the same as the top except for sparks,and that was light painted using my flash.

For those not familiar with burning steel wool, you need fine grade steel wool,which burns better than coarse,and a device to spin it. I took a steel kitchen whisk, which holds the steel wool inside and then I took a wooden handle and mounted a pulley with a screw that allows the pulley to freely spin and then attached a steel cable to the pulley and whisk. I simply load the whisk with steel wool,light it and then start spinning the thing rapidly. As the air hits the wool,it becomes a raging flame thrower, so wear protective clothes,eye protection etc. Always have a fire extinguisher handy and do it when its damp outside at your own risk. One steel wool pad burns about 30 seconds or so and you should also keep your camera out of the ember zone.One guy on the net had a Nikon 14-24mm lens get messed up when an ember fused on his front element.

Meet Miss Virginia

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This was my third subject to light paint on the evening I was allowed to shoot at the air show. It is a lovingly restored and highly polished  C-47 named Miss Virginia. A moon rising in the background added an extra detail to the shot. According to web sources,this restoration took over 7000 hours and the aircraft was named Miss Virginia to honor both the military and the state of Virginia. Miss Virginia was the name of the P-38 lightning that shot down Japanese Admiral Yamamoto in 1943.


			

Air Show Beauty

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Unfortunately I do not have any info on this plane from the air show, but I gave it my best attempt to show it off in a good light so to speak. I use a wireless flash setup on a pole to reach higher than my arm can reach. In this case it allowed me to position the flash high enough to throw light into the interior of the plane to give it an appearance of being ready to take off with a crew on board.

A quick addition thanks to friend Dan at the airport, this is the collings foundation B-17G “Nine o Nine”

Wings of Glory

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Our local airport was the sight for a community event showcasing numerous airplanes and flying machines in a celebration of flight this past weekend. I am not a big fan of plane photos with a ton of people standing around,so I inquired whether there was any chance to come out after the show closed and do some light painting images of planes on the tarmac. Thankfully,I spoke to one of the gentlemen in charge and he was willing to trust me and allow me to give it a whirl. I returned later than I had hoped to,and that forced me to make quick decisions about what I could shoot in a short time frame till it was pitch dark out. The sunset was a huge disappointment for my background,but I lit the plane with about twelve pops of the flash at various angles and this was the result. Special thanks to Austin for the opportunity to shoot these special vehicles.

The plane shown above is the only restored flying B-24j in the world and is owned by the Collings foundation. Read more about it at http://www.collingsfoundation.org

The Waiting Game

amish-farm-fenceThis farm and fence shot proves that a mediocre scene can become a winner with the right light. I have driven past this spot dozens of times and never gave it a thought before,but late evening sidelight and a dark sky behind the barn made me pull over on this occasion. I liked the leading line of the fence but hated the empty road,so I decided to sit till dark if necessary to get a buggy or something interesting passing by. Well I sat and sat,and thought you got to be kidding me that no buggies are out tonight,and an hour in this lone buggy came trotting by just as the youngster was coming to feed the horses. He looked so serious,I thought he was going to say get lost,but he merely fed the mother and colt.

One thing I remember about this evening was the group of Amish kids at the farm behind me who were watching me from behind the raspberry bushes and when I would turn they would duck,as if I had no clue they were there.Finally one got brave enough to move closer and smile and wave.They are always intrigued by the camera on the tripod and must have wondered what this idiot saw that was worth waiting so long for.It was the only shot I got that night but was well worth the drive in my opinion.

Colorful Hydrangea

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Hydrangea is one of my favorite summer flowers because of its pastel hues and the way it can enhance any garden setting.Shades range from deep purple to blue to pink and lavender and the plant never fails to be visually stimulating. This scene is in my hometown and was shot at dusk using several pops of flash on  both the foreground home and the next door neighbors home as well. Thankfully both home owners were more than happy to let me fire the flash a few times to get the shot.