The Inspiration of Water

It is a rainy start to the day here.  I like it.

There is rain that whispers softly past your window and there is rain that steadily hammers against your roof.  Each have they’re own unique sounds and moods that, if you listen and feel, can brighten your day and inspire you.  This morning’s rain is quiet, gentle, and soothing.   Soon, the rain will saturate all of Spring’s colors and make everything look lush and alive.  The overcast sky serves as a giant softbox which lights the landscape evenly and softly.  There is no better light.  I would love to be out with my camera and a macro lens this morning!   How ironic that rain nourishes and rejuvenates everything that it touches, yet we look at such days as gloomy.  Rain brings us one of our most critical resources and greatest photographic subjects:  water.

Water is beautiful.  The woods of  New England are alive with trickling streams and proud rivers that make for wonderful  subjects.  Streams tend to be lined with moss covered boulders, colored rocks, and waterfalls.  All of these elements create dramatic patterns and shapes that allow for many compositions.   Waterfalls are mesmerizing, beautiful, and very powerful.  It is challenging to capture the feel of their strength in your images but, if successful the results can be dramatic.   Before you start making images, watch and listen to the movement of the water.  FEEL the scene around you and identify what appeals to you about the patterns, shapes, and sounds.  The more you open your senses to the scene in front of you, the more you can utilize the tools in your camera bag, and imagination, to create meaningful images.


A Polarizing Filter is almost a necessity when photographing water but, a Neutral Density filter is an option that you use to delve further into your creativity.  The job of a polarizing filter is to eliminate reflections and glare.  By rotating the front element of the filter you can control the shine from reflective rocks, leaves, and water that create distracting highlights within your composition.  Neutral Density filters come in varying strengths and are used to block light.  Less light means longer exposures which result in varying effects to the movement of water.  This is where your emotions take over.  How you connect to your scene will translate to your images.  The longer your exposure, the more smooth and silky the water will appear.  The faster your shutter speed, the more action will be frozen in the scene.  There is NO right or wrong; it is all about how YOU feel about the action and the final message:  YOUR message.  As in all photography, certain tools help you more than others but, nothing has a more dramatic effect than your own creativity.  Photograph what you feel!

Water is unpredictable and yet, consistent.  Be it a river or the sea, water moves with alluring purpose.  I admire that it never fails to find its’ way.  I love its’ varying sounds and sensual movements.  I envy its unwavering tenacity and strength as well as its’ dangerous fierceness.  I cherish its soothing nature.  I need its’ humble nurturing.  I am drawn to everything about water: it’s all so beautiful and necessary.
Water is inspiring.
DET 2012
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Know How to Push Your Own Buttons

Digital photography continues to evolve at an unbelievable pace.  The advances in technology provide photographers of every level with more and more options.  Today’s digital cameras, especially DSLR’s, are loaded with capability but, are you?  To make the most of these exciting advancements in technology we must commit ourselves to growing our vision first..

Current digital cameras are high-powered tools that require a great deal of knowledge to use.    Photographers have to learn such things as white balance, multiple metering settings, bracketing for HDR, the differences between a DX and FX sensors, and other nuances of present day digital photography.  Every manufacturer offers cameras loaded with menu options that give every photographer the ability to make professional quality images with the touch of a button.  In conjunction with the cameras is an even greater, and more powerful, array of software for processing our images.   There are so many products on the market it is often difficult to decide, and digest, what is best for this or that.  Creativity, or so it seems, is just a menu choice away.

Despite all the technology, there is nothing more powerful, or meaningful, as your own imagination.  Camera’s and software are just tools.  These tools are only as good as YOU make them.  Photography is about communication, self-expression, and emotion.  Whether you are in your home thinking about your craft or in the field working at it, KNOW how to push your own buttons first.  The more you know about your “self”, the more of yourself you can invest in your photography.

What good are dozens of menu options if you are not, or cannot, connect to your own “self”?   You need to know how to push your own buttons in order to make the most of  the hardware and software.  At every workshop we urge attendees to bring, and read, their owner’s manuals.  But, we also spend a great deal of time asking attendees why they chose this subject; why they shot their image in such a way, and how they feel about their image.  These answers are found in YOUR owner’s manual.  You gotta know that too!

As photographers we MUST connect to our subjects but, we must first connect with ourselves. Take time to think about, and feel, your subject. Take time to think about what has meaning to you.  Take time to find YOUR inspiration from the world around you.  Push yourself and find your own voice.  Creativity comes from within; not a menu option.

Photograph What You Feel


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History Everywhere!

This saturday, May 12th, we are headed to Fort Warren for an exciting one day workshop.  The abandoned fort is located on George’s Island at the entrance to Boston Harbor and is the centerpiece of the Boston Harbor National Park Recreational Area.    Construction began on the fort in 1833 and was concluded during the Civil War: 30 years later!   Fort Warren was designed to guard Boston Harbor from hostile forces but, saw use mostly during the Civil War as a prison for confederate soldiers.  The fort was de-commissioned shortly after WWII but, today is a fantastic destination for tourists and photographers alike.  I can’t wait to lead a  group of adventurous photographers around this jewel of the Boston Harbor islands.

The greatest tool that a photographer can bring with them to the fort is their imagination.  As you walk the grounds and roam the old decaying buildings, stop and imagine the many souls that lived there, served there, were imprisoned there, and died there.  The granite used to build the fort came from the nearby Quincy quarries and others on Cape Ann.  As you observe the massive slabs of granite used in construction, imagine the many workers who cut that granite and labored  to bring it to the island.  Imagine the immigrants, and the families, that forged a life working in the quarries. Imagine where they came from, what their dreams were, where they lived, and how they lived.  Theirs was the American Dream; no different than our dreams today.   In 1833 construction was done with man power, horse power, and sweat.  The granite was brought to the island via sailing vessel.  Look at the massive slabs and imagine the difficulty of loading and unloading a boat by hand, wagon, and horse.  The work was staggeringly hard.  Fort Warren took over 30 years to build – by HAND.  Yes, the most powerful tool a photographer can bring with them to places such as Fort Warren is their imagination.

One of the most invaluable characteristics of New England is it’s rich and storied history.   I love history in general but, I LOVE the history and cultures of New England.  Photography is my profession now but, my degree, from Northeastern University, is in History.   I am thrilled to combine my reverence of history with my love of photography.  All around us, everywhere, history lives and breathes.  Some of it is on a very large and dramatic scale;  some of it is much smaller and inconspicuous scale.  Nonetheless, all of it is essential.  It is our responsibility to respect each and every story before us.  Being informed not only makes us better photographers but, more importantly, better people.  I remind people often that in order to be better photographers we first must  make ourselves better conservationists, better environmentalists, and better naturalists.  The more we know about a subject the more likely we will be successful photographing it.  The more we care about a subject, the more likely we will be successful at preserving it for others to enjoy.  The two go hand in hand.

When you are in the field working it goes without saying that you must follow good technique as often as possible.  However, good technique is not limited to only your camera and gear.  To me, it is equally important to understand what you are photographing and appreciate its story.  Follow good technique with your knowledge and imagination as well.  Know your subject and FEEL it.  Open your mind and heart to the scene before you and photograph with emotion.  More than anything this will lead you to making images with greater impact.  More than anything this will resonate with you far beyond a dramatic image.  The story of Fort Warren is OUR story and we should do all we can to feel it and share it.

Photograph What You Feel

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