Early Spring In The New Jersey Pinelands

Black Run Preserve in Early Spring

Spring Awakenings by Richard Lewis 2014

I thought I’d share the early spring in the New Jersey Pine Barrens with you. This photograph is from a recent scouting trip to the Black Run Preserve for an upcoming field trip.

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High Key, Andrew Wyeth and a Sad Old Building

Barely Standing by Richard

Barely Standing by Richard Lewis 2014

“It’s all in how you arrange the thing… the careful balance of the design is the motion.” – Andrew Wyeth

Andrew Wyeth was on my mind when this old building presented itself. I happened upon it in the middle of the afternoon on a bright winter day. Not the most ideal time to photograph but the shadows on the wall, the way the large branch at the top of the photograph mimics the roof line, and even that little scraggly tree on the right just seemed to work.

I don’t work in a high key style much, but when I looked at the lighting in this image I thought it would be a good idea to head down that road. Not being very familiar with the technique I looked to one of my heros, Andrew Wyeth. Wyeth was a master at controlling the lighting values in his paintings.

High key is defined as “having a predominance of light or bright tones.” At first glance high key photographs look very light and even almost white, but it is not the amount of light color or tone that makes high key work. Like any other photograph, it is how the range of the values between light and dark are presented. This is where Andrew Wyeth excelled as a painter. He used the light and dark values in his paintings to totally control how the viewer looks at and interprets his work. I believe it is what he meant by “careful balance” in the quote above. A great piece of art is in not just a careful balance of the composition elements, it is a balance of the light as well.

How I Did It - I followed my normal work flow using Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop. Then the photograph was further processed using the High Key filter in NIK’s Color FX Pro to create the tonal range. Finally, to thank Mr. Wyeth for his help, I very lightly overlaid a texture layer with coloring that, to me, adds a Wyeth feel to the color palette.

Enjoy.

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Romancing The Swamp – Part 2

Atlantic White Cedars in the New Jersey Pine Barrens

This is the second of a two-part post on the strangely beautiful Atlantic White Cedar swamps in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. As stated in my previous post, these trees grow in dense swamps by the sides of waterways and play a vital role in filtering water and protecting the riverbanks from erosion. They are also the reason the waterways in the Pine Barrens are the same brown color as tea.

Dead Cedars Bad Beavers

When beavers dam a waterway the cedars along the banks die due to the higher water level their dams create. Macabre stands of dead cedars can be seen beside many rivers and creeks in the Pine Barrens. Because Atlantic White Cedar wood is so durable the dead trees will stand for years.

Morning fog brings an almost mystical nature to these swamps.

Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Franklin Parker Preserve

Dead in the Water #5 by Richard Lewis 2013

Atlantic White Cedars Franklin Parker Preserve

Dead in the Water #6 by Richard Lewis 2013

Goshen Pond Pine Barrens New Jersey

Goshen Pond by Richard Lewis 2013

Dead Cedars along creeks and rivers are the iconic look of the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

Atlantic White Cedars Mullica River

Mullica River Winter Panorama by Richard Lewis 2013

Wading River Atlantic White Cedar Swamp

Along the Wading River by Richard Lewis 2012

How I Did It – When photographing cedar swamps in the New Jersey Pinelands what you wear is as important as what type of camera gear you bring. Swamps are wet so waterproof boots or even waders are necessary. Long sleeve shirts and heavy pants will keep you from getting torn up in the undergrowth and bitten by the bugs. Once you are dressed for the part, don’t hesitate getting in deep. The black and white photograph above was taken from the middle of the Wading River while standing in knee high water.

For more photographs of the Atlantic White Cedar swamps in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey see my previous post.

Enjoy.

Want to be more creative with your camera? I can help so feel free to contact me. 

Like these photographs? They’re for sale as fine art prints. Please visit my photography website to see more.

Romancing the Swamp – Part 1

This is the first part of a two-part post about Atlantic White Cedar Swamps

There is nothing more strangely beautiful in the New Jersey Pine Barrens than the Atlantic White Cedar swamps. These trees grow in dense swamps by the sides of waterways and play a vital role in filtering water and protecting the riverbanks from erosion. They are also the reason the waterways in the Pine Barrens are the same brown color as tea. Until recently, Cedar Trees were over-harvested for their wood so there are only a few reclaimed cedar swamps and fewer old growth trees.

Getting into these swamps is not easy. They are thick, wet, muddy and usually surrounded by thickets of dense foliage that can only be described as nature’s barbed wire.

Below is a rare stand of old growth cedars near the Oswego River

Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Warren Grove New Jersey

Warren Grove Cedars by Richard Lewis 2013

Young Cedar trees grow in very thick swamps that look like enchanted forests. The trees can be full of interesting texture and color.

Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Pine Barrens New Jersey

Edge of the Cedars by Richard Lewis 2012

The dense forest canopy of an Atlantic White Cedar swamp can block almost all sunlight.

Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Pine Barrens NJ

Winter Light by Richard Lewis 2012

Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Pinelands New Jersey

Deep in the Cedars by Richard Lewis 2012

Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Pine Barrens NJ

Play of Light in a Cedar Swamp by Richard Lewis 2012

Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Pinelands NJ

Endless Cedars by Richard Lewis 2013

How I Did It – Composing photographs in a Atlantic White Cedar swamp is a challenge because swamps are messy and cluttered with deadfalls. The cedar trees are also unruly with branches growing in the strangest ways. Have patience, persistence and use light and color as compositional elements in trying to find a rhythm in the repetition of these unusual trees.

Enjoy.

Want to be more creative with your camera? I can help so feel free to contact me. 

Like these photographs? They’re for sale as fine art prints. Please visit my photography website to see more.

The Blue Hour – Photographing in Low Light.

Blue Hour Low Light Photography

The Blue Hour by Richard Lewis 2014

We photographers live for the golden hours. That is the time just before and after sunrise and sunset when the world is illuminated with  beautiful gold, yellow and red hues. I am also becoming a big fan of another time that  is called the blue hour. This is the twilight time between darkness and the golden hours where the light is a deep blue color. It is a very special time in the evening when day fades into night, and in the morning, when night begins to become the day. I find the Blue Hours to be a very quiet and peaceful time to be outside.

The Blue Hours are also a tough time to photograph. We photographers record light and there really isn’t a lot of it around at that time. Still, a willingness to explore these magical hours can yield some wonderful results.

How I did It – Listen to your inner photographer. Usually my photographs of a moon rise are the product of careful planning. Not this one. One Friday afternoon, my wife and I happened to run into some friends and we were having a great time catching up. All of a sudden a little voice in my head told me to leave, so I did. While I was driving home the full moon rose. I wasn’t even aware there was a full moon, let alone that it was rising at dusk which is such an ideal time. An image popped into my mind and I raced to that location just in time to capture it. We all have an inner voice, an inner photographer, that it pays to listen to it once in a while.

Enjoy.

Abandonment

Abandoned Barn Near Cream Ridge New Jersey by Richard Lewis 2014 All Rights Reserved

Abandoned Barn Near Cream Ridge New Jersey by Richard Lewis 2014 All Rights Reserved

Recently more of my photographs contain a subject that I used to stay away from, old and abandoned buildings. Why they have suddenly become the darlings of my eye can be attributed to inspiration and evolution.

Inspiration

Over the last couple of years I’ve collaborated more and more with photographers and other artists who work with a wide variety of subjects and styles. Sharing our work, discussing techniques and even creating together has been very inspiring. Among these artists are several photographers who have created beautiful portfolios of abandoned buildings. 

Photography, I believe, is a solitary pursuit because like all art, the end product is the expression of an artist’s own vision. I still love to be alone in nature with my camera. It creates an intimate and direct connection with the landscape. Yet, collaborating with other photographers has opened me to their vision which is very inspiring. Collaboration should never lead to imitation. I’ve been asked where and how I shot a particular photograph and exactly how I processed it. If someone wants to recreate the actual image, just buy one of my prints. It would be a lot easier and I’d sure appreciate it. If you like something another artist is doing be inspired by it, and make it your own. Inspiration is the life blood of an artist’s growth. Seeking inspiration helps prevent getting stuck in a place where you are really good something, but ultimately that place limits your evolution as an artist.

Evolution

I realize now that I did not give myself permission to photograph old and abandoned places because I wasn’t able to present them in my own voice. With the influence of some great photographers that I have the privilege to call friends, my artistic vision has evolved to a place were I found that voice. Photographing the relics humanity leaves behind preserves a sort of history. To me it tells a story of how we humans and the landscape interact with each other over time. I’ve become happy to seek out fascination in the eyesore and find a story in places they inhabit.

How I Did It - When photographing subjects like this it is important to find a context and a composition. Just sticking a camera towards an old building may not say enough if it is just another collapsing structure. While studying this scene I realized that the landscape around the old barn was as harsh and uninviting as the building itself. Using elements in the scene like the patchy white snow to balance the bright light on the side of the barn. I tried to create a balanced composition of a harsh place that, hopefully, holds the viewers interest. CLICK HERE FOR A DEEPER LOOK AT THIS IMAGE.

Enjoy

New York City, A Colorful Town in Black and White

Manhattan NYC Street Scene On a recent trip to New York City I spent some time walking around the famous Highline with my camera. New York is a colorful city in more ways than one, so I decided to photograph it in black and white. By the way, the Highline, if you don’t know it, is an old elevated railroad track that was converted into a public park/walkway.

For me the decision to go black and white is usually done on an image-by-image basis. Deciding to go somewhere and only shoot in black and white was quite cathartic. The inspiration to do this came from fellow photographer, John Barclay’s beautiful black and white photographs from Death Valley National Park. I recently spent some time there being inspired by the colors. See my blog posts here.

The photograph at the top of this post is a juxtaposition of traditional “vanishing point” perspective lines, enhanced by a wide angle lens, and lines of light and shadow from a low winter sun. Removing the color not only enhances this juxtaposition, but it adds a sense of nostalgia to a street in good old New York City.

New York City Wall Mural from the Highline

Wall Mural along the Highline by Richard Lewis 2014

Photographing this mural in black and white kind of adds a nice little tribute to the Alfred Eisenstaedt’s original photograph of these two people in 1945.

New York City Graffiti from the Highline

Graffiti along the Highline by Richard Lewis 2014

This mural and graffiti were hard to convert to black and white because the bright paint colors were so bold and beautiful. But, after they were converted something interesting happened. The defects, textures and architectural features of the building became an equal part of the scene instead of being a distraction or simply the surface the paint was placed on.

How I Did It – No matter whether I’m photographing in color or black and white I keep the camera settings for color. When I process a photograph I continue to treat it as a color image to get the color balance, saturation, etc. right. Once the color version looks perfect, I convert it to Black and White using Topaz or NIK software. Although black and white is all about contrast and tonal range, color plays a big role in how those things play out in the finished photograph.

Enjoy.

Want to be more creative with your camera? Click Here

Like these photographs? They’re for sale as fine art prints. Please visit my new website to see more.