Freeze Frame

At photo and video trade shows, it’s not uncommon to find booths set up with elaborate, colorful, sometimes mechanically active displays with which guest can demo cameras and lenses. Sometimes, live action vignettes play out with creatively-clad models, though these are more often for posing demonstrations.

These fantastical displays are something like the creations of Joan Steiner, whose dioramas are filled with eye candy (and sometimes real candy) including every day objects, such as like gloves, toothbrushes, combs, clothespins or mustard bottles and even crackers and other snacks.

My wife, Jen, and I were lucky enough to stumble across 10 or so of Steiner’s 3D creations on a recent visit to the Albany Institute of History and Art for Rock and Roll Legends, (on display through Feb. 12, by they way). Steiner’s work is not currently on display.

Sometimes during a lull I like to flex my photographic muscles with an exercise inspired by those trade show exhibits. I’m too far from Macy’s windows on 34th Street, and it isn’t always Christmas, so I go in search of subject-rich environments that will offer diverse subject matter.

Recently, I combined this pursuit of subject matter with a visit to an annual festival in East Meredith, NY that I’ve mentioned in past writing for the Catskill Mountain Region Guide – but never visited in person.

dscf1559_wmThe Hanford Mills Museum Ice Harvest Festival has got to be one of the most charming “olde-time events” you will ever stumble across. Next year’s date has already been announced. (It’s always the first Saturday in February, apparently)

With on going blacksmiths demonstrations, horse-drawn carriage rides, cooking demonstrations and an interactive actual ice harvest the event is billed as “The Region’s Coolest Tradition.”

That said, even with the time spent waiting in line for my shot at carving a block of ice from the pond (and more time in another line for an aborted try at supporting the soup fundraiser) I think I was there for all of an hour.

I did find some texture, for my collection and a few contrasting displays of chaos

and order. Perhaps a subject for a future post.

Honestly, I may have just been cold! Even dressed for standing around on the snow and ice, my shooting fingers got a tad stiff. Also the barrage of shades of white and grey, and all that reflected sunshine combined with and dark building interiors just tired me out. Still – brought back what I think are some interesting images, and I’m sharing a few of those with you here.


Some of you may be familiar with a website, or type of website offering ‘instructables,’ which tend to be photo-heavy how-to guides.

If you think Youtube is a time sink, try looking at what some folks make and share there! I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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Being a sort of business fanatic (I love studying how various enterprises work, and breaking down the component parts in the interest of optimization) I’d like to shoot more how-to videos and photo essays. Most instructructables, alas, are shot by their creators. But I have done a bit of low budget commercial video which you can find on the Ment Media Group. YouTube Channel (subscribe, while you’re there!)

Basically, I’m drawn to process – so seeing how the ice was cut, conveyed, and stacked for storage in the Hanford Mills Museum ice house – so that folks in the pre-electric refrigeration era could enjoy “fresh” food during warmer non-winter months was simply put – fun.

There were also several vintage how-to movies that documented past commercial harvests showing inside a frigid barn. This was big business once upon a time. Today, I suppose it’s pure nostalgia.


Side note on Steiner’s Look-Alike work. At the time, we mistakenly thought we looking at I-Spy creations. More on that here:

Steiner’s work has been compared, or cast in the same light as that of I-Spy creator Jean Marzollo, though I prefer Steiner. If this is all somehow meaningless to you, read more about I Spy in Marzollo’s remarks from a symposium on Margaret Wise Brown here or about her photographer Walter Wick here.

BUT what does all this have to do with the price of nutmeg in New Jersey? Nuttin!



Capturing my Imagination


Five Rivers is a parcel of 450 acres managed by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.

After years of driving past the place, always a little curious (not too curious) some months ago my wife and I finally took the side road that leads there and spent a while getting acquainted with the center dscf1470_wm.

Last week, though the temperature hovered near 30, I returned with a camera in search of inspiration.

If you believe, as I do, that the ‘devil is in the details,’ than no matter how cold and grey, snow and ice covered, or bleak a natural setting may appear, there’s always something there – the closer you look.

On this walk, with a dreary light reflected off so much whiteness I was forced to stare down at to maintain my footing, my eyes grew tired quickly (sacrifice for my art!) and I found myself looking for patches of darkness to relieve them. I found those in the trees, and brush

Note: If you find yourself here on an icy afternoon – the facility has cramponsdscf1472_wm to offer some surefootedness, but did I take them up on it? Perish …!

As I walked around the lake (manmade, I believe) things began to present themselves to me.

Almost immediately, there’s a bench sheltered from the storm. I immediately named the photo “Rest” although no rest would be required on this short outing – and it was certainly too soon upon just setting out.

dscf1496_wmShortly I arrived at this rusted relic, which I felt had a floral quality in its handle design. It was also growing like sort a flower out of the bank of the lake. I imagine it was part of some old waterworks there though its haphazard state of de-installation suggests it’s no longer in use.

I was struck by the bark on several trees at Five Rivers, perhaps because it was the closest thing to color I came up this chilly afternoon.


dscf1522_wm Perhaps because as I’ve mentioned in an earlier post (LINK) I’m always looking for texture.

I also spotted a stump, which was weathering nicely.



dscf1502_wmThese needles also did it for me. Can’t tell you why.


Approaching this particularly treacherous walkway (Just as bridges and overpasses freeze first and harder than the surrounding road surfaces, elevated wooden decks are potentially more hazardous than the dirt and gravel paths they connect) I was struck with a surfeit of paths..


Just as I would walk over the elevated path, aquatic life might travel the waterway below, as small mammals might opt for the log crossing. Just a thought.
And while my icy path provided the opportunity for a hardier freeze, it also permitted me to travel through the undisturbed rustling of the dried winter grasses and weeds. It was here that I took my favorite photo of the trip


Here’s where my walk got really interesting.

Focused on the minutia, I wasn’t paying much attention to my broader surroundings. And … wait for it, walking around a small man-made lake possibly with several foot bridges intersecting it, I found myself slightly turned around (if it was darker, and I was a drinking man, I’d say o.k. I was ‘lost’)

Just in the nick, I spotted this.dscf1526_wmand Although the direction it was pointing in was vague, I took an overgrown path up and eventually found my way back to my car stopping only to study this sundial and wonder, as I often do when faced with acts of unnecessary cruelty and random bits of vandalism …





If you’re anywhere near the Capitol District in NY and might appreciate stellar photos of many of rock and roll’s greatest talents get to the Albany Institute of History & Art before Feb. 12, 2017.

Photographers don’t exist in a vacuum. At least they shouldn’t.

If you’re photographing weddings, well you’d better look at the work of other photographers. You probably already do, for some combination of education, marketing, and inspiration. When I do, I sometimes notice creative poses, beautiful lighting ideas, or simply shots worth admiring – the sorts I work to get and keep my eyes open for.

If you’re photographing buildings or landscapes – the same applies. I enjoy looking at other photographers’ work because I enjoy what these subject look like on the page – not just my own.

Some of the earliest I recall admiring were in books of photographs of ‘old New York” that captured the light and shadow of industry and architecture at places like Grand Central Terminal

Instagram is a platform I guess is well-suited for this, though I’m not much of a user. Some folks probably use Pinterest the same way.

For me its often the social post and blogs of other photographers I turn to for inspiration particularly Fine Art Photographer Leanne Cole, in Australia, a true inspiration whose tastes seem to run much like my own from architecture to abandoned spaces to nature, landscapes – and of course portraiture.

Last week I read a piece called ‘The Dark Art of Concert Photography” by Sarah Arnold on the SmugMug site. (SmugMug is a gallery and ecommerce site for photographers. I use it mainly for weddings portrait shoots at

Republished from August 2016, it’s a sort of instructional for aspiring live music shooters.

Having spent many a hot and sweaty night during the years I actively published the Urban Rag Zine either in the photographer’s pit or pressed against the barricades when there was none, I read it with some – albeit – nostalgic interest.

I would have to cull through a lot of years of photos, from negatives through the digital archives to find anything worthy of blowing up to poster size. This is not the case however for Patrick Harbron, whose “Rock & Roll Icons” exhibit hangs in Albany for two more weeks.

Whether its his shots of Ray Charles, for which Harbron wishes he could remember what he said to make the icon laugh, an extensive display of a young Bruce Springsteen, coverage of the Rolling Stones, KISS, ACDC, The Police, Bob Marley, John Mellencamp, or Deborah Harry (pictured in the ad for the exhibit) he really seems to have captured everyone active beginning in the late 1970s (Particularly if they toured through Toronto).

For music fans unsure about a spending time with a collection of photos, understand that these are simply beautiful to look at. You can hear the music in some of them. There also a soundtrack of rock playing in the background a few guitars from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and other items on display to lure you out

For photographers, there’s even a bit on the craft, from lenses to lighting and even Harbron’s old camera ‘bag,’ a nearly indestructible roller-skate box his caption explained could double as a sort of short step stool.

There’s also a bit of backstage insight, like references to Van Halen’s contract for photographers – retaining rights for the band “forever and until the end of time …” throughout the entire universe,” Harbron said he never signed it.

Mixed among the admirable insight is a fair amount of music history and career context surrounding some of the photos. Just what I’d expect in a setting such as an institute of history and art!

No doubt we’ve all seen some of Harbron’s work already, in print or on album covers, but not like this.

Many images can be viewed at the rock and roll icons link above, but it’s simply not the same as the large exquisite prints you’ll find in Albany – or wherever this exhibit might visit in its next incarnation.

I escaped completely into this exhibit – and maybe, even got a little inspired.




I operate the Ment Media Group. You can also like Jonathan Ment Photography on Facebook, subscribe to the photography blog and follow on Twitter