It is the most…

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Ok, maybe it’s not the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s up there.  Ideally, I reserve that title for my summer beach vacation.  It is the most hectic, the most colorful, and the most tradition-filled.  Even though I have gone the route of the artificial tree for some years now, it is still a tradition to spend almost an entire afternoon fluffing the darn thing.  But isn’t that what traditions are all about, recreating those special moments year after year.

There’s also a new trend in town… seems lighting your house with a laser light projector is growing in popularity, at least in this neighborhood.  Even though I continue to opt for the more traditional candles in windows and strings of lights on bushes, I’m thinking those displays are what led me to create this more nontraditional Christmas scene…

Cosmic Christmas.

The original – Lanterns at Longwood Gardens

Speaking of hectic, that’s about all the time I have for this week’s post… time to get wrapping.  I’m hopeful the New Year will be a little less crazy and I’ll have more time to head out with the camera, work on a few unfinished projects, and spend more time right here.

A little more traditional…  A very special friend has kept this little doodle of mine since our high school days (that is quite sometime ago). That makes it very special and I thought what a perfect way to share the joy









If I don’t get back here before the holidays, I’d like to wish everyone a very Merry Holiday and a Happy New Year!

Stellar Weekend

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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…

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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…


One Personal Item – A DIY

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I’m really excited about today’s post!  What I thought would be a pretty easy DIY, turned out to take a little more time and thought than I ever anticipated, but I am so happy with the end result.  For you fellas out there, this post may seem geared a little more towards the ladies, but I assure you the same could be applied to anyone who wants to protect their gear but not break the bank… 

This all came about because of an upcoming trip and those stiffer airline restrictions, but also something I have been wanting to do for a very long time.  I confess, when I first started out in photography, I purchased one of those pricey “women’s” camera bags.  The problem: All it held was the camera and a couple of lenses (which I quickly outgrew), little to no room for anything else… even a wallet… and, oh yeah, ridiculously expensive!  I’ll also admit to one more thing, I tend to over pack, whether for a week-long vacation, a weekend get-a-way, or just a local outing… what can I say, I like to be prepared.  So I’m not anticipating this upcoming trip will be any different and I have to get everything to fit in my carry-on and that ONE personal item which is the catalyst for today’s DIY.

One Personal Item

I started with the size restrictions and went from there.

Love that it comes in purple, but it also comes in black and camo.

Now knowing what I had to work with I made a list of what I wanted/needed: First and foremost to securely/safely hold my gear.  After scouring the web and reading countless reviews, etc… I chose the TENBA 10 (As a side note: When getting the link, I noticed it’s already gone up $10 since I purchased mine, so be sure to shop around.)

The 50 mm fits perfectly under the flash.  That’s right I even got my flash in there 🙂

It comes with lots of dividers so you can personalize to all your needs.  I actually removed a couple.  This TENBA is deep enough to hold my camera with a 24-70 attached, a 70-300 lens on one side and a 50 mm and SB800 flash on the other.  A wee-bit snug, but remember I tend to over pack.  For traveling/airline purposes… perfect.

The Bag

Next, finding the bag and an impossible checklist:  Must meet personal item size restrictions but big enough to hold the TENBA and then some (clutch/wallet, personal items, water bottle…  have carry handles AND a cross strap (preferably adjustable)  have a secure closure (surprisingly most women’s tote-size bags do not have a zipper) be durable (ideally waxed canvas or leather)  be practical and, yes, fashionable enough to use solely has a handbag  and fit the budget $$$.  The search was on….

The TENBA and I went shopping.  In order to increase the chances of success, our first stop was Philadelphia Premium Outlets.  And just like Goldilocks, I had to try out a lot of bags… too big, too small, too hard, too soft, before coming up with one that was just right.  Just about to run out of stores, I finally found it:  Size ♥  roomy and with lots of pockets to spare ♥, handles & strap ♥♥, secure with zipper ♥, durable ♥, practical & fashionable ♥♥, and budget friendly !♥!  Whoo-hoo… a home run!
fully loaded, zipped and ready to go!

Now I have TWO bags for the price of one, coming in at…wait for it… less than $80!

And now the real test… can I carry it?   Weighing in at 12.5 lbs, I realized an extra plus of those carry handles, I can now attach it to the rolling carrying on handle and breeze through the airport.

I can’t wait for this trip!  A long overdue visit to see a very dear friend ~ Val, if your reading this, can’t wait to see you!  While putting together this DIY, I did ask myself why not just travel light and leave the camera gear at home?  Heck, all the photos you see in this DIY were taken with my Samsung Note 5.  Answer:  Because, the photographer in me would regret it the minute I stepped out the door and headed to the airport… Like I said, I like to be prepared and even more so…  I love having options!

Happy travels & until next time,

Make It Your Own

Blog, Photography

A basket of orchids hanging from the ceiling like a grand chandelier surrounded by lots of wonderful symmetry. The tilt screen on the D750 made getting a different perspective a whole lot easier… my neck was very grateful.

A frigid day outside, but as soon as you step into the conservatory of beautiful Longwood Gardens, you are greeted with tropical temperatures and an explosion of color and beauty and, oh yeah, fellow photographers and spectators everywhere.  So how does one take a subject, such as flowers,  especially those that have been poised and arranged ever so meticulously (like those found at the “Orchid Extravaganza”), and take a photograph that is unique and all your own.  Not an easy task… I Googled it.  There are pages of orchid photographs… many just from this event! And of course this is not just limited to flowers; how about all those scenic wonders around the world or even closer to home… just like Longwood.


An amazing sight! A curtain of orchids. But there’s just so much going on. I found myself wishing I had a model (although not allowed), wishing I was a few inches taller, wishing this and that…

Those hanging orchids via reflection. I love all the lines and distortion, but the orchids (as tiny as they are) lost detail and color. In post, I stumbled across this stained-glass like effect. I liked how it added back color everywhere, which in that big room of hanging orchids was just what you see.









Of course, we can always hope or keep our fingers crossed that something special will occur, a beautiful rainbow perhaps, a grand and glowing light source, etc., etc…  Okay, chances are that’s not going to happen.  Instead, if you’re like me, there are always some limitations and restrictions… time restrictions, rules of use, the weather, and those pesky no trespassing signs. So knowing your equipment and more importantly how to see is key to getting the best image possible… at least for me.

Yes, I sometimes do a lot in post, but I strive for the best  possible image right out of the camera. Because it is at that time that the image begins… regardless of its transformation in post.   There are two points in particular that have really impacted how I see.  The first…   what is behind, around, or in front of the subject and how it can be incorporated into the composition.  And the second… giving the image a title as you compose it in the camera.  These words of wisdom actually came from Henry Rowan. (Of note, I’m paraphrasing here, and I am sure Henry said it so much better.) These two practices have become a routine part of my composing… and how I see the image in its entirety.


Of course the orchids are beautiful and perfectly poised on their own, but placing them in the frame with the green palm with its lines and symmetry completely changed this image.

Take for instance, this next group of orchids, which I thought took on a very pontiff-like quality.  So much so, I used the the foggy windows and the window frames to help create a more shall we say spiritual composition… and a Papal Orchid.


Papal Orchid. That title is what popped into my head while composing the shot and guided me in post… Topaz Adjust & Textures just to help accentuate the vision.


A variation of a pontiff-like setting… The Royal Court


A bright sunny day really helped shooting in the conservatory. Before long I changed from a 24-70 mm, ditched the tripod, and began shooting handheld with a 60 mm macro.  Handheld, for me, is about the only way to incorporate the background that I want… or don’t want… and find that perfect angle.


This was a challenge. Again, if only I were just a bit taller. It took some doing…standing on tip-toes and a good stretch to frame these orchids where I wanted them with the iron scroll work in the background. I came close… I think.

In my bag on this outing:  Nikon D750, Nikon 60 mm macro, and Tamron 24-70.

I hope you enjoyed this abbreviated tour of the “Orchid Extravaganza”.

Until next time,