Winter Solstice Hike by the Morris County Park Commission

Winter Solstice Hike. 12/21/2016 led by Morris County Park Commission‘s Senior Naturalist Douglas Vorolieff.

We met at the visitor center for Pyramid Mountain Natural Historic Area pre-dawn and ascended up Turkey Mountain to meet with a colorful sky on the official first day of Winter.

Thank you to everyone who attended, it was quite a fun outing and a great way to kick off the season.

Future Morris County Park Commission events can be found online here -


The Creative Vision Hoax in Nature Photography

“The Creative Vision Hoax in Nature Photography”

New Jersey Fine Art Photography

A small aperture and dark exposure helps frame the morning sun striking the Jersey Shore.

I just got done flipping through another recent article in a photography magazine (name omitted to protect the guilty).  In my estimation 80%-90% of photography periodicals, videos, and websites are rehashing the same post-processing principles that have been discussed ad nauseam since the early 2000’s.  In the meantime, they are beating the dead horse on composition and exposure techniques that have been documented and discussed for at least 50 years.

My pet peeve is writings on the topic of “creative vision”.  When shooters and authors mention creative vision, what they generally mean is taking the liberty to pull as many sliders in Lightroom as possible.  Making the image looking wholly unnatural, yet justifying that their “eyes saw it that way”.  I concur that there are no rules to art or photography, but to claim that the sky above the Earth is regularly the color of pure cyan or that the human eye views clouds with intense tonal gradations is nonsense.  Modern age photographers should absolutely use all technology available to them, but they should do so with full disclosure.

Instead of stating my “creative vision” saw the scene this way, why not phrase it more accurately?

“I thought I could spice it up by adding intense contrast using software plug-ins.”

“The straight out of camera shot would receive little attention so I tried to improve it.”

“I use heavy post-processing on my photos to get more views on social media.”

The integrity of the field of photography is better preserved when we are honest about our techniques.  “Creative Vision” “Marketing Vision” and “Post Processing Tools” are different concepts.  You can fool some of the people some of the time…

Words and photo by Dave Blinder.

Nature Photography – Organizing the Chaos

A typical nature scene, especially woodlands and meadows include a lot of visual clutter and overlap when seen from the typical human angle of view.  When we press the camera’s shutter button from that perspective, everything is permanently recorded into our digital image.  We are frequently disappointed when the photo “doesn’t look like what we saw”.  Plenty of studies have been done on comparing human perception to a camera’s imaging system.  Moral of the story is that we focus differently and our optical systems have different dynamic ranges than cameras currently in existence.

How to compensate for the ever all-seeing camera lens?  “Organize the chaos.”  A well known phrase to experienced photographers.  How to organize?  One of the many techniques is to seek symmetry in nature photography.  Absolute symmetry is rarely going to present itself, but we will still seek it…

In my photo below I’ve aligned my angle of view to have two nearly parallel trees create a natural rectangle (or is that a rhombus?) around the sun.

New Jersey nature photography

New Jersey nature photo of an overcast sky as framed by two large trees and their gnarled branches. Handheld capture from the #Tamron 16-300mm VC PZD lens and #Canon EOS T5 #DSLR

New Jersey Nature Photography: Beaver Pond in Infrared

Before family holiday obligations yesterday, I did sneak out for a couple of quick hours of Christmas morning photography.  Below is a handheld Infrared shot.  Technically speaking, it is a UV + Infrared Spectrum photo.  I initially set up the tripod for this scenic capture, but the legs of the tripod cast a distinct shadow in the foreground.  Only solution was to shoot handheld, not necessarily an easy task with the increased exposure times occurring after the visible light spectrum has been removed.  Out of about 15 frames, and very tightly bracing the camera I got one or two critically sharp frames at ISO 400.

NJ Nature Photo

A scenic #nature capture taken at Wildcat Ridge WMA in #NewJersey. Photo taken with the Infrared-converted Olympus PEN E-PL2 camera and the #Tamron 14-150mm Di III lens.

Exposure settings: 1/6s F/8.0 ISO 400, 14mm

New Jersey Nature Photography: Ice on the Beaver Brook

The visual element of ice and the textures within in it can easily consume a photographer’s attention for long periods of time.  For the below frame, it was only natural for me to center the reflection of the plant and also place it off-center.  This gives our eyes a chance to look around and discover the various textures and tones within the ice.

NJ Art photo

On a cold November day in #NewJersey, frail vegetation sits isolated on the blue ice of the Beaver Brook. #Photo taken with the #Tamron 16-300mm VC All-In-One lens and the Canon EOS M mirrorless camera.

Photo taken with the Tamron 16-300mm VC All-In-One lens and the Canon EOS M mirrorless camera.

New Jersey Nature Photography: Settings Sun and London Plane Tree

I do often find myself seeking uncluttered and distinctive shapes when preparing to photograph sunset.  To move beyond a basic sunset snapshot, one generally needs to avoid the urge to make a telephoto picture of just a “flaming fireball” sinking on the horizon.  Under certain conditions, a close-up view of the sun can be interesting, but often times it lacks a noticeable mood.

Conversely, too broad of a shot containing a lot of “visual chaos” or a horizon that has not be leveled will also look like an amateur snapshot.  While I am not sure that I have yet created any epic sunrise or sunset photos, I do feel like I’ve progressed in my compositions over the past 2 years.

New Jersey Fine Art

The late afternoon sun silhouettes an old gnarled Plane Tree at Fort Hancock, New Jersey. Photo taken with the Tamron SP 150-600mm VC lens and the Canon EOS 7D.

Exposure settings: 1/2000 F/8 ISO 100