Archive for the ‘documentary’ Category

Fire – Water – Air – Earth   1 comment


— My submission to the Thomas Cook “Explore the Elements” photoblogging challenge. —

As my friend Jim Nix says, “This post is a little different than my normal kind of post.”

About a week ago, Jim tagged me in one of his blog posts, and by doing so, nominated my images for entry into the Thomas Cook “Explore the Elements” Travel Photoblogging Challenge. In this competition, we are tasked with choosing from our portfolios four images that represent each of the natural elements — Fire, Water, Air, and Earth.

Though honored by Jim’s nomination, I also knew that this would be more challenging than it first seemed. For one thing, the judges are Nicole S. Young, Elia Locardi, Dave Bouskil, and Ken Kaminesky. (Sure, no pressure at all.) They are all amazing photographers whose work I’ve long admired, so it’s quite intimidating to think that they’ll be scrutinizing my images for a change. As I flipped through possible candidate images, I was caught up with seeing them anew, also realizing that perhaps they weren’t quite up to snuff. For those images that didn’t pass muster, I wound up reprocessing them with new techniques I’ve learned over the years since they were originally taken.

Below are my entries for this most interesting challenge. At the end of the post, I, in turn, will nominate five photographers to also take part in the challenge.

Along the way, you can click on each image to see a full-screen view in a new browser tab. Enjoy!


“Represents the energetic, forceful, moving things in the world. Associated with security, motivation, desire, intention, and an outgoing spirit.”


“Okay,” I thought, “energetic, forceful, moving things… got it!”  Ken Shockley’s “Shockwave” jet truck is quite something to experience. (Some people have really cool hobbies.) Before performing high-speed dashes down the runway at air shows, Ken plays in front of the audience, sending out massive amounts of flame and smoke. When he hits the afterburners, he can top out at 376mph.


“Represents the fluid, flowing, formless things in the world. Associated with emotion, defensiveness, adaptability, flexibility, suppleness, and magnetism.”

Originally published as “Tenacity”, I’ve always enjoyed this image of a small stone and leaf holding on against the onslaught of the many waterfalls at Diana’s Baths in New Hampshire. “There’s a bit of ‘defensiveness’ and ‘suppleness’ in there,” I thought, “along with the fluid, flowing… yeah, that one.”


“Represents things that grow, expand, and enjoy freedom of movement. Associated with will, elusiveness, evasiveness, benevolence, compassion, and wisdom.”

A magnificent sunrise at Cobscook Bay, Maine, not far from the Canadian border

Sometimes, I’m amazed that the sky can be so big. This image was taken early one morning at Cobscook Bay, near Lubec, Maine. (Lubec happens to be the furthest point east in the continental U.S., so it could be said that the sun shines here first for us.) The sky that morning was so dramatic and dynamic that it seemed to be breathing. And as for ‘evasiveness’, the brilliance seen here was gone within 15 minutes as the sun came over the clouds.


“Represents the hard, solid objects of the earth. Associated with stubbornness, collectiveness , physicality and gravity.”

Capturing the elements of earth, water, mist-laden air, and the fire of fall foliage. At Silver Cascade, NH

This was my most challenging choice. I have a number of images of solid, earthy-like things that might’ve been good, and I went through a few changes before deciding on this one. Can one really separate Earth’s elements one from another, or does the interplay of Fire, Water, Air and Earth account for the natural beauty we see around us? Although this choice is intended primarily to convey the sense of solid “earth”, I think the image brings in all of the elements — solid earth, flowing water, ethereal and foggy air, and the fire of brilliant fall foliage.


Part of the Explore the Elements challenge is to nominate five other photographers to participate, so I’ll call upon my old Collaboration friends to join in. They are all wonderful landscape photographers, so I can’t wait to see their entries. Good luck, guys!

Called out are:

Jim Denham
Jerry Denham
Mark Gvazdinskas
Bob Lussier
Dave Wilson

Alone + Nature = Nurture (2015)   2 comments

At Acadia National Park, Otter Cliffs area, 2010.

Going through my photostream, I found a number of images that didn’t seem “right” to me. At the very least, I wasn’t interested in having them on display any longer. My processing techniques have changed over the years. Whereas I used to tonemap with one of a number of programs, I no longer tonemap at all. I generally find the results to be “soft”, unrealistic, or downright hideous if the settings are not handled properly. Such was the case with the version of this image back in 2010, I felt.

The image has been reworked with new techniques and an entirely new approach. As I compare the two versions side-by-side, I’m rather amazed that I let the previous version go out into the wild. I’d show it here, but… nahhhhh.


Lately, I’ve been reading interesting information about personality types.

I’ve always been one who enjoys solitude, preferring a quiet, solo hike in the woods in favor of large gatherings of people. In the past, I believed that this was “anti-social behavior,” a notion perhaps perpetuated by my bros at the time. Don’t get me wrong… I love good people and enjoy their company immensely. But, all in all, I prefer quietude and places that are not seething with too many humans packed closely together.

In my reading, I’ve found that I exhibit a particular personality type that tends to embrace solitude (T1/w9, for those who know.) While there’s always room in one’s life for a raucously good time in large groups, there is comfort in knowing that wanting to be alone in nature is not a “flaw” of any sort.

This is why this image appeals to me, and why I’ve chosen to revisit it. I’m drawn not only to scenes like this, but can relate to that one person standing there, cup of coffee in hand, taking in the natural beauty in much the same way that I appreciate it.

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Jordan Pond and The Bubbles, Acadia, Maine   1 comment

In the relatively small area that is Acadia National Park, beautiful scenes are everywhere. It’s also one of the nation’s most heavily visited parks, so people are everywhere, and most of them have cameras to capture their share of the scenery. And like most parks, there are certain areas where people are ‘funneled’ into one small section that reveals a highlight.

Such is the case with Jordan Pond and “The Bubbles”, those two small peaks across the water. What you don’t see in this picture are the hundreds of other visitors strolling along the carriageways and paths leading along the pond.

The views in this place are archetypal, and have been photographed probably millions of times. As such, it’s difficult to envision a new approach, a new angle or lighting that would present the subject in a unique way. Sometimes I wonder if that’s even possible without creating an abstract rendition.

We take the shot anyway, hoping to capture this particular scene, on this particular day, with those particular clouds. Perhaps get down low to see it from a worm’s eye view. Maybe add on a neutral-density filter to smooth out the water.

In the end, whether or not we come up with an image that is utterly unique or one that’s fairly commonplace, we can appreciate having been there that day, experiencing nature’s beauty as the light changes with the passing clouds, knowing that each of these moments IS a completely new and unique experience.

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Otter Cliffs at Acadia National Park, Maine   4 comments

I never was much of one for waking up early, nor much for black & white photography. But, some places suggest pushing past those preferences into finding something new.

Crawling out of the sleeping bag (the nice… warm… sleeping bag, mind you) at about 4:30AM each day, we made a daily pilgrimage down to the cliffs to catch the sunrise. Due to the great weather we had during the trip, the sunrises were a bit droll because of few clouds, so I started playing around with long exposures, neutral density filters, and alternative views of the area.

During post-processing, I tried to conjure up some of Bob Lussier’s great B&W photography. Bob sets the bar quite high, but at least it’s something different to try out.

1/8sec at f/14, 36mm, ISO 100, way too early.

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Sunrise at Otter Point, Acadia National Park, Maine   8 comments


“Missed them by that much.”

Susan and I had a lovely autumn vacation in 2014, graced by some of the best, driest weather we’ve ever experienced in New England. When you’re living in a tent for a month, rain is not usually welcomed. The only disadvantage to all that dryness is that on most mornings, there weren’t any clouds that would provide photographic interest.

Still, we’ll take it. After sunrises, we got a lot of hiking and biking in on the trails of Acadia.

We spent a total of 16 nights on the island — surely a record for us. Despite the long stay, our circumstances dictated that we leave for New Hampshire to meet up with my college buddy JUST before the NxNW crew arrived at Acadia — Bob Lussier, Mike Criswell, Mark Garbowski, Chris Nitz, Len Saltier, and a number of other photographers that I would have loved to meet in person. Perhaps next year would work out.

Enjoy the scenery — A delightful sunrise on the rocks near Otter Point, remarkably devoid of other people, which can be a rare event on the island.


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The Guardian   3 comments

The Guardian

If looks could kill.

While kayaking along the Silver River in Florida, we encountered our first group of wild monkeys, the backstory of which you can learn in Shelter from the Storm.

The monkeys weren’t hard to spot. The mother and child seen in “Shelter…” were sitting on a cypress stump near the water. Just on the other side of the large cypress tree, this alpha male was standing guard against the onslaught of other members of the troop. Just behind him, in the woods, there was a cacophony of howling and screeching as monkeys chased each other through the trees. It seemed more serious than just play. I don’t know what the problem was, but there was clearly upset in the tribe deeper in the woods.

Meanwhile, the male’s attention was drawn to a number of colorful boats approaching from the river. Threats all around.

He kept a careful watch on the mother and child. If a rambunctious member of the troop got too close, he’d climb up on a flexible downed tree, bouncing up and down while grunting his warnings. The other monkeys seemed to respect that, and kept their distance.

As did we. This guy gave me a look, so I backed… away… slowly…


Handheld from the kayak, ISO400, f/6.3, 1/250s, 210mm

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So I’ll Follow the Sun   4 comments

So I'll Follow the Sun

Despite being on the road in Florida for almost two weeks, the winter weather dictated that we would get only one kayak paddle trip. Fortunately, the Silver River was loaded with wildlife of all sorts.

Passing by one of the many downed trees along the way, we spotted a primordial procession of turtles leaves the water, seeking the warmth of the sunshine. Given that we were bundled up against the cold north wind, it seemed like a good idea.


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