Eulogy for a Red Barn

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This old red barn in the heart of the Adirondacks was a mecca for photographers. Situated on Route 73 in Keene, New York, it regularly attracted travelers who happened to be driving that road between the Adirondack Northway and Lake Placid as well as those who, cameras in hand (or in their cars), made it a deliberate destination.

The last time I saw the barn, in early November of this year, I noticed that a pullout with real parking spaces had been added fairly recently, and I assumed that local authorities had decided, for safety’s sake, to take this measure to accommodate the motorists who were otherwise parking somewhere along the well-traveled road.

Perhaps I was correct in my assumption. But this particular use of the shiny new parking spaces was short-lived: despite intense efforts to save it, above all via a Facebook page spearheaded by New Jersey photographer Nick Palmieri, this beloved icon, one of the most photographed landmarks in the Adirondack Park, was torn down shortly before Christmas because officials had deemed it unsafe and beyond repair.

It’s difficult to pin down the exact history of the red barn. Apparently it dates from the first half of the twentieth century and actually was a functioning barn at one time. After surviving other repurposings, the barn was left deserted and the land it stood on is under the jurisdiction of the state DEC. With its red color it provided photographers with a perfect background to the field and mountains in all seasons, and its increasingly dilapidated state tended to add to its charm–until officials decided its days were numbered. The intrepid old barn had, somewhat miraculously,  survived many a tough Adirondack winter (not to mention the ravages of Hurricane Irene five years ago), and perhaps it was thought unlikely to survive the winter of 2016-2017.

So, all we have left of the beloved red Adirondack barn are memories and photographs.  Above is a photograph I took in 2013. Below is one from my last visit, nearly two months ago.

If you would like to purchase a print or other memento of the barn with one of these images on it, please click on the photo you would like and it will take you to my website.

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Scott Snyder’s Stunning New Photo Book

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Islandport Press, the publisher of this book, classifies N is for New Hampshire as “Children’s Nonfiction,” and while that’s not untrue, the book is so much more. Scott Snyder is a New England photographer, resident in southern New Hampshire and a member of the New England Photography Guild, and his magnificent work graces every page of this lovely book. There are dramatic shots such as this one of the Mt. Washington Cog Railway on the cover, landscapes, interiors and exteriors, people shots — you name it.  In a fairly short amount of time   Scott has succeeded in mastering just about every kind of photography you can think of.   Except the soullessly trendy. He has too much depth to his personality, too much sensitivity to the transcendent, to want to bother with that. Among the plethora of “souvenir” picture books that can be bought at Visitors’ Centers and book shops all over the Granite State, N is for New Hampshire stands out for the photographer’s avoidance of cliche and his deeply personal approach, and because Islandport’s production staff has done a superb job of reproducing the photographs in natural colors and not in souped-up oversaturated versions that some book and calendar publishers seem to think the public wants.

While Rebecca Rule’s text is straightforward enough for children to be able to read and appreciate, it’s by no means too elementary to be informative for adults as well. N is for New Hampshire is an enchanting book for all ages. It’s an unsurpassed way to become acquainted with the work of one of New England’s truly outstanding photographers. You can see more of Scott’s work by visiting his website, and you can purchase his book by clicking here or visiting the website of Islandport Press.

 

When Your Photography Surprises You

Have you ever ventured out, armed not only with your camera but also with some preconceived notions of the images you want to make? It happens to me on week-long visits to New England as well as on half- or full-day trips closer to home. And does it then also sometimes happen that you end up with images radically different from what you thought you were setting out to take — perhaps because the lighting wasn’t what you expected or that tree wasn’t there anymore or etc., etc., etc.? Sometimes that’s a fun part of the game.

And then there are times I go out with no specific ideas for images but just respond to what’s around me. Again, I like the element of surprise.

Here I want to share two images from my recent trip to the northern New England coast, both of places I’d been and things I’d photographed before.  Each had its own unique element of surprise.

The Sunday I decided to drive along the Maine coast toward Ogunquit was sunny and quite windy. After stopping along the coastal road (Rt 1A) to photograph buildings that took my fancy, I ended up, as I knew I would, at the famous Nubble Light. Nubble is probably the most photographed lighthouse in the USA (if not possibly the world, though I wonder whether Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia might be a competitor) because it’s so accessible — you just walk up to it. No boats, no sneaking onto private property, no long hikes on soft sand — just drive up, park, and get out your gear.

As you well know, ease of access doesn’t guarantee ease of getting a great photograph. For one thing, it was midday, usually not the optimum time to chalk up any photographic masterpieces. Also, on a Sunday afternoon in early spring chances are quite good of getting people wandering into your otherwise perfect composition.

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Well, out of the several images I took, here’s the one I think was best.  What made it work? (1) The clouds. Thank you, Mother Nature. As famed New England foliage expert Jeff Folger observed when he saw it, it looks as if the clouds are emanating from the lighthouse. So, yes, while I did get closer-up images, this with the clouds was “the” image. (2) No people. There was a person off to the left, but I was cropping that side of the image anyway since it had too much superfluous “stuff.”

Photoshop processing, after my usual preliminary moves with the Raw file in Lightroom, was relatively minimal.  I took the image into Nik Viveza, moderately cranked up the Brightness and Structure, and brushed these settings onto the lighthouse and the foreground rocks to make them stand out from the blue water and sky. Back in Photoshop, a very slight degree of opening the shadows in the Shadows and Highlights. And there you have it: my surprise that any of the images taken under less than optimum conditions would be successful.

The second one contained a surprise of a different kind. This is a well-known tree on the New Hampshire coast at Great Island Common (a.k.a. New Castle Common) near Portsmouth.  I first shot it a year ago while out with New England photographer Jeff Sinon, and that time we had the sweet evening light in our favor. This time I was there midday because it took me a good while to find the place due to the weird location of the sign. Actually, I considered this trip a “study” for, hopefully, a revisit later in the day under better lighting conditions, and I used my Olympus SH-1 instead of my Nikon DSLR.

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First, here’s the original. A nicely composed image of this venerable tree, but what boring light! What could be done?

On my way to and from this New England trip I stopped for lunch at the same restaurant. Each time I was seated in a different section, and each of those sections had old oil landscape paintings on the walls in which the colors were not natural but nor were they monochrome. They were sort of a tint. I stared at them and thought there must be a way to recreate this effect in appropriate photographs. Information tucked away in my brain for later use.

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With a completely open mind I decided to take the image into Nik Color Efex Pro 4 and see what the different presets would do. (Remember my post about letting limitations work for you? My current limitation is that my Topaz plug-ins aren’t saving correctly and so I’m making the best of the Nik Suite.) The first preset I clicked (they’re listed in alphabetical order) was Bi-Color Effects.  As you can see from the screenshot, there’s an extensive selection of color combos, and each of those can be tweaked still further.  I tried them until I came to Moss 4. That was it. And — not that I was consciously looking for this — it somehow approximates that effect of hovering between not-quite-natural and not-quite-unnatural that I had observed on those oil paintings.

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Please — let me know what you think! I appreciate your comments. Click here or here if you would like to order a print or other product.

Kerry Drager’s Coastal Visions Delights the Eye

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A couple of years or so ago, California photographer Kerry Drager moved from an inland part of his state to a coastal area in central California. And much to the benefit of those of us who follow Kerry’s photographic work, he not surprisingly fell under the spell of the California coast. The spell has drawn him back again and again to photograph the beauty of Cambria, Cayucos, and San Simeon, and some of the results can be seen in the exquisite little book Coastal Visions recently published on blurb.com.

Kerry has infinite patience. You can see the results in this book: waiting for that wave to break just right, for the seagull to position itself in the optimal spot; working out the optimal composition, waiting (or returning again and again) for the sweetest light.

But not all the images are strictly of waves, rocks, gulls, and other things that one readily associates with coastal places. No, there is more to a coastal vision than that.  A stunning backlit group of daisies; an abstract of rock and lichen – Kerry  is renowned for his close-ups both as photographer and a teacher; a fence –what fellow Californian Ansel Adams would likely have called an extract, a portion of a fence in an image composed so as to get the maximum effect from minimum subject matter.

Kerry Drager’s Coastal Visions can be purchased from blurb.com.

And as if the book weren’t enough, Kerry currently has a show running at The Photo Shop in San Luis Obispo until March 14. The show features prints from the book, so it must be quite a treat to see these beautiful images in large format on the wall. Do go and have a look if you live in the area or are passing through.

I eagerly await more publications from Kerry; he is working on other projects and in his own good time – Kerry is methodical, he doesn’t rush impulsively into things (which is why he excels at what he does) – he will show us further products of his creativity. Coastal Visions promises much, and much will certainly be delivered.

 

In the Steps of Jervis McEntee

Do you go into mourning once the fall foliage season has ended? Is that it for photography until next summer mercifully cools to an end or, at best. until a blanket of snow adds some brightness to what’s often referred to as “stick season”?

That needn’t be the case. I’ve contended that “there is beauty in bleakness” ever since my trips to Arctic Sweden in the 1990s, and that includes the bleakness of November par excellence. One of my most enduring and endearing photographic memories is of a shoot at Copperas Pond in the Adirondacks a number of years ago. The subdued, diffused light provided by the pale sun made the delicate red berries — I’m not sure what they are, but here’s a photo of some similar berries from last winter in the Catskills — stand out.

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But what about the wider landscape? Is it possible to extract a usable photograph out of the vast, brown sea of bare trees that confront us as we survey a wide-angle landscape during that time between the colorful leaves and the white snow?

I found the answer in two exhibitions of Jervis McEntee, the 19th-century landscape painter who worked mostly (if not exclusively) near or in New York’s Catskill Mountains. Even McEntee was unusual in admitting that November was his favorite time to paint. Fortunately, both exhibitions — one in Kingston and the other (open until December 13) at SUNY New Paltz — and their catalogues carried examples of the works he created at this visually challenging time of year, so I was able to study them before going out on my own November shoot.

The secret, I think, is to work with the bleakness, not against it — that is, to accept it and decide how to make it an advantage rather than try to “correct” it by (for example) enhancing the values of your Vibrance or Saturation slider or going too heavy with filters. For illustrations, here are two of the images I made from my November shoot at Ringwood Manor in Northern New Jersey. Ringwood is one of those places that offers photo opportunities in every season and in almost every kind of light. What could I do with it on a late, rather heavily overcast afternoon in November?

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The first thing the above image needed was a dialing down of the green grass; having been a loyal Fuji Velvia shooter back in the film days, I tend to keep the setting on my Nikon DSLRs on Vivid, which gives that characteristic saturated green. Then, the browns in the image needed the reverse: a bit of enhancement. Finally, to get a hint of a “painterly” look I used the BuzSim preset in Topaz Simplify 4 and increased the detail just a bit.

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This image also benefited from BuzSim and an increase in the detail, as well as an overall dialing down of the saturation.

I think I succeeded in getting what I wanted from these images. I learned from McEntee’s paintings, not because I wanted to “imitate” them and turn my photographs into paintings but because I wanted to see how I could produce what are still recognizably photographs, but ones that show the November landscape to its best advantage and that it is possible to do this.

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PhotoPlus Dazzles New York City

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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.

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

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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.