Christmas Eve Traveler

For those who enjoy my stories, I have a longer one for you from Christmas eve. First let me say I have a reputation among my family of being someone who might skip an occasional family holiday party to just go out shooting photos instead. That was the case Christmas eve when we were invited to the usual in-law gathering and I basically felt like being alone which happens this time of year with depression. I had stopped here earlier in the week on business and wondered to myself if I could get a nice image sometime? Well Christmas eve came and off I headed to this church. I waited till the service got going and the stained glass started to glow as the ambient light dropped. Everyone was inside for the candle light service and I was scurrying around outside trying to put a shimmer on the road and get the nativity to be visible. I ended up shining a light behind the star on the display and guided the shadow where I wanted it to appear on the grass.

Almost the entire time I was shooting which was about an hour, I kept hearing firetrucks screaming down the road in the distance and figured something huge was going down, so I packed up to go find this huge fire! Turns out Santa was cruising the town on the Fire Truck which made me wonder why they aren’t at home with their families on Christmas eve, then a little voice whispered “and what about you”?

If you made it this far, keep going, it is the main part of the story. As I was heading home on the highway, in the distance I could see a vehicle with very faint 4 way flashers on the side of the road. There were dozens and dozens of cars whizzing by all seemingly oblivious to the vehicle and I too drove by to my exit about two miles away. It was then I wondered who the person was and what might happen to them, so I decided to get back on the highway and eventually cross where the Police usually sit. I managed to get back on as cars were going at least 70mph non stop and I finally got to the car with my high beams on it. Before we go any further I am fully aware of what possibilities are out there when stopping, so I do the best evaluation I can because my family needs me too. I got out, saw the plate was from Arizona and then I walked up to the window and it was an African American woman who appeared to be quite concerned about her situation.

I introduced myself, asked if she was really from Arizona, and she replied “we just moved to Maryland recently”. I am no mechanic but I asked how she ended up on the side of the road and her comment was “I think my engine blew up” I said open the hood, maybe its something obvious and folks, imagine opening your hood and then taking two buckets of the driest dirt you can find and just toss it in there because that is what it looked like and she said “all cars in Arizona look like that”? The car would not turn over, and there wasn’t a hint of oil on the dipstick, so I figured maybe her assessment was correct? By the way she said she was sitting there over an hour with not a single soul stopping? I told her since I have a rubber push bumper on my Jeep I could carefully push her the two miles to a Sheetz were she would be safe till she figured out her next move. She told me she had been at a mall shopping, had no clue where she currently was and no idea how she was getting home.

Wow, we are almost done! A few final tidbits. I told her to put it in neutral, and once I get you going to just coast and I will assist if needed. I specifically told her when you get to the exit ramp, if there is room to safely pull over,please do so! Ladies and gentleman, when we got to the ramp she was picking up speed and I was beeping for her to pull over? she stopped right under the red light and as I walk up, her eyes are like golf balls and she says “I had no brakes or power steering” This little detail got forgotten in all the mess but thank goodness she managed. I pushed her into Sheetz and you could see her relief. We said our goodbye and I headed home but all I could think was she is two hours from home on Christmas eve and most likely will sleep in her car overnight? I sat at home for a while asking myself why I didn’t offer her to stay at our place? It can get complicated when you have a wife and daughter to keep safe so I waited till they got home to ask. I got a solid “absolutely not” from the wife and our teenage daughter emphatically stated she is not having a complete stranger watch her open Christmas presents in the morning! Stopping is not for everyone, but I hope if my family ever needs help, there will be someone willing to help another human being! I never knew how it ended but two mechanic friends told me her alternator probably died and the car just shut off and I even had a jump box with me but never thought to try it.


Well I realize we are past Christmas now but I have some local town scenes that I photographed this year to share. This is a display window in a store called Revive in a nearby town. I think I shot this Christmas night and was probably the only photographer in the county that wasn’t home relaxing with family. From my experience I can say there is no other time during the year when it feels like the whole world is at home and enjoying peace.

The Light Reveals Itself

For shots like this I will often try to position myself where part of the subject is used to block a portion of the sun. The reason for this is because with the full sun shining into your lens, you have to deal with a lot of image degrading flare. The next time you take a photo where you have a dark subject on the bottom half of your shot and bright sky on the top half, take your free hand and shade the shot so you block the sky and watch how the lower part of your shot will often look much more detailed with more contrast. You are simply blocking the light that is bouncing around and hurting your image. That’s one reason lens hoods are beneficial, yet all the time I see folks with the lens hood on their lens but placed backwards because it fits in their bag better.

Robert Fulton Birthplace

This is the birthplace of inventor Robert Fulton(1765–1815). Fulton is best known for the development of commercially viable Steamboats as a means of transportation. The house was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1964. There were no lights on in the house but a few blasts of my flash through the windows and voila you now have an inhabited house!

Sing Me A Song

This hand painted piano was part of a county program to provide musical opportunities for those just out walking in town. In all my trips to this town, I had never seen anyone playing it? That was until the night I took this photo and after I finished it got dark and I decided to walk around town a little while before returning to my vehicle. As I approached the area I could hear a very talented young lady playing a few songs for her friend/audience of one. I hopped in my truck, rolled the window down and listened to her play three more songs before her concert was over. It was a trifecta of art that night, with me getting an artistic photo, the young girl who painted it being mentioned and the musical artistry that filled the night air.

Hauling the Harvest

Another quaint fall image I captured in downtown Lititz,Pa this autumn. A local business owner got permission to park his classic old truck in the park with fall decor and allowed families to get pictures in it. For me the trucks contents were lacking a contrasting color so I literally gathered up all the purple mums we had at home and hauled them here to jazz things up. Mine are the five purple and two of the yellow

The Funeral Home

I was asked to shoot some scenes in a local community and driving around I came across this amazing architectural gem. It is a funeral home and the owners were generous enough to allow me to see what I could capture. I added lighting across the bushes and landscaping and illuminated a portion of the yard. The two upper window areas are really neat features.

Light Pierces the Darkness

This is the same Church I posted the other day and I incorporated the Cemetery Fence into the composition because the wet blacktop helped create separation. I really hope to shoot a similar angle with fresh snow covering the parking lot this Winter! This is one I just could not believe how the sun was in the perfect spot as we headed toward sunset. Now that I think about it, I actually drove here because the sky before sunset looked like it was going to be a winner. I was there an hour before sunset and was so excited about the sky, but with every minute that went by, the sky got clearer and clearer and then a few stray clouds appeared and that was good enough for me.

Tunnel Vision

Sometimes I can see the weather starting to bring all the pieces together for a dramatic sunset and this evening was one such instance. I noticed some cool clouds covering most of the sky except toward the horizon where it was a mix of clear and some cloud streaks. This scenario is what you look for in the hopes the setting sun lights the whole cloudy sky dramatically. Now to the tunnel vision, I set my tripod up in a field way to the right of this image viewpoint and was looking directly at the setting sun behind the farm. Things were getting better and better and I was fixated on the developing shot before me when all of a sudden I noticed the grass being illuminated by the sun and the sky was looking nice as well. I left my tripod set up and ran to get a second camera to capture this fleeting moment which reminds me of a painting. I did get my shot from the original spot and it is nice, but the sunset never really reached its full potential and that’s how it goes sometimes.

Super Moon Spectacle

I found this field of mustard the other weekend and the first shots I did were looking the opposite direction during daytime. I knew a Supermoon was coming in the next few days so I used an app called the photographers ephemeris that shows you any location you enter and where Sunrise, Sunset, Moonrise and Moonset will happen within that location. I entered the address here and it showed the moon rising right behind the barns. I was eager to arrive and get my shot composed before the moon began to appear. Now even though you have a good idea where it will appear, I find it hard to get an exact pinpoint location on site instead of looking at the app. I started out much farther to the left and kept waiting and waiting and finally walked along the fence to see if it was possibly rising behind the barn and sure enough, that was the case. One very important factor in getting these shots is the balance between when the sun is setting and the moon is rising. On this evening the moon was rising about 15 minutes before the sun was setting and this helps greatly by allowing the ambient light to be extremely close to the bright moon. By doing this exact shot the next day, you would be looking at the moon rising under pitch black skies a couple hours later. The other thing I see are gigantic moons in scenes that are obviously not where the moon was. The only way to make the moon look very large in relation to the subject naturally is to find a subject at a great distance from the camera and by using a strong telephoto you can compress things and make the moon look huge in the background.

Springtime Reflections

If you follow my blog, you know I enjoy capturing images on rainy evenings. Two simple reasons and they include the fact that no one else is usually outside getting in the picture and the added reflectivity brings an extra element to the scene. This particular night my gear was being very finicky which made holding a tablet, flash, remote and umbrella a veritable disaster! Sometimes rain seems to interfere with the wireless image transfer to my tablet, so dropped connections, images taking minutes to download etc etc were all happening this night. Out of frustration trying to juggle everything, I ditched the umbrella and till I got the shot there was barely anything left dry on me. By adding some extra flash to illuminate things I was able to get the colorful trees to reflect on the driveway which I found nice. This is the Moravian church in Lititz,Pa. Just imagine if the sanctuary lights had been on!