Winter In The Franklin Parker Preserve

When Ordinary Becomes Beautiful

Cold Winter Light In the Franklin Parker Preserve in the Pine Barrens by Richard Lewis

Cold Winter Light by Richard Lewis 2017

It doesn’t snow much in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, so when it does, it’s time to head out to find something to photograph. This old bog in the Franklin Parker Preserve seemed like a nice place to look. Usually the stumps of these old cedar trees look like abstract designs, however they blend into the sandy and mucky bottom of the bog and don’t stand out enough.

A little snow on the ground changed that. When I arrived at the bog, it was almost perfect. It was also really cold, around 15 degrees (-9 celsius). Still, I thought it would be worth it to wait about a half hour to see if some beautiful light would fall on the trees in the background at a time closer to sunset.

After 30 minutes, the red light from the setting sun began falling at an angle creating some beautiful highlights and shadows in the trees. It only lasted a minute or two, but it made the perfect background for this odd little bog with its abstract natural sculptures.

I’ve been photographing the New Jersey Pine Barrens for many years and it never ceases to amaze me how new and subtle beauty reveals itself. I’ve hiked by this bog dozens of times thinking it would never be “photo worthy.” Yet add some snow and winter light, and this little bog turns into a surreal and abstract scene.

This photograph along with others will be part of my solo exhibition called the Franklin Parker Preserve, The Heart of New Jersey’s Wilderness from January 20, 2017 to March 16, 2017. Visit my website for more information, reception dates and times, etc. 

Enjoy

The Franklin Parker Preserve

The Struggle Between the Inner Artist and Inner Engineer

Fading Light in the Franklin Parker Preserve New Jersey Pinelands by Richard Lewis

Fading Winter Light by Richard Lewis 2017

I love going out on New Year’s Day to hike to get a first photo of the year. This year the first photograph of 2017 was made on January 8. Why? Because I’ve been feverishly preparing for a solo exhibition of my New Jersey Pine Barrens photography showcasing the 10,000 acre Franklin Parker Preserve that opens January 20. You can read more about this exhibition by clicking the link below. Consider yourself invited to the opening!


Richard Lewis’ Franklin Parker Preserve Photography Exhibition


To the right is the actual invitation. 

Exhibiting your work is time consuming. Don’t get me wrong, I love exhibiting, it is just that the preparation photographic prints is the least creative part of photography. After planning, setting up, shooting and editing a photograph, the creative part is pretty much over. Once the final image file is saved, the process becomes mechanical. Creating files for web and printing, calibrating monitors and loading printer profiles means my inner artist needs to step back and let my inner engineer take over for a while.

For the last few weeks that pesky inner engineer has been ruling the roost as I’ve been preparing and printing photographs. That ended for a while on a Sunday afternoon. It was very cold, it was windy and it had just snowed, but the artist in me had enough. I bundled up and headed for the Franklin Parker Preserve to remind myself why I’m doing all of this work.

Hiking in frigid weather can be a challenge, but creating is even harder. However, I let my far too-restrained lately artist out to wander around and this is the result. After the sun set and I was making my way back to the car it became really cold. It still felt good that some balance had been restored.

Art is a balance of creativity and mechanics. While mechanics ensures what is in your soul makes it to the medium you want to express it on, creativity will always be the ultimate driver that moves your art forward.

Enjoy

 

 

Storm Light on Palm Springs from Joshua Tree National Park by Richard Lewis

Joshua Tree National Park – Part 2

My First Desert Storm

For a guy from New Jersey, the the power of the desert is very impressive. It is a harsh environment that requires strength to survive, let alone thrive in. Yet it is also a place of amazing beauty and Joshua Tree National Park is a great example of that. This is why I keep being drawn back there.

As many times as I’ve been in the desert, this was the first time I got to experience a storm first hand. What looked like the makings of a spectacular sunset was overwhelmed when storm clouds blew into Joshua Tree from the north.  The pretty light of the golden hour quickly became a dark storm light like I’ve never seen before and It was a treat, a little scary treat, to be able to witness and photograph it.

Desert Storm in Joshua Tree by Richard Lewis

Desert Storm by Richard Lewis 2016

Approaching Storm in Joshua Tree by Richard Lewis

Approaching Storm by Richard Lewis 2016

The above two photographs were made from a vantage point near the Wonderland of Rocks in the northern part of the park. On a whim, after the storm hit, we drove to Key’s Point which is an overlook to the south and were rewarded with this view of Palm Springs in the valley below being bathed in rain and a surreal evening light coming through an opening in the clouds.

Storm Light on Palm Springs from Joshua Tree National Park by Richard Lewis

Storm Light on Palm Springs by Richard Lewis 2016

Note about the above photos: Photographing in bad weather can be dangerous so don’t do it if you don’t know what you are doing. It is important to protect yourself and camera with the proper rain gear. Also pay attention to the intensity and direction of the storm. Remember the way back to your vehicle, but know where you can shelter if the weather back gets too bad.

The Day After the Storm

I started the next day early and found this rock formation which my friend Marci thinks looks like an angry frog. What do you think?

Angry Frog Rock in Joshua Tree by Richard Lewis

Angry Frog Rock by Richard Lewis 2016

This photograph was made just after sunrise facing a strong, cold wind (not a fun part of that morning). I wanted to make a surreal image using a long exposure showing the effect of that wind. The resulting blur on the bush in the foreground shows how the wind was blowing it around but not really affecting the other plants that were shielded from the wind. The clouds were also moving quickly and were blurred by this long exposure.

Windy Morning in Joshua Tree by Richard Lewis

Windy Morning by Richard Lewis 2016

Hiking back to the car I took a detour around a large rock outcropping to get out of the wind and came across this little gem of a Juniper tree.

Surviving Juniper Tree in Joshua Tree National Park by Richard Lewis

Surviving Juniper Tree by Richard Lewis 2016

The power and incredible light of a storm in the desert shows how harsh, yet beautiful, a place like Joshua Tree National Park can be. What looks like a quiet, peaceful desert scene can quickly change into something very different.

Technical Note: The photograph called “Windy Morning ” was made with a neutral density filter. These are dark pieces of glass that go in front of the camera to let less light in to slow the shutter speed. Shutter speed is the amount of time the shutter is open to expose the photograph. The darker the filter, the less light and the longer the shutter speed becomes. Longer shutter speeds will blur moving objects. For this photograph, I used a 10 stop neutral density filter which is very dark and only lets in 1/10 of the light. Using this filter can be very difficult because it is so dark that neither you, or the camera’s electronics can see through it. Here is how to use this kind of filter:

  1. Set up the photograph’s composition, focus and exposure using the manual mode on the camera without the filter. Note the exposure setting because you will need this for the next step. Once everything is set, put the filter on the lens
  2. Do some math (Thank you iPhone calculator) to calculate what the exposure should be and change the camera setting accordingly. The filter I used reduces the exposure by 10 stops, or 10 times, so in this case a 1/2 second shutter speed @f/16, ISO 100 becomes about a 4 minute exposure @f/16, ISO 100.
  3. Always check the results and to make sure you are getting the best exposure and effect. Then continue to make exposures because the effect will probably change on each photograph giving you very different images.

Enjoy and have a Very Happy New Year!

More photographs of Joshua Tree National Park can be seen on my website. 

Bombay Beach Broken Home by Richard Lewis

Bombay Beach

What happens to a seaside paradise when the seaside gets toxic

The story of Bombay Beach, California is an unusual one. In the early 1900’s an attempt to control the Colorado River for irrigation backfired when flood waters filled the Salton Basin creating the Salton Sea.

This new sea in the desert may have been an environmental disaster, but was and still is the largest lake in California and it started attracting people. Communities and resorts popped up to provide water-starved Southern Californians with a place to fish, swim and boat. One of those communities was Bombay Beach whose tagline in the 1940’s and 50’s was “Living In Paradise.”

Unfortunately, unnatural occurrences in nature have consequences. The Salton Sea has no place to drain and is fed by polluted agricultural runoff and rain that can cause the sea level to change drastically. Bombay Beach fell victim to rising water in the 1970’s that flooded and destroyed beach front properties and piers which are now in ruins. In recent years, more water has been removed for irrigation, lowering the water level causing the salt, and pollution levels to go up. This started killing off the fish whose bones litter the sand. Bombay Beach is now far from being considered a paradise.

The Beach

The air on the beach smells like dead fish and it is littered with old fish carcasses, debris and the ruins of the piers that no longer reach the receding water.

Bombay Beach Environmental Fallout by Richard Lewis

Environmental Fallout On Bombay Beach by Richard Lewis 2016

Bombay Beach Abandoned Piers and Jetty by Richard Lewis

Abandoned Piers and Jetty by Richard Lewis 2016

Abandoned Bombay Beach Pier by Richard Lewis

Abandoned Bombay Beach Pier by Richard Lewis 2016

Abandoned Bombay Beach Pier Panorama by Richard Lewis

Bombay Beach Pier Panorama by Richard Lewis 2016

Old Crane On Bombay Beach by Richard Lewis

Old Crane On Bombay Beach by Richard Lewis 2016

Old Crane Up Close on Bombay Beach by Richard Lewis

Old Crane Up Close by Richard Lewis 2016

Abandoned Sailboat on Bombay Beach by Richard Lewis

Abandoned Sailboat by Richard Lewis 2016

The Town

Many of the trailers and simple houses near the beach are abandoned and falling apart. Yet a few people still live in Bombay Beach. Next to abandoned homes are other homes that have cars in the driveway and kids playing in the yard.

Bombay Beach Demolished Trailer by Richard Lewis

Demolished Trailer by Richard Lewis 2016

Bombay Beach Street View by Richard Lewis

Bombay Beach Street View by Richard Lewis 2016

Bombay Beach Up Close by Richard Lewis

Bombay Beach Up Close by Richard Lewis 2016

Portable Kitchen in Bombay Beach by Richard Lewis

Portable Kitchen by Richard Lewis 2016

Bombay Beach Street by Richard Lewis

Bombay Beach Street by Richard Lewis 2016

Abandoned Bombay Beach House by Richard Lewis

Abandoned Beach House by Richard Lewis 2016

Below is an example of what I call a “trailer house” which seemed to have been popular in Bombay Beach. Residents most likely parked their trailer on a lot and eventually built a house around it.

Abandoned Trailer House In Bombay Beach

Abandoned Trailer House In Bombay Beach by Richard Lewis 2016

Old Trailer In A Sand Storm at Bombay Beach by Richard Lewis

Old Trailer In A Sand Storm by Richard Lewis 2015

Abandoned House And Trailer With Rainbow In Bombay Beach

Abandoned House And Trailer With Rainbow by Richard Lewis 2016

Bombay Beach Interior by Richard Lewis

Bombay Beach Interior by Richard Lewis 2015

Bombay Beach Gas Station by Richard Lewis

Bombay Beach Gas Station by Richard Lewis 2015

Bombay Beach Service Station Up Close

Bombay Beach Service Station Up Close by Richard Lewis 2016

Bombay Beach Broken Home by Richard Lewis

Broken Home by Richard Lewis 2015

Bombay Beach Abandoned Boat by Richard Lewis

Abandoned Boat by Richard Lewis 2015

Interior Graffiti Bombay Beach

Interior Graffiti by Richard Lewis 2016

There are not a lot of interior photographs in this post because there is not much left to them. The small, simple houses have mostly been picked clean by urban explorers and scrappers. On a future trip I hope to talk to some of the residents and photograph them in order to tell the complete story of the rise and fall of Bombay Beach.

Technical Note: I photographed Bombay Beach twice under very challenging conditions. the first shoot (dated 2015) was on a bright sunny day with a wind storm blowing 60 mile an hour winds. The second time (dated 2016) was still very windy with scattered rain. Shooting under tough conditions requires forethought to protect your gear. Before leaving the car, I set up my equipment up so I would be ready for whatever conditions outside the car delivered. Because my view of choice when photographing abandoned places is wide angled, I put my trusty 17-40mm lens on the camera. I also stuffed a rain cover, towel and anything else that might be useful in my pockets so they would be quickly accessible without having to take the backpack off.

Emotional Note: One thing I’ve realized by kicking around abandoned places like Bombay Beach and learning how they become abandoned is that there is great need in our world. In the spirit of this season let’s all decide to help others in the coming year. 

Enjoy

Tortured Landscape In Joshua Tree National Park by Richard Lewis

Joshua Tree National Park – Part 1

Morning in the California Desert

I love the “tortured landscape” of Joshua Tree National Park. Under the right light it can range from dramatic to alien with just a touch of the surreal. On this particular morning the soft diffused morning light was pretty consistent, so it was not necessary to work quickly to catch that quickly vanishing moment of perfect light. I took advantage of these conditions to spend more time composing the photographs.

The luxury of time

With lighting conditions like they were on particular this morning, it can extend the “Golden Hour” of the sunrise into what I like to call the “Bolden Hour” with a mix of gold and blue daylight. After spotting this interesting rock formation, I decided it would look good backlit by the colors of the distant mountains and sky. The composition attempts to balance that large rock formation, which is a heavy element on the right, with the rock outcropping that I was standing on in the lower left. The colors of the background help balance the panoramic image out. Also, it was a particularly beautiful landscape.

Rocky Landscape Panorama in Joshua Tree National Park

Morning Panorama In A Tortured Landscape by Richard Lewis 2016

16_joshua-tree-morning-on-the-rocks-with-composition-lineHiking further into the desert led me to this vista just as the sun was peeking through the clouds and falling delicately on the rocks. The composition here was made by positioning the camera close to the edge of the rock formation in the foreground and using its diagonal edge to match up with the other elements to create a sort of “S” Curve that leads to the patch of red in the sky just along the horizon.

Morning on the Rocks In Joshua Tree National Park by Richard Lewis

Morning On The Rocks By Richard Lewis 2016

Sometimes you stumble on a scene that not only begs to be photographed, but it is also a natural composition. In this case, the foreground with the small gully and lines etched into the rocks provided a perfect set of leading lines to a particularly nice Joshua Tree rock formation. Because the light was diffused by the clouds and showed no signs of changing, I had the time to play with the composition by shooting the scene vertically, horizontally and from different camera angles. What worked the best was this horizontal image with the camera close to the ground. This both highlighted the foreground and partially eliminated the less interesting middle ground.

Tortured Landscape In Joshua Tree National Park by Richard Lewis

Tortured Landscape 1 by Richard Lewis 2016

The light just didn’t quit

The sun played hide and seek with the clouds all day. On a hike later on in the day, I  photographed some remote locations deep in Joshua Tree National Park’s back country under some particularly nice soft light.

Tortured Landscape in Joshua Tree by Richard Lewis

Tortured Landscape 1 by Richard Lewis 2016

Tortured Landscape in Joshua Tree by Richard Lewis

Tortured Landscape 2 by Richard Lewis 2016

Tortured Landscape in Joshua Tree by Richard Lewis

Tortured Landscape 3 by Richard Lewis 2016

If you want the popular attractions at Joshua Tree to yourself, wake up early. If you get out before the tourists and the rock climbers are awake, you will have those places to yourself along with the bonus of seeing them under the beautiful desert morning light.

Technical Note: Triangles are a strong compositional element. Using them in your photographs will create much more visually interesting images. Can you find the triangles in these images?

More Photographs from this trip will be posted soon. Until then enjoy my Joshua Tree website gallery here. 

Enjoy

 

 

An Abandoned Farm House

The remains of a South Jersey Farm 

Abandoned Farm House by Richard Lewis

Abandoned Farm House by Richard Lewis 2016

I noticed this old abandoned farm house by accident while driving. I just happened to glance at the side of the road and saw it at the end of a long and very overgrown driveway.

The house is a typical early to mid 19th century South Jersey farm house. The right-hand side (top photo) was probably the original house and the left side was most likely added years later. Parts of that addition might actually be an older 18th century house, but that would be difficult to tell without going through it in detail.

I went back to this house before dawn to photograph it and caught some beautiful early light at sunrise. It seems a little surreal to see this kind of elegant light falling on such a dilapidated structure.

As bad as the house was, the condition of the rest of the farm was worse. A foundation was the only thing left of a large barn. Nature was doing a good job of demolishing the other outbuildings.

The interior of the farm house was in really bad shape. I had to be careful of my footing and decided not to go upstairs. I may work up my courage to do that on a future trip if I find myself out that way again.

The preservationist in me dreads seeing three siding types on this old home, especially the ugly red asphalt siding that seemed to be popular at one point in the New Jersey Pinelands. My artist side could not help falling in love with the color scheme and textures that this re-muddling has created.

Rear View of an Abandoned Farmhouse by Richard Lewis

Rear View of an Abandoned Farm House by Richard Lewis 2016

I was in the middle of a long one-minute exposure in another room when I noticed the golden dawn light filtering in through the front door. I had to stop what I was doing to shoot this instead. The warm red light falling on this ruined home highlighted its desolation.

Front Hallway at Dawn by Richard Lewis

Front Hallway at Dawn by Richard Lewis 2016

Stepping outside during the sunrise brought even more feelings of  desolation.

Morning Light on an Abandoned Farm House by Richard Lewis

Morning Light on an Abandoned Farm House by Richard Lewis 2016

While there is a strange beauty to capture in abandoned buildings, I also want to find their personal history, or the ghosts, as I called it in my post about the Pennhurst Asylum. These next photographs shows remnants of the people who lived here. What was it like cooking in this simple kitchen? Why is there a mirror by the sink? Who picked the paint scheme for the front hallway? Just how comfortable was that plush furniture in the parlor?

Abandoned Farm House Kitchen by Richard Lewis

Abandoned Farm House Kitchen by Richard Lewis 2016

View Towards the Kitchen by Richard Lewis

View Towards the Kitchen by Richard Lewis 2016

Abandoned Farmhouse Parlor by Richard Lewis

Abandoned Farm House Parlor by Richard Lewis 2016

Old and abandoned farms like this one are evidence of a changing landscape. I’m a landscape photographer by passion and, until recently, passed by many old buildings while seeking the more natural subjects like forests, streams and mountains. Now those abandoned structures are grabbing my attention. They are also part of the landscape and in some cases, the people living in and using those buildings caused the landscape to become what it was through farming or industry. I’m finding myself driven to record them with my camera and hopefully do justice to their history, good or bad.

Enjoy

Find more of my work on my website

Missouri Backroads by Richard Lewis

The Ozark Mountains, Yup, The Ozark Mountains – Part 2

Missouri’s Rugged, Beautiful Landscape

Here are more photographs from my trip to the Ozark Mountains in Southern Missouri with photographer Craig McCord. In my previous post I showed the old mills we visited which were set in a beautiful and rugged landscape. The photographs below show more of that landscape.

There were not a lot of opportunities to photograph the grand landscape of the Ozark Mountains because those mountains are very wooded. Yet, every now and then, there would be a break in the trees or somewhere along the roadside, where a magnificent view would  be revealed.

Storm Light In The Ozark Mountains by Richard Lewis

Storm Light In The Ozark Mountains by Richard Lewis 2016

I was able to spend time on my own the last day that I was in Eminence, Missouri. A nice morning mist made that time very worth while.

Missouri Farmscape by Richard Lewis

Missouri Farmscape by Richard Lewis 2016

Missouri Backroads by Richard Lewis

Missouri Backroads by Richard Lewis 2016

Blue Spring

Blue Spring really does look like this. That dark blue water is not faked in Photoshop.  The spring is very deep and flows quickly at about 90 million gallons a day. These two factors cause a kind of chemical reaction with the minerals in the rocks resulting in this deep blue color.

Ozark Mountain Blue Spring by Richard Lewis

Blue Spring by Richard Lewis 2016

Ozark Mountain Blue Spring Source by Richard Lewis

Blue Spring Source by Richard Lewis 2016

The Intimate Ozark Mountain Landscape

The Ozark Mountains are not a place with a lot of expansive views, but it is a nice place to get intimate with the landscape and find the patterns and compositions in the forest surrounding you. Being from the flat and sandy New Jersey Pinelands made the rocky and mountainous Ozarks an interesting place to figure out photographically. Both places are ruggedly beautiful, just in very different ways.

Top Of The Gorge by Richard Lewis

Top Of The Prairie Hollow Gorge by Richard Lewis 2016

Above Rocky Falls Ozark Mountains by Richard Lewis

Above Rocky Falls by Richard Lewis 2016

A Touch Of Fall In The Ozark Mountains by Richard Lewis

A Touch Of Fall In The Ozark Mountains by Richard Lewis 2016

The Ozark Mountains are a great place for photographing flowing water but this is the only photograph of it I’m showing here. (See the technical note below.) I’ve spent a lot of time photographing flowing water, so I get to be a little discriminating. This image is one of my favorites of the trip.

Two Sticks In The Creek by Richard Lewis

Two Sticks In The Creek by Richard Lewis 2016

Technical Note: The above photograph could be considered a compositional no-no. The “rules” of composition say that there should be an odd number of main elements shown. There actually were 3 of these branches sticking out of the water. One was bobbing up and down so much in the current that the long exposure needed to get the silky feel of the water caused it to be too blurry. Instead of doing a double exposure, I instinctively left it out of the photograph. While processing this image, and being temporarily stuck on the rules, I thought about lightening the little waves on the right in Photoshop to make them visually stronger to become a third main element. In the end I decided against it because the diagonal line of the two sticks creates a stronger composition. What do you think?

It’s important to take the time to evaluate the best way to photograph subjects in front of your camera. Use the “rules” as a guideline and let your heart and your imagination be the final say on the way you create your photographs.

Enjoy!