Happy Accidents!

Years ago I watched an oil painting instructor on public television named Bob Ross.  Not only was he a terrific painter, but he seemed so soft spoken that it really relaxed me just to watch the show.  Maybe some of you remember him but if not you can see some of his old shows on YouTube.  He used to say “we don’t make mistakes, we have happy accidents.”  He always made something out of nothing.  A few weeks ago up in the Berkshires with my good friend and shooting buddy Bruce Pitman, we went out early to get some of the famous Berkshire Fall color.  Things, however, seemed dull compared to past years but we persevered.  While riding around we came across a farm scene from the road so we stopped.  The composition was good but it was very cloudy and the colors were very muted.  I set up the tripod and decided to make three exposures at different settings.  Truthfully I thought it was a big mistake.  Below is one of the three images before editing.  It’s called “Berkshire Farm In Autumn #1.”

Berkshire Farm In Autumn 2

As you can see not very impressive at all.  But when I got back home and loaded the images into Lightroom I said let’s take a chance and I put the three images into an HDR program called Aurora 2019.  HDR stands for High Dynamic Range.  The program combines the three images to come up with the best exposure in one image.  Below is the final image with the same name without the #1.

Berkshire Farm In Autumn

The final image is one I can be proud of – a “happy accident.”  As is the case when you are out shooting atmospheric conditions change, sometimes quite frequently.  As Bruce and I set up to photograph a stand of trees he spotted, low and behold the sun graced the scene before us and we quickly made some exposures.  Below is “Colorful Trees.”

Colorful Trees

My last photo this month is one of my new favorite water shots.  When I shoot water I usually slow down the shutter speed to get what I call the cotton candy effect.  This time I decided to stop the action and show the white water around that crystal clear and colorful rock.  It is called “River Flow, The Berkshires.”

River Flow, The Berkshires

I hope you enjoyed reading this month’s blog as much as I enjoyed writing it.  Just a personal note for any of my readers in the Morristown, NJ area, I will be teaching an adult beginner photography course at Morristown High School in April and I hope some of you will attend.  The adult school catalogue will be coming out after the new year.  Until next month “keep shooting.”

Fall Again!

Well it’s that time of year again when all the photography bloggers (like me), and the magazine writers, and even the TV network weather persons start to talk about fall color.  It’s no different for this blogger.  Every year we talk about getting those fall colors, but how many of you actually get out there and shoot the colorful leaves.  It is nice to read the articles, but believe me it is better to be out there with a camera even if it is only your phone.  The first image below is called “Autumn in New Jersey.”  Autumn in NJ-1

I think it certainly conveys the spirit of the autumn season.  In the second image below, I used the leaves on the rocks and in the water to show the fall season.  It is called “Fall in Hacklebarney.”

Fall in Hacklebarney -5

The first two images show muted fall colors but in the third image below called “Fall, Mt. Greylock” the colors are much more brilliant and evoke a real taste of autumn.

Fall Mt. Greylock

The last photograph is also from the Berkshires, a great place to get fall colors.  It is called “Berkshire’s Colors.”

Berkshires Color-1504647996268

So don’t just read the articles, get out there and capture the beautiful autumn feeling in your photographs.  I know you will be happy with what you get.  I’ll be traveling up to the Berkshires again in a couple of weeks and I hope to get some beautiful images of fall. See you there and remember “Keep Shooting.”

Diffused Flash

We were up in the Berkshires a couple of weekends ago with our friends the Pitmans.  It is always beautiful up there (unless it rains!).  We happen to hit a rough weekend but we still had a lot of fun.  One morning I looked outside and the rain had stopped, so I walked out the front door.  On my way back in I spotted a flower right on their front porch.  It was a great shade of red with a nice green background.  Not one to leave the Berkshires without at least one exposure, I got my camera and tripod (of course!!) and decided to photograph this flower which I call “Red Beauty.”  The image below is a straight shot with no flash.

Red Beauty no flash

It really is dull and lifeless as the sky was overcast.  I decided to take one with a flash.  As you can see from the image below it was way too much light.

Red Beauty flash straight

At that point Bruce came out and said “Did you get a good shot?”  I said “not yet but I’m working on it.”  I showed him the first two exposures and said I want to try something.  I decided to take out my handkerchief (I know, I’m the last man who still carries a hanky) and try putting one layer of the linen hanky over the flash to diffuse that harsh light.  The image below is the final photograph which I like very much.

Red Beauty

Bruce suggested that talking about the ‘trick’ of using something over the flash to diffuse the light might be a good blog subject.  So here it is and thank you Bruce for the idea.  I hope everyone is having a great summer, and I’ll “See You In September” as the song says, meanwhile just get out there and “Keep Shooting.”

Maryland – Eastern Shore

Last week my cousin/friend Bruce Steakley  Brucesteakley.com took a trip to the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  I hadn’t been there in years so it sounded like a great photo trip.  We stayed in Easton where we were within about 20 minutes of the places we wanted to shoot.  Once again luck was on our side as the weather was spectacular.  We photographed in Oxford, St. Michael’s, Tilghman Island, Annapolis and Easton.  I describe these images in no particular order, but I think you will get an idea of how beautiful the Eastern Shore is.  The first image below is called “Oxford, MD After Sundown.”

Oxford, MD After Sundown

Sundown is a great time to shoot and you can get some great images of the sun as it dips below the horizon.  But let me tell you you should not pack up your camera after that event.  After the sun was gone the colors really started to pop evidenced in this image.  Bruce had an idea to photograph the Milky Way, which I had never done before.  We needed a very dark location if this was to work.  Our concierge at the hotel suggested Tilghman Island.  So here we were at about 10:30 PM experimenting with Milky Way shots.  Bruce had done some research about some settings which were very helpful.  After going through many images I picked this one called, naturally, “Milky Way, Tilghman Island, MD.”

Milky Way, Tilghman Island, MD

The middle of the afternoon is not usually a good time to shoot pictures.  The sun is directly overhead and everything looks washed out.  But in walking around Easton Bruce discovered the Talbot Historical Society Gardens.  They were beautifully maintained and we started to see what we could do.  The first thing we came across was the gate to the gardens below called “Gate of the Gardens of the Talbot Historical Society.”  I knew this was going to be a black and white image and I think it is a very peaceful photograph.

Gate of 'The Gardens of the Talbot Historical Society

Moving around the garden I spotted this flower which I call “White Wonder”, because of how striking it is against the green background.

White Wonder

We decided to take a side trip to Annapolis, MD where we photographed the capital dome.  Below is simply “Annapolis, MD.”

Annapolis, MD

We walked around and, of course, I couldn’t resist buying my grandson an Annapolis Naval Academy T shirt, with the caveat that I am not making any suggestions about where he should receive his higher education!!  Some of the images here have also appeared on Facebook, but I had to use them in this month’s blog.  Bruce and I had a great time photographing Maryland’s Eastern Shore and we had some great food while we were there.  So if you are looking for a beautiful place to visit this summer whether you are a photographer or not I suggest the Eastern Shore.  Until next month everyone enjoy the summer weather and remember “Keep Shooting.”

Hawaii – A most Beautiful State Part II

I begin the second part of my Hawaii blog with the state flower which is the “Yellow Hibiscus.”  Needless to say the flowers and foliage on Hawaii are simply magnificent.

Yellow Hibiscus_

The sunsets, as you might imagine, were breathtaking.  Below is “Sunset – The Big Island.”

Sunset The Big Island

We were given an absolute treat every night on Hawaii.  You might say a photographer’s dream.  We had the opportunity to visit a Kona Coffee Farm and it was a very interesting and educational tour.  Below is “Kona Coffee Man”, who was very funny and really knew his stuff.  As an aside he asked one of our group where they were from and upon hearing New Jersey he said, in his Japanese accent “Ah Chris Christy.”  Our former governor’s reputation certainly gets around!!

Kona Coffee Man

Here he demonstrates hand roasting of the Kona Coffee beans.  If you are a coffee drinker like me there is no better experience than a cup of 100% Kona Coffee in the morning.  We got to Maui which I think is the most beautiful island.  Below is a shot I just couldn’t resist.  It is from the Fairmont Kea Lani Hotel, and it is called “Through The Arch.”

Through The Arch - Maui

As I said I never saw a bad sunset in Hawaii.  Hawaii is really a paradise and for anyone who has never been there, I think it is a must trip.  I leave you with an image I made called “View From Atop Haleakala National Park.”

View From Atop Haleakala Nat'l Park_

We had a wonderful time visiting the 50th state and there were limitless opportunities for photographs.  Until next month enjoy the summer and remember “Keep Shooting.”

Central Park Gardens

On May 6th a, few weeks age, I went into New York City to the Central Park Gardens to do some spring photography.  With me was my friend and shooting buddy Bruce  Pitman and his niece Carey Pitman (our guide).  This is the second time we have done this, the first being a few years ago when we said we’ll come back the following year.  Well with one thing and another the following year turned out to be about three years later!  These gardens are just magnificent and in a row, French, Italian, and English.  We had a cloudy day and had to make do with lighting.  Although I really  prefer slightly cloudy to harsh sunlight for flower photography.  Our first stop was the French Garden where I got the image below called “French Garden Reds, Central Park, NYC.”

French Garden Reds, Central Park, NYC

I like the simplicity of these two beauties although as you can see they were starting to show some wear.  We then moved on to the Italian Garden which had less flowers but beautiful foliage.  The next image below is called “Central Park Italian Garden Scene.”

Central Park Italian Garden Scene

I purposely kept the light post in the foreground because I think it gives the photograph depth and anchors the scene.  In the same area I made this image below called “Italian Garden Path.”

Italian Garden Path

I love the way the trees make a canopy over this long path with benches.  If you look very hard at the benches you might just make out a couple sitting on the last bench on the left.  The last photograph below is called “Bed Of Color, English Garden, Central Park, NYC.”

Bed Of Color,English Garden, Central Park, NYC

I love the way the flowers move you into the image as the colors change.  It may not have been the best day to shoot, weather wise, but we had a lot of fun and we all got some great images.  The moral of this story is, just because it looks like rain doesn’t mean you can’t get out there with your camera!

Look for the second installment of my new blog called stevescameratalk.wordpress.com coming in early June.  A big thank you to all of my loyal blog readers.  I hope you have enjoyed these photography blogs and more importantly I hope you have learned something from them.  My motto is “Pass It On.”  So until next month remember “Keep Shooting.”

Good Photographs

I have a quote on my website (rockoffphotography.com) which says “There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.”  Ansel Adams.  He was arguably the greatest landscape photographer for almost the whole of the 20th century.  But was he right or was he expounding on the value of sometimes breaking the rules if your visualization tells you to make the image that way.  I like to think that that was just what he was telling us.  The image below called “Great Barrington Forrest” has no leading line, and no singular point of interest,

Great Barrington Forrest

so there are definitely rules broken, yet many people make comments on how much they like this image.  As usual it’s what the beholder enjoys.  In my next image called “Bayonne Bridge, Early Morning” you are led into the image by the foreground curve.

Bayonne Bridge, Early Morning 2

I decided when I made this image that I wanted the bridge very high in the frame to show the height and I liked the reflection of the arc of the in the water.  In my last photograph for this month’s blog called “Bushkill Falls, Pa.”

Bushkill Falls, Pa

I couldn’t find too many rules that were broken so I guess this one is an example of what Ansel called ‘A Good Photograph’.  It isn’t how you photograph an image when you are out in the field it is what you saw when you came upon the scene and how you wanted your image to look.  This is how I saw Bushkill falls that day in that particular moment.  The next time I go there I might just see it differently.  I hope the weather gets warmer soon and as always remember “Keep Shooting.”


Spring Again

This will not be my usual spring blog telling everyone, who is a serious photographer, to clean their equipment.  You already know that so no need to repeat it!  And since I just did, well, you get the message.  So what I would like to do is show some of my favorite spring images and talk a little bit about how they were made.

The first image below called “Dromoland Castle, County Clare, Ireland” was taken in late afternoon, which accounts for the beautiful light.  It is one of my favorite architectural photographs.  Not only because it is a classic castle, but also because of the surrounding grounds and lovely clouds.

Dromoland Castle, County Clare, Ire

Which brings me to “A Soft Irish Evening” below.  A fair amount of editing was needed to get just the right effect which was my initial visualization.  The image was first edited in Adobe Lightroom and then further enhanced in a new great editing tool called Luminar 2018, by a company called Skylum (formally Macphun).  I highly recommend you try this program.  It will set you back much less than $100.

A Soft Irish Evening

My next image which is called “Delicate Falls” is actually a detail image taken at Bushkill Falls in Pennsylvania.  A great place to shoot in late spring and early summer.  I love the contrast between the falls and the surrounding rocks.  Yet we can still see the color in and on the rocks.

Eastatoe Falls, Nantahala NF, NC, USA

On the next image I have to admit to a little cheating.  The image below called “Sunrise, Rehoboth Beach, De” was actually made in August but I decided to include it.  It was a beautiful morning and I was with my cousin and friend Bruce Steakley, www.brucesteakley.com He is a fabulous photographer and we have spent many early mornings together trying for that elusive ‘great shot’.  Take a look at his website and you will see some awesome photography.

Sunrise, Rehoboth Beach, DE

My last image is from Sandy Hook, NJ.  It is called “Sandy Hook In Monochrome.”  To me the entire image is about texture.  The sand, the rocks and even the movement in the ocean was enhanced by using a very slow shutter speed with a 5 stop Mor-Slo filter by Singh-Ray.  This filter cuts five stops of light when used on the front of the lens.  So a shutter speed of 1/60 of a second might become a 30 second exposure giving that smokey effect in the water.

Sandy Hook in Monochrome

So that’s it for the March Blog.  I don’t know about all of you but I am happy to see March go especially after four Nor’easters in one month.  So until next month remember “Keep Shooting.”

Hawaii – A most Beautiful State – Part I

I have been to about 35 of our 50 states.  They all have a special beauty that makes them unique.  I was lucky enough to travel, this past January, to Hawaii, a most beautiful state. We were able to see four islands while we were there thanks to Tauck Tours.  www.tauck.com  We started off on the island of Oahu where the USS Arizona Memorial stands as a solemn reminder of the horrific start of World War II.  Below is my image of the memorial.

Hawaii 2018-62

Unless you have been there you have no idea how eerily quiet everyone gets as you approach this hallowed spot in Pearl Harbor.  On a lighter note we travelled to Hanauma Bay.  It is just a beautiful area as my image below shows.  It helped that it was a gorgeous day as well.

Hawaii 2018-104

We also travelled to another fabulous area called Nu’uanu Pali State Park.  This is the site of the “Battle of Nu’uanu” which was the unification of the islands by Kamehameha I.  His forces arrived at Waikiki in 1795.  Below is a more peaceful look at this beautiful park.

Hawaii 2018-129

We then moved on the “Big Island” or Hawaii.  This is the home of Volcanoes National Park.  Here are two of the most active volcanoes on earth, Kilauea Volcano and Mauna Loa.  Below is an image of Kilauea Volcano.

Hawaii 2018-155

There were many things to see and do on these first two islands that we saw and plenty of scenery to come.  I will talk about the last two islands in the March blog.  Meanwhile get ready for spring.  Clean those cameras and lenses so you will be set to get out there.  Remember “Keep Shooting.”

Ellis Island – 1892-1954 Part II

Before I start part II of Ellis Island I want to thank all of the loyal followers of my blog.  Today’s edition starts the sixth consecutive year of the steverockoffphotography.wordpress.com blog.  I’ve had a great deal of fun and satisfaction writing this monthly series.  My hope is that you have found it interesting and at times educational, both on the subject matter and the photography instruction.  As always if you have any questions please email me at srock33624@gmail.com.

In last month’s blog I started with a photograph of the main building of Ellis Island.  This month my first image below is called “Dawn Ellis Island.”

Dawn Ellis Island

As you can see it was shaping up to be a beautiful day with fresh snow on the ground.  The physical island grew over the years with landfill from the subway system construction.  It grew from 3.3 acres to 27.5 acres.  Between 1900 and 1914 some 5000 to 10,000 people passed through Ellis Island each day.  Sick people who were housed here until they were allowed to enter the country only had to look out the window to see the New York Skyline.  The image below is called, appropriately, “New York Through The Window.”

New York Through The Window

As you might imagine services were needed for all of the staff as well as the sick at Ellis.  The laundry building was where more than 3000 pieces of laundry were washed and sanitized each day.  The photographs below are called “Laundry Room Washer” and “Laundry Room Dryer.”  A little bigger than yours I’m guessing.

Laundry Room Washer

Laundry Room Dryer

As well with diseases like Tuberculosis and others all of the mattresses had to be sanitized by a large steaming device.  The image below is called “Mattress Steamer.”

Mattress Steamer

In 1954 a large portion of Ellis Island was closed.  About 30 buildings were left with a doubtful future.  Since 2000 Save Ellis Island has been working with the National Park Service to preserve Ellis Island and it’s rich history.  I hope you have enjoyed reading  these two blogs as much as I enjoyed writing them.  Ellis Island really should be preserved so future generations will know how most of our ancestors came into this great country.  Again my thanks to Tony Sweet, Andrea Phox and the people from Save Ellis Island for a wonderful photographic and educational experience.  So until next month remember “Keep Shooting.”