So Long Winter, We Hardly Knew Ye.

Frozen Lake

Frozen Lake by Richard Lewis, 2014

Full Moon at the Blue Hour

Full Moon at the Blue Hour by Richard Lewis 2014

All over the Blogosphere, Facebook , Instagram, and other social media sites photos of flowers, birds and greenery are being posted as we Americans emerge from a long and difficult winter. You can’t blame us for looking forward as the weather warms and all the things we love about spring start to happen.

Me, I’m looking back, not with regrets mind you, but with at least some fondness towards winter. One reason I live where I do is because I love the change of seasons. Winter with all of its struggles was good to us photographically. Instead of spring photographs I’ll share a couple of photographs from this winter.

How I Did It - A little tip on photographing the full moon when it is dark. Even with the best camera gear the moon will look like a bright white circle with no detail. It is a good idea to make at least two exposures. One for the scene and one for the moon. When processing your image, place the details of the moon into the scene.

Enjoy

 

An Old Farm Stand

Old Farm Stand

Old Farm Stand by Richard Lewis 2014

Since I’ve started photographing them, I’m noticed more and more abandoned structures along the side of the road. This odd structure recently caught my eye. It was barely visible through the trees and vegetation that have grown up around it. I wondered what it was so stopped to explore. An old, barely readable sign said “Fresh Fruits and Vegetables” so it was a farm stand.

Farming is a big part of South Jersey and farm stands and markets dot the landscape. This one didn’t make it. It was well built with steel beams and an enclosed office. A lot of care went into building this place and it may have thrived in its time. Now it is left to history and the New Jersey Pine Barrens’ ability to quickly reclaim structures that are no longer wanted or needed.

In addition to my new passion for photographing abandoned places, I took this photograph because of how the shadows juxtaposed with the wooden beams that cast them. It creates a kind of abstraction.

How I Did It - Yes this is an HDR photograph. Those of you who follow my work probably know I’m not big on using this technique. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and is meant to extend the range of light a camera sensor can record. It is great for brightly lit scenes that also have dark shadows. HDR images need more work than just running them through your HDR software and picking a suitable preset. HDR causes innumerable defects like chromatic aberrations (fringes of blue and magenta that shows on the edges of darker objects) halos, noise and more. All these need to be taken care so the finished HDR image is as technically perfect as a non-HDR image.

HDR has been a controversial technique ever since its inception. There is good HDR and bad HDR and the definition of each may change from artist to artist. HDR is a tool and like any other tool it needs to be understood and mastered. Whatever new worlds the technique opens up, it still must end up producing technically good art.

Enjoy

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.