Tapping into the Dark Side

Maybe it’s because October brings out the creepy in us, maybe it’s the weather, or maybe it’s just a mood… Whatever the reason, it seems I’ve been exploring the darker side of things a bit more… and I kind of like it.

It’s intriguing how an image can transform from what you were thinking at moment you took it to when that what-if occurs.  The result… the composition above ~ a fusion of the beauty captured and an ominous creature lurking.

Photographing spider webs, especially when there are at least 100 (maybe more) to choose from probably isn’t for everyone.  But there’s a valley I visit where every morning, when the morning sun peaks over the mountain, intricate patterns of diamond-like necklaces
glisten in as many different designs as there are webs.  And in all that beauty… lots and lots of spiders.

This year was particularly bedazzling and with the help of a new lens (actually a much older and  borrowed lens, Nikon’s 80-200, circa 1986), I was really able to capture the sparkle.


But for every ooh and ahh, I kept a close eye on the webs around me and the 8-legged wee-beasties that make them.

What’s in a name?

Don’t worry, I’m not going to start quoting Shakespeare…

But there is an area of photography that seems to have as many terms/titles/names to describe it as there are photographers/artists that create within it, such as digital art, artistic manipulation, artistic photo compositing, alternative photography…

And my favorite conceptual photography.  Like many words, conceptual, can take on different meanings to different people and that is what I love about it.   Because the word conceptual and all the words associated with it, such as dreamed-up, fantastical, imaginative, non-existent, whimsical, and even words like deceptive, fictional, shadowy, not only describes but encompasses the contemplation behind a photographic composite.

Digital tools have been indispensable in taking my photography from recording an image to injecting an image with character and/or atmosphere… to now where the image is reworked in part or in whole and/or combined with multiple images to arrive at an entirely new and authentic concept.  I never dreamed when I first picked up a camera that this is where it would all lead.  But… now that it has, I can’t stop dreaming up that next image.

So it’s no wonder, I’m equally honored and awestruck to have three conceptual photographs be chosen for the Transformations 2017 Exhibit; an exhibit created to showcase this photographic art form that is manipulated, artistic, alternative, conceptual,or whatever term you chose… photography.

Transformations 2017 “An Exhibition of Imagination” runs from October 27 to November 12 – Be sure to check out the PA Center for Photography website for specific days & times as they become available.

Stellar Weekend


There are many reasons I love this hobby of mine.  On the top of that list is that there’s always something new to learn… something to explore.  Once a year, in September, we visit a little valley in the mountains of central Pennsylvania.  It’s a weekend filled with long walks and paddling around a pond during the day, and sitting around the bonfire and star gazing at night.  Oh, and of course, spending time with the family ~priceless!   I have been documenting this weekend for over 16 years and as my technical skills grow, so do my photo projects/challenges… from macro to light painting to family portraits.  So this year, with the help of some new gear, I wanted to take on universe.

This is what I learned about astro/night photography.  1) It really helps to be prepared.  Um, should have thought of this before I got to the land of no cell service.   With what little cell service there was, I was able to Google “how to photograph star trails,” and got some very basic settings.  2) Patience.  I’m not sure why I thought 4 minute exposure would be enough (it’s not) to capture good trails.  The above shot is 15 minutes.  I’m guessing 30 might have done it… but I was running out of patience, standing in the dark, just outside the woods, alone, where I am sure creepy things await (at least, that’s what was going through my head as the timer seemed to take forever). 3)  There’s a lot more light out there than you think.  I always thought this would be the perfect place to do night photography, the center of Pennsylvania, where there’s nothing around for miles.  Maybe that’s just what it feels like given the rustic setting, but in reality State College is only about 30 min to the North and Huntington, another college town, is just to the South.  Of course they are not metropolises by any stretch, but apparently big (and bright) enough for the camera to capture their light on the horizons. 4) Wait for the world to go to sleep.  This may have worked better had the cabin lights been turned off, the bonfire burned out… (neither of which I could see from where I stood, but the camera could) and the towns in the distance dimming some of their lights too. But, I’m not a night owl…

The Unexpected

Moving on from the star trails, when I turned around, I saw the cabin light had lit of row of trees.  It was like “light painting” without all the work.  So I took some shots based on a nighttime landscaping setting I found by DPS.   Satisfied after a quick check on the display, I packed it in for the night.  While enjoying the bonfire and reviewing my images more closely, I got one heck of a surprise! I actually captured the Milky Way (you know, like in those Nat Geo kind of shots).  I could see it looking straight up overhead; it just didn’t occur to me that it reached across the sky… and I never dreamed it would turn up in the shot.

So there you have it.  With a little guidance on the post-processing, I have my first ever shot of the Milky Way.  Okay, so maybe there are some way, way more amazing photographs of this amazing astronomical wonder out there, but there are none quite like this one… because this one is mine.

I can’t wait to see what next year’s stellar weekend brings,

Work, work, work…

Good Sunday Morning!
As often happens when I work on a photo, a song gets stuck in my head.  This time, Work From Home by Fifth Harmony.   Just in case you’re not familiar with the song, a line of lyrics goes like this “You don’t gotta go to work, work, work, work, work, work, work.  But you gotta put in work, work, work, work, work, work, work”  No surprise where the title of this post came from.  Anyway, moving on…

The challenge:

How to make the original photo taken at a public and popular folk festival in 2017 look and feel like the 1700’s (or was it 1800’s) or at least like it was taken out of a history book.

You can check out this work horse in action HERE .   As you can see from the video, there are spectators, cars, etc., roaming in and out of the frame.  So I took some advice from the composite experts, I photographed the scene many times, from many different angles; allowing it to change, as I knew it would, because no one was standing still… not even the horse.

Once I had a solid foundation to build on, I got to work.  

So I really like the color version… all those blue overalls which, by the way, led to the title of this image “Overall Blues.”  But I also debated whether converting to B&W would really accentuate that history book look.  So, I did both…

 If I got it all right, you’re not even thinking about what was added (or deleted).  But since you already know I worked on it, lets just say anyone not wearing overalls was removed and, what the heck, a couple more guys in overalls couldn’t hurt.   The unflattering back ends of a couple of horses were swapped for a more picturesque horse.  And finally, to blend everything together and give it that aged feel, a smidgen of a painterly effect and, of course, some textures were applied.

The result

For me… an image from 2017 as if I were standing there in the the 1700’s (or was it the 1800’s 😉 ).  It’s definitely not a sight you come across everyday…


September Happenings


In case you missed last year’s exhibit, either as a spectator or as a participant, it’s back!

But the deadline to enter is approaching fast, September 20th to be exact.  “The whole idea of the TRANSFORMATIONS Exhibition is to let the imagination run wild and the creativity flow.”  To see exactly what  Henry Rowan, the mastermind behind the exhibit, is talking about check it out here https://www.facebook.com/pacenterforphotography/ or here http://www.pacenterforphotography.org/.

But even sooner, two days in fact…

The start of the DOYLESTOWN ARTS FESTIVAL September 9 & 10th.  I will be exhibiting with a great group of photographers under the Pennsylvania Center for Photography  (or as we fondly say the PCP) banner.  Between the perfect weather forecast and 200+ artists/vendors/performers participating this year, this is sure to be a  event.  Hope to see you there!

P.S.  Please help get the word out and share this post.  Thanks!