Keep Your Eyes Open

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I went to an event last friday evening thinking I was going to get to photograph the most stunning Russian sleigh I have ever seen, but it turned out they put it inside to protect it,which makes sense,so a shot was not possible. Anyway,I left there kind of dejected about it and on the way home I passed this little scene and decided to do a shot here. Well I knocked and asked if they minded and they were fine with it,so I asked them to turn on some interior lights and they obliged. After getting so far with  it,I wished the church lights were on,and so I knocked again and it turns out it was the youth pastor living here and he offered to make my wish come true. The only thing he could not do was get the large stained glass window lit,so in frustration I shined my bright flashlight on it and amazingly got it to show its color. I would not have guessed it would work but thank goodness I tried.

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.

Giving Thanks

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This set of images were taken in the small town of Lititz,Pa in the area known as the Moravian Church Square. It is a gorgeous section of town that includes numerous old buildings and is  right along the main street. This year I spotted a dazzling yellow Ginko tree on a friday night and took a shot or two before it got dark.I called a friend to tell him he might want to check it out,and he did just that on the next day.I called him to ask if he got anything and he said all of the leaves were off,to which I laughed and said there is no way all the leaves fell off overnight. He insisted it was true so on Sunday morning I headed over at sunrise to see,and lo and behold  he was telling the truth. I was busy getting more photos in the pre-dawn light when the caretaker strolled by and said he was lighting the church and hoped that would not be a problem,to which I said go for it. The added illumination inside took the stunning scene to a whole other level in my opinion,and I was very thankful not only for the beauty before me but the ability to appreciate it and capture it. I joked with the care taker about the leaves not being cleaned up because he is a very efficient worker and keeps the property well maintained and he said the parishioners love to walk down the golden path as they arrive for Sunday worship so he leaves them lay an extra day.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

 

 

The Light Still Shines

 

strasburg-angelThis image was taken this past weekend in the town of Strasburg,Pa, and was shot at St Michael’s Lutheran church, which dates back to the early 1700s. I had been driving around looking for scenery and the evening was a little lackluster so I decided to stop and light paint this scene.The Angelic statue was lit using a small flashlight to bring out the details and the rest of the scene was illuminated by flash.

 

The Old Church

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I photographed this old church in Lititz,Pa on a recent cold winter morning. This church is located beside the linden hall girls school and the church was built by a father in memory of his daughter. I used flash to create light and shadow to accent the details.

Moravian Poinsettia Tree

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Lititz Pennsylvania is but one small town in Lancaster county, but when it comes to faith, traditions, family values,and a sense of community, Lititz stands heads above most communities in the region.Family run stores dot the main street and each one brings a unique touch to the community and every event the town puts on,residents come out to support in grand fashion.

The town is dotted with churches,and among the most scenic is the Lititz Moravian church,which dates back to the mid 1750s and is a place of unique beauty. Every year,the congregation creates a 12 foot high poinsettia tree in the main sanctuary to honor or remember someone special. I happened to be in the church square last sunday photographing at sunrise and one kind lady asked if I wanted to take a peak inside.The handbell choir was practicing early and I had always wanted to photograph the tree,so I accepted the offer.

I went in,quickly set up my tripod and shot a quick series,adding some flash to the tree,the pews, and I also went outside and lit the stained glass with a flash as well. I had wanted to get permission for years but never made the effort,and as I came to find out that morning,the tree was coming down after the sunday service,so it really was the perfect moment to get this image.Each Christmas season the church has several Christmas vigils where attendees get a lighted candle ,sing songs,and these dates are quickly filled. Also note the Moravian star hanging above the pulpit.

Encased in Ivy

This church which was covered in ivy is located in Brattleboro Vermont and caught my eye as we passed through the town. Several local residents stopped to ask what I was doing and told me it is no longer an active church,but they now hold dances inside. I wish I had been able to shoot it this week or next as the ivy most certainly will be changing to more vivid hues..

Arriving by wagon

This image is one of those special moments that make being a photographer so rewarding for me. The young girls were riding on this miniature cart and were making their way to sunday church service at a local farm when they passed me at a covered bridge I was photographing with a friend. They headed on their way up the road and I decided to get in my truck and try and get one more photo of something I have never seen before, and figured never would again. They turned down this farm lane with others who were arriving on foot and I took this image through my open car window pretty quickly. Although I am extremely thrilled with the photo, For some reason I have this bad habit of tilting my head and consequently my camera when I shoot handheld,and the image was slightly tilted.My framing was less than ideal in this hurried moment so the image has a touch of tilt yet.

Something I missed was a shot from the front showing the miniature horse that was pulling them,and he must have been a little powerhouse to pull five youngsters. The other thing I really like about this image are the colors the people are wearing,and admittedly I am no expert on Amish ways and I have always wondered how or why they pick certain colors. they are usually very lovely hues and I have seen families dressed in the same color palette on more than one occasion.

A Day of Rest

 

I headed out to do some photography with a good friend on sunday morning,and We headed out at 430am in the hopes of a great sunrise,but that was a total flop. As we made our way home, we came across these colorfully dressed members of the local Amish community heading to church. I took this photo from the car using a 400 mm telephoto.

Oak Hill Chapel

This is another infrared image featuring the chapel at the oak hill cemetery in Washington,D.C.. It was very peaceful in the place, but the trip to get there was a real anxiety laced ordeal for me. I have a real problem with being in traffic jams that just sit there, and this trip included just that.

War of 1776

I shot this infrared image this past weekend at a local chapel and cemetery.The flag was caught on the stone,and I assume it had blown there. Wish I could have seen the mans name, but when it comes to cemeteries, I never touch anything out of respect for those interred there. The marker on which the flag is attached says war of 1776,and the date he died read 1778 on the stone.

A Peaceful Rest

Another flowering tree caught my eye as I looked for spring scenes across the region. The old church and the storm clouds rounded out the composition to yield a peaceful spring image at a local cemetery. Fall is still my favorite time of the year, but spring is right up there as well. This is another example of an image where I climbed on my truck roof to shoot, and that allowed a little better framing with the tree. The roof has a luggage rack which keeps the tripod legs from sliding. I get strange looks doing this, but I like the extra height it affords. I often joke about mounting a telescoping pole to my vehicle and controlling aerial views from a laptop inside. Maybe if I ever hit the lottery, I can try that.

The Prince and The Pauper

As spring advances and trees and grass begin to green up, I start thinking about shooting infrared images.The green foliage turns white in infrared, creating a very unique look. I have found that some of the Victorian era cemeteries can look quite stunning when shot in infrared, and todays post is one such example. This is Calvary cemetery outside New York City, and features very impressive statuary, monuments and carved stones. I have a black backpack and often set it down while I am shooting, and more than once I have gone into panic mode as I wander a bit and realize I forgot where I set my bag. Try finding a bag amongst thousands of dark stones and you quickly remember to wear your bag when you move around. I always go with a friend, and we usually shoot different subjects, so at least once a trip I wait till he is in deep concentration looking through the camera, and I sneak up and suddenly grab his arm or talk in his ear, and of course he returns the favor. This particular cemetery goes on for acres and includes 3 million burials.The large mausoleum on the left is that of the Johnston family. the following is from the internet about this family and where my title came from.

John Johnston died May 17, 1887, seven years after brother Charles and seventeen years before his other brother Robert A. Johnston.

John Johnston led the J. & C. Johnston company, and the J. & C. Johnston department store at Broadway and Twenty-Second Street was a popular source for dress silks and other fabrics. The store was among the most successful of its time, prospering during an era when similar companies frequently went bankrupt.The fortunes of J. & C. Johnston took a drastic turn for the worse after John Johnston’s passing. Responsibility for the company passed to Robert A. Johnston, at whose helm the business failed.

Mr. Johnston possessed millions when the business came to him through the death of his brothers, but he lost all in a few years, and in 1888 the house went out of existence. He retired to his palatial home at Mount St. Vincent, on the Hudson. Later the place was sold at foreclosure and the house burned, the owner having a narrow escape. Since then he had lived alone in a barn on the property, refusing charity. He was found sick with pneumonia and insane ten days ago.”

This obituary makes tantalizing reference to the mighty structure that has fascinated folks for years: “[Robert Johnston’s] body … will be immured in the magnificent family mausoleum built many years ago at a cost of $300,000 in Calvary Cemetery.”The dismal circumstances of Robert Johnston’s death did not cost him a space in the family mausoleum. The mausoleum’s presence today echoes the success and personal fortunes of the Johnston name while housing the man who wasted it.The story is indeed interesting, as the tomb is occupied by prince and pauper alike.


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.

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.

Church Sanctuary at Christmas

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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.