My wife and I decided to get out to enjoy the 65 degree weather on Sunday by going to Cooper River Park in Camden, NJ. It’s a nice park alongside the river, and there are always people out either biking, running, picnicking with their family, or walking their dogs. I packed the camera as I know there’s an abundance of diverse wildlife at different spots on the river and this time of Spring is prime time for wildlife in our area. Upon arrival, we saw there were two events already going on: a High School rowing competition and an MS walk. There were at least forty high schools there, which means their teams, buses, boats, and most of the athletes’ friends and family were in attendance alongside the river. As if that’s not enough people already crowding “our” park space, the MS walk with its thousand participants was about to begin. So, it follows that our calm and fun walk around the park was a no-go. We had the rest of the day ahead of us with no plans. We decided to go to Philadelphia, about a 20-minute drive, and see what happens once we are there.
As I’m entering my second year of photography as a guilty-pleasure hobby (and my friends are starting to become unwilling subjects at various locations), I’m constantly drawn back to the first photograph I took which had blown me away. With a new DSLR and a new hobby, I found myself naturally comparing myself to others’ work. Other professional photographers on Flickr and other photography websites post such incredible images which I could only hope to achieve and emulate in this lifetime. I, on the other hand, have only taken mediocre and dull images around my neighborhood which impress nobody except my mother, who thinks any photo I take is a good photo. However, one day in September 2014, it finally happened. I found some inspiration and snapped a photo which, in retrospect, is one that compares to the greats to which I compared my work on a daily basis.
Let me set the scene for you.
My wife and I spent a night in Atlantic City in September 2014. We typically go every few months or so and spend the night at our comped room at the Trop. This night was no different. We had some drinks and gambled a bit on the casino floor. We had a delicious Carmine’s dinner and we were generally celebrating life together. We called it quits and went to bed around midnight, as we are not as young as we used to be. We watched some Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show as we dozed off to sleep with our stomachs full and hearts happy.
Since I am an English teacher by day, I am perpetually on teacher time. This means that I cannot sleep in past 6am. Naturally, I woke up around 6am and I could not fall back asleep. I knew my wife could sleep in for a few more hours, and I saw the first subtle rays of sunshine peaking out over the Atlantic from our room, so I decided to hit the beach with my camera as the sun began to rise.
It was a warm and calm morning, and it was the first time I really set out to capture a sunrise over the ocean. I took the above photo as I left the hotel and was hurrying down towards the waterline. It was one of my first photos of the morning and I was inspired by the beautiful colors in the sky. I liked the vibe that the trees added to the photo as their silhouettes stand proudly across the image. In editing, I don’t remember what I did (as I was still learning to navigate Lightroom at the time), but I know I immediately don’t like how the background lightens up behind the trees’ leaves. I find it distracting. But anyway, back to the day.
I played around with some angles, framing, forced perspective, and new ideas as the sun steadily rose over the horizon, dipping in and out of clouds.
For the above photo, I made the attempt to include the seagulls in the shot in order to help add some dynamics and character to the photo.
I’ve read on many a photography website that when you’re fixated on one idea, you may miss the bigger picture and other details, so I forced myself to look away from this sunrise in order to find some other small details from the morning. Here’s one that stood out to me. The tire tracks are a stark contrast to the naturalism of the beach and sunrise.
My eye for the seagulls came back with this silhouette of the gull on the water line. Other small details like seashells in the sand caught my eye.
However, none of these really wowed or impressed me. But then I came across the pier which juts out over the water. With the morning sun still low on the horizon and soft enough not to blind me, I saw the sun cutting through the pillars holding up the boardwalk. This was it. This was the first moment when I found something truly extraordinary. I started taking some photos, but I had to slow down in order to really think about my approach. I went through my settings and made sure everything was where it should be. The scene was tricky because the light source was getting very bright, but there were definitive dark spots which deserve just as much detail as the light.
My favorite part about the image isn’t so much the sun itself peaking through the pillars, but the way the light plays with the waves crashing against the pillars and the shore itself. The colors worked as well for me as we have the golden light of the morning golden hour. Aside from the light, I loved everything about the water, from the light to the texture to even the subtle mist floating above it.
I am sad to say that, at the time, I was not proficient enough in photography to confidently shoot this scene. I tried many different ideas and settings as I snapped away at this setting. I felt rushed since I knew the sun would only stay in this spot for a few more minutes or so before rising up too high and I would lose the direct rays of sunlight from this direction. I probably came home with about thirty different shots from this setting, all with different angles and positions rather than coming home with four or five precise and calculated shots. While I am thrilled with the outcome, I’m still weary of the mental place and approach which I had taken these under-the-boardwalk photographs.
After all is said and done, I decided I got all that I wanted from the morning and I would go back up to the room to check in on my still-sleeping wife. On my walk back to the hotel along the boardwalk, I happened to notice this shot (above), so I took the camera back out and snapped this one which, to date, is still one of my favorite scenery photographs I’ve ever taken.
This photo and this whole morning experience just goes to show that inspiration can come from any place at any time – whether planned or not.
New Jersey’s own Just Another Band brought the party to Ott’s Township at Sewell, NJ on a warm spring Saturday night in April; what started as a quiet and calm evening at a bar ended with what can best be described as a raging fraternity party with the highest quality live-band entertainment, a dazzling light show, and limitless audience participation. If you know the words, grab a mic and sing along at the top of your lungs. If you don’t know the words but love the beat, grab the tambourine and shake your groove thang!
This week marks one full year since I’ve gotten into photography. I’ve always been interested in photography and cameras. One of my favorite memories from childhood was having a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles camera. It was a regular camera which would stamp an outline of one of the turtles on the corner of the photo. It had the TMNTs on the camera itself, and I remember shooting that to exhaust. I would always take my point and shoot with me on family vacations and social events and print/post those images for all to see. I remember both my brother and I got a digital camera for Christmas in 2006. My brother lost or broke his within a few months, but I still have it and it is in good condition. I used it to document Christmas 2006, our New Years Eve party at Rowan, and many events thereafter.
A year ago, my wife convinced me to take the dive into the DSLR world. I was fascinated with professional-looking photos, and a big part of me wanted to be able to do that. It’s not about money. It’s not about making a name for myself. Honestly, I made the choice to dive into this world in order to create something beautiful – something that I saw, created, and produced for others to see.
She sold me on the Canon T3 because it was the cheapest entry-level DSLR, and her father, who is also into photography and has some stunning images, uses the same camera. So, at this point, this was my foot in the door into photography.
A year later, I look back on this past year and I can see a vast improvement in my photography. Between my composition, preferred settings, and my confidence/approach overall, I have grown so much over this time and I am proud of myself for seeing this through. Now that I am one full year in, I would like to compare my images of yesteryear to images I’ve taken roughly one year later.
1. Laurel Acres – the stairway up the big hill.
One of my favorite local bands during high school, The Youth Ahead, named their sophomore release A Day At The Park. The album featured photos of a local park where my friends and I used to hang out from time to time, but I never really found any appreciation for or meaning behind the title. For the first time since listening to this album, I found the power and beauty of a day spent at the park this past Sunday at Laurel Acres Park with some great people.
First, after an impromptu breakfast date at Perkins, party of five, we found that none of us actually had plans for the rest of the day. We mentioned that it will be about 75 and sunny, and we should do something to take advantage of the day. Catelin mentioned Laurel Acres Park, and the plan was set in motion.
Bob brought the corn hole set he made for our Memorial Day party last year, and the Sunday Sunday had begun.
This past weekend I had the pleasure of watching Just Another Band rock Shady Katie’s in Somerdale, NJ. This band knows how to work an audience. From their selection of immensely popular tunes, the band thoroughly entertained the crowd of about 75, transitioning seamlessly from Katy Perry to Dave Matthew’s Band to Green Day, and everything in between. The band danced with boundless energy as the audience sang along with every song – at times Shannon, Bob, and Mike even jumped into the audience and sang and danced with them.
Keep an eye out for this great band at your local bar. Next time this band is in town, do yourself a favor and come out, grab a drink, sing along to your favorite songs, and join the party!
Just Another Band is:
Shannon Kelleher – Lead Vocals
Mike Block – Trumpet/Vocals
Mike Dana – Lead Guitar/Keys/Vocals
Adam Zaccaria – Rhythm Guitar/Vocals
Bob Clayton – Bass
Mark Kelleher – Drums