Winter Hike In Harriman State Park

How to Get a Whole New Perspective on Photography

Near Pine Meadow Lake in Harriman State Park

Near Pine Meadow Lake by Richard Lewis 2015

Storm on Pine Meadow Lake by Richard Lewis

Storm on Pine Meadow Lake by Richard Lewis 2015

The ease of using digital cameras and modern travel are allowing more people to go to the great places and create beautiful landscape images. As a result, there are now an overwhelming number of great landscape photographs.

The problem… it’s becoming harder to distinguish the work of one photographer from another. I’ve seen places like  Zabriskie Point in Death Valley at sunrise packed with photographers lined up to create the same photograph. How does one differentiate from the crowd? The solution is to make the photograph no one else is making. It means seeing differently. That might mean finding places no one else is going or photographing the popular places in a completely different way.

I pondered this recently during a hike in Harriman State Park in New York. While slogging through the snow and admiring the wonderful winter landscape this what was going through my mind.

  1. Photographic quantity is not the goal. Scout out an area and find the best photograph to create. Spend the time needed to make it great.
  2. Dwell on composition–a lot. Don’t just photograph a pretty scene, find the lines and form that make the structure of that scene wonderful.
  3. Go where no one else is. The hike to Pine Meadow Lake on a nice day is very popular and relatively easy. Even with 2 feet of snow on the ground I was surprised to see a fair number of hearty hikers, but I was the only one doing serious photography.
  4. Shoot in adverse weather. Snow was falling during most of the hike. I made the second photograph when the snowfall was heavy which created an interesting natural texture across the lake.
  5. Think about how you will process the image as you are creating it. Having an idea of what the final image will look like helps you frame and compose the original to create a better photograph.
  6. Look at the whole image. The masters will tell you to pay attention to the corners of the view finder, not just the center. On a cold and windy day it is natural to work quickly, but speed can cause you to neglect looking at the entire image and not take the time to compose something that works well and is free of distracting elements.

We are living in a time when a million photographs are taken each day. It has never been easier to create a good one and never been harder to create a unique one.


Please leave a comment about what you love about photography.

The Joy of Sharing

Teaching iPhoneography 

The End Of A Winter Day by Richard Lewis

The End Of A Winter Day by Richard Lewis 2015

I recently taught my first workshop on iPhoneography as part of the South Jersey Camera Club’s monthly workshop series. It was a great experience mainly due to the interesting people who participated.

It’s fun to work with people who really think about photography. There were great discussions about how innovations like iPhoneography will change photography and start to blur the lines between photographic art and other forms or art. I left the class inspired. Later that day I came across this stand of trees during a snow storm and inspired by the class, I produced this image.

I think iPhoneography is in the same state of “newness” as digital photography was 10 to 15 years ago. It is not quite accepted, but not easily ignored either. As time passes, artistic images from phones will start to become more mainstream. Will this mean the end of the “traditional” digital camera with interchangeable lenses? Who knows? I remember the photography pundits writing off digital photography years ago. Now try to buy a roll of Kodachrome film or a camera to put it in.


The Stuff We Leave Behind

Thoughts on the Old and Abandoned Landscape

An Old White Truck With Complimentary Colors by Richard Lewis

An Old Truck With Complementary Colors by Richard Lewis 2015

Left in the Desert by Richard Lewis

Left in the Desert by Richard Lewis 2015

Old cars and trucks rusting in fields are common place in the American landscape. Some photographers find an eerie sort of beauty in them, myself included. Photographing old and abandoned things is relatively new for me and I recently came to a conclusion as to why.

Photography can be more than an interesting picture. A photograph can help derive meaning. While these abandoned vehicles become a strange thing of beauty when combined with their environment, there is more to it.

“Things are transitory, but nature is eternal” could be a caption for either of these photographs. Substitute “Life” for the word “Things” and it gets you thinking. Humans don’t last forever and we all leave stuff behind after we are gone. Not just our possessions, or these rusty vehicles, we also leave behind the results of our deeds and actions which can have a lasting impact on our families, communities and even beyond. This is something to consider while creating our legacies. What do you want to leave behind?

Thought-provoking? This is one reason why I really love photography.


Robins, Robins Everywhere

Bird Photography from a Non-Bird Photographer

A Bird Amongst The Berries by Richard Lewis

A Bird Amongst The Berries by Richard Lewis 2015

Robin's Dance by Richard Lewis

Robin’s Dance by Richard Lewis 2015

Robin's Portrait by Richard Lewis

Robin’s Portrait by Richard Lewis 2015

Sitting Pretty by Richard Lewis

Sitting Pretty by Richard Lewis 2015

I recently attended a workshop on bird photography presented by Larry Lyons, a fellow local photographer. When describing how to photograph our feathered friends, he used the expression, “f/8 and be there.” For non-photographers, f/8 is a camera setting and in this expression it means know your equipment. Be there, means just that, be in the moment.

Recently, one of those moments happened outside my dining room window. During breakfast, my wife noticed that there were a bunch of robins eating the berries on our holly bush. When we looked closer we saw that there were actually hundreds of birds. We figured that a flock of migrating robins noticed our bush and decided to make a little rest stop and take turns eating the berries.

I don’t have the super fast cameras and lenses needed to photograph birds, but I do have equipment that I know very well, so I set the camera and started shooting. I learned that morning  what it means to “be there” when photographing wildlife. By not having to fuss with my equipment, I could watch what these little birds were doing and study how they move, eat and react. I was eventually able to anticipate what they would do next.

Not having the right gear to freeze the action, I decided to catch the robins in their decisive moments while they treated themselves to the large number of tasty berries our holly bush is sporting this winter. I love these images because I got to know these little birds better while spending time watching them.


Fire In A Winter Sky

More photography from the New Jersey Pine Barrens

Fire in a Winter Sky New Jersey Pine Barrens

Fire in a Winter Sky by Richard Lewis 2015

I enjoy taking inspiration from landscape painters because they do not suffer from the limitations of photography. When art starts with a blank canvas and a creative mind, reality can be completely bent to an the artist’s vision, style and skill. Landscape photographers, on the other hand, have to start with the reality that we place in front of our cameras. Sure, we can manipulate it to an extent with our choice of lighting, exposure and lens. We can even further manipulate an image in post processing. But no matter what we do, landscape photographers build art around reality and cannot completely build the reality itself like our painter friends can do.

Most of the painters that continue to influence me are no longer living, but one named Peter Fiore is very much alive. Peter is a master landscape artist living in the Delaware Water Gap. What I love about his work is the way he delicately shows how light can create quiet moments of stillness on the landscape.

Winter Afterglow by Peter Fiore

Winter Afterglow by Peter Fiore

Peter’s latest show at the Travis Gallery in New Hope, Pennsylvania was called “Last 15.” It was a series of paintings showing the last 15 minutes of the day. This powerful series has influenced some of my recent work.

I do not desire to create something that looks like a painting with post processing. Software, like Topaz Labs’ Impression, tempts one with some very sophisticated tools to do this. While I love using Impression, I feel that being a photographer means my work should ultimately look photographic.

I created the image Fire in a Winter Sky because I wanted to show that feeling of eerie calm in the last moments of a winter day before night descends on the frozen world. The painting of Peter Fiore’s Winter Afterglow was on my mind as I stood with my camera capturing the light fading over a cedar swamp. My desire was not to imitate the look of the painting, but to convey the feeling in the same way the painting by does using color and light.



A Desert Encounter in Rhyolite, Nevada

Modeling in a Death Valley ghost town

Welcome to a Ruined Life

Welcome to a Ruined Life by Richard Lewis 2015

Just outside of Death Valley National Park is an old ghost town called Rhyolite. It is near the funky little city of Beatty, Nevada. The old buildings are a popular place to photograph. We stopped at Rhyolite, but the flat light from a rare fully overcast sky just wasn’t making for compelling photography.

Then I saw Aly. She and a friend were modeling for some photographers. When they took a break, I approached and asked if I could photograph them. Aly said she could give me a little time, so I posed her by one of the old buildings that had a lot of graffiti. The tattoo on her chest worked well with that in the background.

The few minutes I had to work with her were a lot of fun. You have to love a good model. Aly followed directions and did some nice improvisations. You can see, she wasn’t dressed for a cold and windy day, yet she never showed how cold she was until we were done and she ran to her car to warm up.

There is nothing like a chance encounter to make a questionable photography day a good one.


Testing the Canon 7D Mark II

Canon’s New Action Camera

One of the greatest things about being a member of Canon Professional Services is that you get to borrow expensive cameras and lenses and play around with them for a few days. Because my photography interests have moved beyond just creating fine art landscapes, I have been looking for a camera that will be a good tool for action photography. After photographing bears in Alaska and World War II re-enactors in Pennsylvania, I realized that I could have been better equipped. That’s why I tried out the new Canon 7D Mark II Camera. Here is the probably least technical camera review you may ever read, it’s just the opinion of a guy who loves to use a camera to create things.

Build – This camera is very solidly built and sturdy like its predecessor, the first 7D. Canon’s specs say it is weather sealed. I didn’t use it in to bad of weather, but did shoot outside for several hours in windy 20 degree F weather with ice blowing all around and the camera held up just fine.

Speed – One of the most significant features of this camera is its speed. At 10 frames per second, there is not a lot this thing will miss. Speed is a great asset for wildlife, sports and other action photographers. Of course, this will require larger cards in order to record all those extra shots. Fortunately the Canon 7D Mark II has two card slots, one each for CF and SD cards.

Auto Focus – I don’t use auto focus at all for my main artistic work, but it is useful for commercial and action shooting. The auto focus system on this camera is supposedly state of the art. Without dissecting all the technical details this appears to be true. Out of 2142 shutter clicks, only 25 were out of focus and those happened when I was figuring out the auto focus settings. Basically the camera focused on the wrong subject which was probably my fault. After I figured it out, it focused right where it needed to be.

Noise – This was the major downfall of the first 7D camera. It was built well, fast and designed for action shooting, but action shots require fast shutter speeds. Fast shutter speeds in low lighting conditions require high ISO settings to get the right exposure. Unfortunately the original 7D produced a lot of noise. Above ISO 800 the image was just about unusable. I’m happy to report that this problem is definitely fixed. The indoor photographs below were shot at ISO 6400 and while there is noise present, most of it was easily reduced using Adobe Camera Raw’s noise reduction filter. Adding Topaz De-Noise or another more sophisticated noise reduction filter would probably do even better. My opinion is that the 7D Mark II has a little better noise control than the 5D Mark III which is over $1000 more in cost.

Picture Quality – In my humble opinion, the original 7D did not have the best picture quality. These photographs of the Ice Carvers at Mt. Holly, New Jersey’s Fire and Ice Festival show that the 7D Mark II produces very good photographs. The first and third photograph was shot under very high contrast lighting. There was a enough dynamic range in the RAW image to pull out the details from the shadows and the highlights.

Ice Carver #1 by Richard Lewis

Ice Carver #1 by Richard Lewis 2015

Ice Carver #2 by Richard Lewis

Ice Carver #2 by Richard Lewis 2015

Ice Carver #3 by Richard Lewis

Ice Carver #3 by Richard Lewis 2015

These photos were shot at a shutter speed of 2000 @ f/4 with a 70-200 mm lens. The ISO was 6400. While the noise would be unacceptable for a fine art landscape, in street photography the quality of the subject matter is not as tied to the image quality.

Oh The Wonder by Richard Lewis  2015

Oh The Wonder by Richard Lewis 2015

Girl Scout by Richard Lewis 2015

Girl Scout by Richard Lewis

Canon has been dissed for not including an articulated LCD screen and wifi on this camera. While a movable LCD would be helpful, I’d prefer a more more bulletproof camera with a fixed screen, if that was reason it was left off. I do not see the need for wifi. While some photographers would, I shoot full sized RAW files and at 20+ megabytes a photograph, I’d rather transfer them directly to a computer.

So Rich, are you going to buy one? Maybe. This is one amazing camera. First and foremost I’m a fine art photographer and while this camera would be helpful for commercial work, it would not replace my main camera, except playing the role of a back up.

I’ve been critical of Canon for not keeping up with technology. It seems that they will make up for it this year with introduction of 3 new versions of the already very great 5D camera. Two will be 50+ megapixel cameras and the third will be the 5D Mark IV which according to the website “will focus on being a lowlight event and sports type of camera with good enough image quality for pretty much anything else you throw at it.” It might be wise to wait and see what these cameras will be like.