PhotoPlus Dazzles New York City


October is about fall foliage and about Halloween, but for the thousands of photography enthusiasts who descend on the Javits Center on Manhattan’s West Side each year, it’s also about the grand PhotoPlus Expo. Sponsored by PDN, the PhotoPlus Expo, which comes to New York every October, is nothing short of Photographer’s Heaven for anyone who owns a camera. It offers seminars, workshops, portfolio reviews, and, for those who want just “the basics,” an amazing array of exhibits by vendors of everything a photographer needs, from the highest-end DSLRs to postprocessing software, file storage, books, and lens tissues–plus anything else you can imagine if you’re a photography professional or enthusiast.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn Friday October 24 I took a quick swing through the exhibits to see two of my favorite photographers — local New York guys at that! — who also happen to be outstanding teachers, each in his own way. Robert J. Rodriguez, Jr., who is known especially but not exclusively for his work in the Hudson Valley, was there in his capacity as ambassador for Canson Infinity, the manufacturers of high-quality (to put it mildly) photographic paper. Read his recent blogpost to see how Robert came to represent Canson Infinity. I took a quick photo of him posing next to two of the images he had chosen to exhibit at their booth this year.

Then I caught Rick Sammon while addressed a crowd of people at the Canon exhibit. One of OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACanon’s renowned Explorers of Light. Rick was also, I believe, signing copies of his latest book, Creative Visualization for Photographers, during PhotoPlus. I’ll be featuring reviews of Rick’s book as well as of Robert’s e-book Insights from the Creative Path in this blog soon.

If you live in the New York area and have never attended PhotoPlus, I recommend you give it a try. It’s always on the last full weekend in October.

Fall Foliage Questions? Ask Jeff Folger

The Old Barn

The Old Barn

It’s getting to be that season again: fall foliage, when we head out with our cameras to capture nature going out literally in a blaze of glory. Due to the unseasonably warm weather we’ve had in the Northeast, the foliage in the New York and New England areas is on the late side this year.  My friends from the New England Photography Guild are reporting the colors slowly and gradually developing, and Dr. Robert Kozlow, who has just published his third book of photographs of New Hampshire, tells me it may well be mid-October or later before the colors peak there.

17 - Autumn Color Splash

 Autumn Color Splash

If you want literally up-to-the-minute information on New England foliage, you should be following photographer/blogger Jeff Folger, who with good reason is nicknamed Jeff Foliage. Come this time of year, he hits the road to drive everywhere and report on what he sees. And Jeff reports not only on the status of the foliage itself — he’ll also recommend places to stay when you’re in the area, always places where he himself has stayed, no guesswork here. Check out his blog here.

During the non-foliage season (notice how fall foliage is so important that the other times of yearDSC-2678 s are referred to in the negative), Jeff is busy monitoring all sorts of meteorological reports so he can offer educated prognoses on what sort of a foliage season will await us in New England.  And not only does he offer the information on his blog — he also replies to personal questions, including requests for recommendations for driving tours, etc. (always with the disclaimer that this is not scientific but educated guesswork based on years of experience and research).

Jeff is also a stunning photographer. You can view his work on his Fine Art America website and purchase not only prints but also a wide array of photo products. Click here for a look.

Another disclaimer: The photos in this post aren’t Jeff’s but mine, taken, of course, last year or earlier. (And they’re for sale; click on the image for information.} This year’s burst of color still awaits the attention of my camera.

Amazing Photographer Trio Sheds Light on Letchworth


Letchworth Village: sounds like the name of a pretty New England town, or perhaps a new condo development with all the latest amenities. It’s neither. Letchworth Village is a blot on the history of New York State, certainly a black mark on the state’s treatment of what we now call marginalized people. Located in Rockland County and opened in 1911, Letchworth was a residential institution for the mentally and physically challenged, adults as well as children. It was built on 2,600 acres of woodland and fields and, at the height of its existence, had 130-plus buildings and more than 4,000 patients, and was touted as the ideal place for the mentally challenged to be.

It was anything but. Rumors of mistreatment circulated. Not only were the residents exploited to “benefit the state,” as the Head Psychiatrist’s report from 1921 implied — he advocated that “idiots” not be accepted because they could not do the heavy work (e.g., loading coal, building roads) to which the “morons” and “imbeciles” were assigned — but they were also used for medical experiments, including otherwise untested polio vaccines four years before the Salk vaccine trials began. Overpopulation was a problem already ten years after the facility opened.

In 1946 photographer Irving Haberman made a set of photos that first alerted the outside world to the appalling conditions — the filth, overcrowding, neglect — in which Letchworth’s residents, especially the children, lived. Then in 1972, Geraldo Rivera included a report on Letchworth in an ABC News documentary that focused on a similar institution on Staten Island. This report eventually led to extensive reform of disabilities services throughout the USA but had little immediate effect on conditions at Letchworth.

Photographer Lynn Ronan with two of her pictures

Photographer Lynn Ronan with two of her pictures

Letchworth was permanently closed in 1996. Today it stands in ruins. A few buildings have been recycled for other uses. The others may well be demolished sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, they and the adjoining cemetery stand as silent, accusing testimony to 85 years of state-sponsored gross maltreatment of vulnerable people.

Three local photographers have been making images of what’s left of Letchworth Village and

Camille LaPlaca-Post and some of her images

Camille LaPlaca-Post and some of her images

are now presenting them in an exhibit titled “Letchworth Village: Finding the Human Element in Abandoned Places.” Those of you who are familiar with my work know that this sort of subject matter is right up my alley, but I’ve actually never been to Letchworth. Having gone to the opening reception for this exhibit yesterday, I can say that viewing these photographs is as intense an experience as actually visiting the site.

George Garbeck with two of his photographs

George Garbeck with two of his photographs

The photographers — Lynn Ronan, Camille LaPlaca-Post, and George Garbeck — are all membersOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA of the prestigious Ridgewood (NJ) Camera Club. Each has a uniquely personal way of responding to and interpreting the “human element” in this abandoned place — or, perhaps I should say, more than one personal way: What impressed me most about the exhibit as a whole is that each photographer captured different aspects of the subject matter and, in the postprocessing, interpreted the image as s/he saw fit, whether color, black-and-white, or infrared, whether tending toward the documentary or the very creatively artistic — and yet it all comes together; there is still a unity about it in which a response to this place called Letchworth Village is uppermost and the individuality of each photographer serves that purpose.  It’s moving, chilling, and appalling all at the same time. I’m hoping to return and see it once more at least.

“Letchworth Village” is on exhibit at the Suffern Free Library, 210 Lafayette Avenue, Suffern, NY until the end of September. Lafayette Avenue is the same as Route 59, and the library is on the left if you’re going east. Click here for opening times.  If you’re anywhere near the neighborhood, absolutely don’t miss this exhibit.

6 Steps to Better Nature Photography — Review of Rob Sheppard’s New Book

6-Steps-Paper-RevHere is a fine new print book (which contains a downloadable video component) by master photographer and teacher Rob Sheppard.  6 Steps to Better Nature Photography lives up to its name.  It’s not about technical basics, nor about postprocessing—there are any number of good books on the market (e-books as well as print) that cover those topics—but about six essential considerations for anyone who wants to improve their nature photography to be aware of, take to heart, and put into practice.

What is more basic, more essential to photography than light? And so Rob opens with light. A beginning photographer can be so focused (pun intended) on the subject that he or she is totally unaware of how the light—its presence, absence, quality—is affecting the scene. (It’s a trap into which even experienced photographers can fall.) Chase the light, yes, but cultivate an awareness of how it interacts with your subject. On the theory that a picture is worth 1,000 words, Rob provides three of his own stunning photographs from Acadia National Park as examples of how light at different times of day affects the subject and thus how the image is composed accordingly.

And indeed, composition is the second step Rob covers—specifically, how to go beyond relying on your zoom lens and standing in one spot, zooming in and out to vary your compositions.  Different kinds of lenses influence how the viewer perceives the difference between the foreground and background in a photo, and Rob wants to make you aware of this; he also points out that a macro lens isn’t your only choice if you wish to make close-ups. I remember Rob teaching this very effectively in an online course several years ago. It can be a complicated topic, and I think that the presentation of this “step” could have been improved a tad just by some tweaking of the layout and formatting.

Rob Sheppard cares deeply about the environment—not simply as a collection of photographic subjects but as a living thing, a divine creation; and not only the environment as a whole or as a general concept, but every individual facet of it, from a mountain to an insect or a tiny flower. This reverence (that really is the correct word) is what, more than anything else, informs his approach to his work and to teaching it. Thus in the third step more than anywhere else, about macro and close-up photography, his knowledge of nature, of the habits of living things, comes into play. First, you can’t get pictures of insects the way he does without knowing something about how that insect behaves. Second, whatever kind of postprocessing he does, the end result remains a photograph that tells you some kind of story or conveys some information about the subject – about its natural surroundings and/or its behavior. He doesn’t exploit his subjects as raw material for “digital art,” for example.  The many inserts headed “The Nature of the Photo” not only inform you about Rob’s subjects; they also inspire and challenge you to find out something about the subjects you’re likely to encounter in your neck of the woods.

Again, Rob’s reverence for his subjects inform step four, “Avoiding Boring Photos of Nature” (if you’ve ever read his “Nature Photography Manifesto,” available as an e-book, you’ll know what I mean). This alone is worth the price of the book. You could do worse than write some of them out on index cards and tape them up where you’ll see them regularly.

Rob has been evolving into a master black-and-white photographer and, in step five, shares the fruits of his experience by outlining general principles to keep in mind if you aim to create effective black-and-white images. In step six he covers practical information about something every photographer is going to encounter while out shooting – the weather.

Rob Sheppard presents himself as an experienced photographer who is passionately in love with his craft and eager to share from is knowledge and expertise with the reader. But he never comes across as a big-shot know-it-all. He’s still on a journey too; in fact, the first words in the book are “It’s a Journey.” That’s what makes him entirely credible and what instills complete confidence in you, the reader/learner.

6 Steps to Better Nature Photography includes a video course on composition. The URL is in the back of the book, and you can watch the segments or download them to watch when you want so you needn’t be online to take advantage.  The information is basic but essential and, as always, benefits from Rob’s gifts as a teacher “live” as well as in print. Click on the title of the book or on the image of the cover and you’ll get right through to the relevant page on Rob’s website.

A Little Viveza Goes a Long Way

I don’t like to overprocess photos unless I deliberately want a sort of painterly look that may end up resembling something other than a photograph. For that, some of my favorite presents are in Topaz Labs’ Adjust. But for a photo that’s going to remain a photo and just wants that little something extra, I’m increasingly finding that Google’s Nik Viveza is a powerful yet minimalistic tool.

Screenshot 2015-07-30 20.38.27Viveza has four basic settings: Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, and Structure. You can use the sliders to determine how much you want (or don’t want) of each of these parameters, and there is also a Brush Tool that allows you to select a particular feature in the image to which to apply your edit.

A picture is worth a thousand words. So let me explain further using a few recently processed (or reprocessed) images.

First I sometimes use Viveza to give an overall livelier tone to my image — a bit more “punch,”one might say. That’s what I’ve done to this image of the interior of the Higher Grounds Coffee Co. in Windham, and to this picture of Main Street in Phoenicia. Both towns are in the Catskill Mountains of New York. I did not amp up the saturation of the coffee shop interior to an unnatural level, by the way. Not my style.

But as I said, Viveza’s Brush Tool is a very effective way to apply an edit to a selected part of a photograph.


In these two images from the Mountain Top Historical Society’s campus in Haines Falls, I increased the structure and brushed the new setting onto the tree stump in the image on the left because I wanted the detail in the venerable old stump to stand in contrast to tne summer’s new greenery, which in places is ever so slightly blurred due to the breeze that was blowing that day.

In the image on the right I increased the Brightness and Structure and brushed these onto the rock to draw the viewer’s attention to the rock.

I did something similar with Motif no. 1 in this photo (below) of that famous building, ensuring that the enhanced Brightness and Structure would catch the viewer’s eye.

DSC 0073 Wmth Bril - Top Viv s

If, like me, you want to give a bit of a “pop” to your photo without going overboard — something nice and subtle — I would recommend trying Nik Viveza 2.


To learn more about Nik Viveza 2,click here to visit the website.


To purchase any of my photos on the page, click the photo to get to my Fine Art America site.

A Photograph’s Unexpected Odyssey

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In late June Anton de Flon (check out his site — he is “the” Catskill Dude) and I went out to North-South Lake for a short hike. When we came to the point where the trail ascends these rocks, I decided to stop and take in the spirit of Hudson River painter Asher B. Durand, whose presence I sensed nearby. Asher loved to paint studies of rocks.DSC4400 original s

Here is the original of the first picture I took. I wanted a vertical. Yes, it’s a bit far off, but that’s me — I like to begin zoomed out and then gradually move in closer. Same way I like to get to know people.

After some very basic processing in Lightroom, I took it into Photoshop to do the main work. One of the first things I did was to zoom in to clone out one of those blue round trail markers. Then I looked at the zoomed-in picture and it struck me — Hey! I rather like that!  Yes, I wanted a vertical, but I have at least three other verticals from that day, better compositions all of them, so … I cropped the image down to exactly what i saw on the screen, then lopped a tiny slice more off the bottom.  It’s the one at the top of this post..

OK, what to do with it now?  I had been thinking of a monochrome with lots of the detail DSC4400 Nik 028 sshowing. So, into Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2 we went.  And I realized it wasn’t working, at least not with the detail I had envisioned.  But among the presets I tried was this — and I liked it a lot. Very atmospheric.  I think Asher would have approved of it — as a sketch, anyway.  (I also tried a sepia preset that made it look like something you’d find at the bottom of a drawer in the archives of the Adirondack Museum. Can you see the headline now?  “Obscure 19th-century Print in ADK Museum Collection Now Discovered to Depict the Catskills.” I did not save this version.)

OK, but then what? Well, let’s see what Topaz Adjust 5 has to offer. Click, click, click on various presets — and then came the revelation. This one — called “French Countryside” — the problem was that leaving in all the details was making for too confused an image, and what it really needed was to be smoothed out. This one worked best for the purpose.

DSC4400 Top Fr Cntrysd s

What do you think?

Photography Workshop with Jeff Sinon Does Not Disappoint

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Want to go on a photography workshop? You’re in luck — whatever your location, your subject matter of interest, your topic of interest, it’s not difficult to find something to suit your requirements. It’s then a matter of matching up the logistics — the where and when — with what you can afford to pay.

DSC3818 sI’m enamored with the New England coast. I’m a New England wannabe. Having spent years traveling to and photographing Rhode Island, I discovered the northern Massachusetts and New Hampshire coasts a little over a year ago. New Hampshire can boast of only 18 miles of coastline, but what an amazing variety of visual experiences it offers. How can a visitor from New York make the most of it in a short time?

Enter photographer Jeff Sinon. A member of the


prestigious New England Photography Guild, Jeff lives in the area and knows every inch of the New Hampshire coastline. By wonderful coincidence, Jeff had just put out a notice that he was beginning to offer workshops, and I was just a few weeks away from a week-long visit to the area. Could we arrange a meetup? We sure could.

While Jeff organizes workshops around places he thinks would interest people — New Hampshire waterfalls was one recent offering, and he has one coming for (of course) the famous Lupine Festival in Sugar Hill — he will also design one tailor-made to a client’s needs, whether it be a small group or, like me, an individual. My requirements were simple: My time — any time — I spend in this gorgeous region is limited; can you show me a selection of places that would otherwise have taken quite a while to discover on my own, if at all? That’s it — I know how to use my camera, I’m fine with postprocessing, I just want to find the places and, within those places, any special views I should be aware of.

DSC3808 5 x 7Jeff picked me up at my hotel in Seabrook toward late afternoon — he had decided, quite rightly as it turned out, that this would best be done toward sunset — and we worked our way northward.  We came upon a lovely little harbor with lobster boats. We also stopped at some picturesque coves that, because of the tall rocks that separate the road from the beach, wouldn’t be visible (and therefore known) to anyone not familiar with the area. And there was Great Island Common, popularly known as New Castle Common, near Portsmouth. Great Island Common offers great views of two lighthouses, Portsmouth Harbor Light and Whaleback Light, the latter of which is actually in Maine waters.  But Jeff pointed out two other unique features: the “lone maple tree,” one of the most photographed trees around, and The Seascape Artist, a metal sculpture that you can photograph so as to have it frame the scene and look as if the artist is painting it.

The one improvement I could have wished for was totally beyond Jeff’s control: it was a chillyDSC3791 s and unbelievably windy evening. Not entirely conducive to getting completely into the meditative zone I need in order to concentrate on getting the best possible images (or to getting tack-sharp images with my 70-300-mm telephoto maxed out). But I think I came away with some good ones. You can judge for yourself by what you see here.

If you’re planning a visit to New Hampshire and want to check out workshops, whether preorganized or self-designed, I highly recommend that you contact Jeff Sinon.  He knows what he’s about, and in a self-designed workshop such as mine you’ll get exactly what you want — he’s knowledgeable and respects his clients’ wishes. And he’s a master photographer. He has just been chosen to represent New Hampshire in the U.S. edition of Photography’s Traveling Journal. Click here for Jeff’s website.