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.

Husband and Wife

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Nestled at the base of a giant maple tree are the graves of this husband and wife. Her stone reads-“her example is our inheritance” and his reads, “the master called and found him”. I wonder if the tree was planted since they were buried or just happened to grow from a seed that landed there?

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.

Think Your Cold?

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I refer to these two figures as the guardians because they are at the entrance to this small plot in a local cemetery. A recent windy snowstorm had them  accented in a dusting of white. I used my flashlight to brighten up the details and bring out their unique character.It was around 8 degrees this morning,so it’s no wonder they have their arms crossed to keep warm.

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.

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 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 Relaxation Zone

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This is my back yard fire pit and I would never have thought to shoot it till the leaves covered everything and looked nice. I should have waited till dark so I could have lit my tiki torches on the fence too,but I was a bit busy. I built everything  you see in the photo from the fence to the arbor in the corner with the gazing ball and the fire pit too. I lit the fire to have a flame,but later would have been more impressive. A few weeks ago I was sitting in the dark out here by the light of the fire and tiki torches and the flame was at least twice as high when something moving catches my eye. I turn my head and a skunk literally walked right between the chair and fire pit. I was about 6 feet from him and for whatever reason I decide to clap my hands to get him moving along. He spun directly toward me with his main weapon and the tail went up,but he cut me a break and did not fire. In hindsight,that was a stupid move.

Bigelow Chapel

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I just returned from a four-day trip to shoot fall foliage in new england and this is the first image I am sharing. The foliage was a disaster but my friend  Morrie and I took a day to shoot in Mount Auburn cemetery in Massachusetts. The place did not disappoint and this image features the Bigelow Chapel,which is a centerpiece of the cemetery.Originally built in 1846 in a Gothic Revival style, Bigelow Chapel is a central structure illustrating the Mount Auburn Cemetery’s importance of linking a network of building landmarks to the landscape.  The Chapel, constructed of Quincy granite, has served as a non sectarian chapel for funeral and memorial services. The building has had a full history of renovations, beginning with a complete dismantling and rebuilding just nine years following construction due to structural problems, a complete interior remodeling in 1923, and the addition of a crematory annex in 1970.  The only regret I had was not being able to see the place lit inside to show off the stained glass. I light painted the scene with about ten pops of the flash. This cemetery is very large and well maintained,and while we were there a maintenance crew carefully raked the stone walkways free of debris,which surely must be done everyday in the fall. We were also told not to park on the grass at the road edge because they are very particular about keeping things perfect.

 

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.

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.

Bottom of the food chain

The other day I posted an image from my Canadian Rockies photo trip a few years back, and I got to reminiscing about the experience I had at Moraine Lake, which is shown here. As usual I like to travel in the fall, because I thoroughly enjoy the early mornings with frost and the fresh air this time of year, and I always wait till the bitter end to make any sort of reservation. This trip I decided I would stay at the moraine lake lodge with my wife for several days to take in the mountain grandeur, but I was quickly told we were not staying there after hearing it was almost 400 dollars a night. I stood my ground and we stayed one single night in a room with a fireplace looking out at this lake. To me it was worth every penny,as I woke to head out before dawn to shoot under a lovely sunrise.

Let me explain a bit about my one and only trip to a place where you can be the main course on the menu at any moment. When we arrived, there were two nice sized bears in the parking lot roaming around, which gave me reason to ponder my usual early morning escapades. Signs were everywhere to travel in groups of 4 or more, and make lots of noise. Upon checking in, I said I wanted to hike the 30 minutes or so to this lookout to shoot sunrise, and the girl at the desk said you have two options. First was simply sleep in, and the second was to carry a bottle of pepper spray that was about the size of a small fire extinguisher. I opted for the spray, headed out at dark in the morning and was totally alone for at least an hour. I made so much noise going up that trail, hand on the trigger just in case, and a few prayers said along the way. I kept thinking all they will find is my gear, a chewed up pepper spray bottle, and a bear taking a nap. It really was nerve-racking, but the view up here was unbelievable. I have never seen such aqua/turquoise color in water ever. The angle of the rising sun was less than ideal,but it was sweet nonetheless.

The following day we stayed at a B&B in Banff, and the owner showed us his scrapbook of a mountain lion he shot under his porch. The thing was being held under its front legs and was taller than this guy,who was pretty darn tall. Its kind of humorous, because I started seeing signs for mountain lion activity in places we hiked and I would extend my Gitzo tripod legs all the way out,thinking I would whack this thing if it got any bright ideas. Someone said if they are stalking you, you would never know it till they pounce. Nothing gives you a better sense of being alive than to know you are not the king of the mountains and you better tread cautiously.

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.

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.