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

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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.

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.

A Painterly Reflection

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This is another image I captured after looking for water collecting in fields this spring. This old mill sits right along the road and with just a short walk down the bank here,I was rewarded with the morning sun creating this lovely reflection in the ice.A barn across the street adds to the composition in this country scene that would make a gorgeous painting.

Patience Rewarded

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A few days ago I commented about wanting some more snow this year yet, and lo and behold we got a significant storm that left the region in a glorious coat of white. I shot more beautiful snow scenes in the last two days than all winter before that point. The night it snowed I was out shooting till almost ten at night in a landscape with literally no cars out and about, and then before and after work hoping to get as much captured before it melts. The scene shown here was yesterday morning when the temperature in my truck displayed -6 as I left at 5am to seek out images. The image above was shot later in the morning when it warmed slightly and this shot was captured as I was ready to give up for the morning.

I found this sweeping vista with the road curving into the distance and I had seen a lot of buggies heading to the seasons first mud sale, which is basically an auction held in the spring by various fire companies and the local Amish attend in large numbers. It is called a mud sale because the ground is usually a sloppy mess when they are held,so anyway back to the photo.I set up here with the hope a buggy would pass by and because this location is many miles from the sale I had no idea if a buggy would even be on this road? After 20 minutes of standing in the snow,I gave myself a three-minute countdown to leave and just as I did that I heard the clip clop sound in the distance. I basically looked through the lens and waited for the buggies arrival in the scene and was really excited when I saw the young lad being pulled behind on his wagon. He was probably going to be a runner at the sale and runners help the buyers haul their goodies to their cars which often times are a mile or more away from the sale site due to parking craziness in the country. He seemed to not mind the bitter cold ride and if you look closely you can see someone inside the buggy peeking out the back to either look at me or talk to him. Hopefully I can get to the new images to share before the tulips are blooming,so stay tuned.

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.

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.

Winter Retreat

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The plow made a pass by this old homestead leaving a trail that was quickly covered by heavy snowfall.The lanterns illuminate the landscape as evening falls and another winter storm draws to a close.Everyone has gone to bed in anticipation of morning chores that await.

Windmill Country

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Actually it’s getting harder and harder to find farms that still use the old windmill,but this one stood out pretty prominently as I crested a hill and got this lovely view across the valley featuring numerous farms.The red barns illuminated by late day sun stood out as the focal point among the many farms.

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.

A Glorious Morning

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Our region received another wonderful snowstorm recently,dumping around fourteen inches of fresh powder across the landscape. This is the kind of storm that finds me driving around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to capture the beauty, before the usual winds that follow these storms wipe the slate clean. I headed out before sunrise knowing I had to get my shots before heading to work,so I had extra pressure on me to deliver. This particular shot was a pleasant surprise as I drove through a small town and noticed the heavy layer on the bushes by the church. I actually had to park on the street because plows had everything blocked shut from the night before and to top it off I no sooner got my tripod out and noticed the neighbor was starting to snow blow his property.Even though I was obviously shooting this gorgeous scene,he chose to come right down the drive toward me and blew snow right onto the bushes in my shot,totally ruining the scene. Perhaps he was jealous that I was out enjoying myself and he had to work on snow removal,but thankfully I was quick enough to compose and capture before that point. One problem is how the church is situated up on the hill,which forced me to use lens correction to help with keystoning and there were a million wires and wire shadows across the church which I painstakingly removed. Color or Black and White,I find both appealing.

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.

A Quiet Evening Walk

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This is the cemetery statue for Augusta Bitner who lived from 1884-1906. It is located in a cemetery right next to a city and I found the contrast between the still park and the lit buildings just outside the fence interesting and worth shooting. Rumors have it that she has been seen roaming the cemetery on the anniversary of her death.I found conflicting stories on her demise that range from typhus to falling down steps and dying after having an argument with her parents about her imminent wedding.All I know is she remained still the entire time I was there,which included a visit from two police cruisers checking out what I was up too. I showed them the photo on my tablet and after they asked me if she moved at all,off they went.

 

Sunset Across The Valley

churchtown-farms-snowThe last light of day skims across the farmland in this snow-covered valley. I came to a quick stop in order to jump out of my truck and capture this fleeting moment.Less than five minutes later,the sun had dropped below the mountains and the cold of evening began to envelop the region.

Majestic Trees

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This is a stream located along a quiet country road in Lancaster County,and it includes a farm at the end of the stream and several majestic old trees. This is not the first time I have attempted to photograph this lovely setting but it is the first time I had the opportunity to use my new flashlight to add some interesting light to help accentuate the lay of the land. One reason this spot appeals to me is because the trees are against the clear horizon,so they stand out nicely and do not blend in with the land. It was around 4 degrees when I photographed this,which took close to an hour or more to capture.One thing that puzzles me is how the temperature actual drops after sunrise on days like this. It was 11 degrees when I left home and after the sun came up,it dropped to 4 so go figure. I photographed the farm located beside this stream the night before and that image is awesome but the owners asked me not to post that,so I agreed not to show it here unfortunately.

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.

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.

A Cold Sunday Walk

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I photographed this snow-covered scene yesterday on a back road in Amish country and it includes numerous buggies and a few walkers as they head to church at one of the farms up the road. There is actually four buggies rounding the bend but they are hard to see in the distance. I really liked the youngster bundled in the green blanket and his sister wearing the bright yellow scarf. It was 16 degrees when I snapped this image,which was made possible by using my camranger from inside my warm truck to fire the tripod mounted camera on my vehicle roof. I had no intention of going out at sunrise because freezing rain was forecast,but as I looked out my bedroom at 5am,I could see stars,so I headed out.Clouds quickly moved in to ruin sunrise and this was shot at iso 1000,which I hate to do,but it was necessary to get a 500th second shutter speed. Was really pleased I Made the effort.

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.

Merry Christmas

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This nativity is located on the square in the town of Lititz,PA, and a few years ago someone complained and the ACLU got involved trying to ban the display. Thankfully the land is owned by the Church and the ACLU and its misguided agenda were sent packing. Wishing all my loyal blog followers a Merry Christmas.

An Illuminating Path

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Lanterns mark the path for guests on their way to hear a chorus sing at the Historic Ephrata Cloister. Thankfully, snow had fallen the day of this event and made a perfect setting for the glowing candles in these lanterns.

A Warm Respite

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This image is from this weekend and features the amazingly beautiful St Luke’s Church in Lebanon ,Pa.  You would never know it from this photo,but there was a raging snowstorm dropping lots of snow all around me. This side entrance gave me a little cover while I was shooting but I had to continually clean snow off my lens and laptop the entire time. The ride home was about twenty miles and more than once I had to slow to a crawl just to see the road in front with the white out conditions.

The entire entrance,including the lantern were lit using my deer spotlight and without the lit shining,I felt it would not have the warmth I was after. This image took me about 40 minutes to do and I hope to be able to photograph the sanctuary as well,which is stunning. I used a 17 mm to get this wide view but could have used even wider if I had it,plus I lost a little angle when I corrected for the tilt. They sure don’t build them like this anymore. The bottom image shows the general conditions I saw when I began photographing the scene.

Winter Wonderland

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A fresh snow blankets the sleepy little village of Lititz,Pa on a quiet night. These poor snowman and santa are trapped behind glass and wish they could get out to frolic in this winter wonderland.