Wildlife Photography

Trying something new. A quick share this a.m. http://www.adoramapix.com/blog/2014/02/18/photographing-wildlife-in-winter-5-tips/?refby=slgt&utm_source=slgt&utm_medium=Email&utm_term=Banner&utm_content=Main&utm_campaign=Pix02171710PixWinterWildlife#.WKb6GoV3W1w



There are more ‘cameras’ out there than ever before, but not every smart-phone slinging shutterbug knows a lot about shot composition.

That’s alright. It’s why there are photographers.

We’re supposed to understand a bit about what make an image more than good and where the possibility exists to move the observer, to make them ‘feel’ something other than mere recognition.

It’s the difference between ‘that’s a nice picture of those two’ and ‘wow, those two must be in love.’

Recently I updated my mug (face) across most social media. I won’t go into why (some do as often as the weather), but I will explain how.

I took the image I’d been using, which I was happy with, and flipped it horizontally in Photoshop. That’s it. I cropped it basically the same way and uploaded.

What struck me, after Facebook friends were notified of this breaking news, was the feedback I received on my new profile pic – specifically the lack of a particular type of comment. On a related note, I do ‘maintain’ a Facebook page for my photography, though – the profile pic isn’t there… Go ahead and follow or like me on Facebook. I don’t bite.

Perhaps folks were just being kind, and who doesn’t appreciate a little flattery, but nobody wrote “That photo looks familiar,” or “Is that the same photo just backwards?”

I know, I know… when you update your profile pic, folks don’t get to see it side by side with the old one like here.


Still, I wasn’t expecting any feedback – and once it began, I thought someone would mention it.

If you’ve been using a shot for six months or more and you’re active online, I’d assume people would recognize your profile pic.

O.K. Let’s put that all aside. Perhaps nobody looked at my pic since May, and were sincerely complimenting me on the new image.

The response however, dozens of likes and the related comments, got me thinking my reasons for flipping the photo were valid.

It got me thinking about mirrored images and inverted images, though turning folks into their negative sometimes produces scary results. Nonetheless, Mirror:Mirror is this week’s theme.

(Tangent Warning/TW) coincidently the approximate name of a favorite episode of Star Trek TOS about an alternative universe. No, we’re not writing about Star Trek – though I can’t help sharing this shot of alternate-universe Spock -straight and half inverted.


What the hell, for those of you unfamiliar with the show (you’re probably out there) – here’s what Leonard Nimoy’s character usually looked like, next to ‘evil Spock.’


If you’ve got to have more on the Star Trek thing, you can read this piece by R.S. Guthrie who sums it up nicely

Back to this reality.

Perhaps because of my film and video training has conditioned me to notice continuity errors such as unbuttoned shirts between takes, or line-of-sight conflicts, I often notice – or think I notice flipped photos. Sometimes the give away is in the background. Sometimes it’s as simple as a T-shirt with backwards content.

A photo might be flipped so that it will read better on the page (or screen).

A sequence might be ‘flipped’ day for night, as in the filming of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Pscycho.”

Or, an image might be flipped artistically, purely for arts sake – possibly even paired with the original in kaleidoscope fashion.

Here’s a example that works well – I see butterflies in the mirrored shot of ice crystals



Here are two shots that probably shouldn’t be flipped – even if advantageous for the layout.


Here’s a shot that’s flipped to no end. It’s a throw-away snap of a bird and nothing is really gained in this instance by flipping it on it’s own – but when paired with the original it starts to become something.snowbirdmirror

In this split-screen sundial from Five Rivers which I wrote about a few weeks back, the left side retains the natural patina. The right half, which is inverted, looks more like vintage brass. I think it looks better than the original in some ways, because the dreadful mortor applied to deter thieves is less obtrusive. I’m amused at how completely natural the boulder looks on both sides. It seems like there might be a use for this anti-aging effect on old metal in photographs.


My wife, the whitewater guide, first asked if this was a real reflection shot then, after I showed her how it was achieved said “that can’t be real, because the water would be rippled from the waterfall.” Water-smart, she is. She also corrected me on location. It was North Carolina, not Maryland. I knew there was a wedding involved.


It could be interesting to look at and share your ‘mirrored’ images in a future post, and I’d like to pursue it as a way to extend the conversation

I’m going to borrow some guidelines from Leanne Cole, who absolutely sets the bar for this sort of community activity. Full disclosure: While writing this I discovered Cole recently published “Reflections” for her Monochrome Madness blog.

(Madness indeed! Have I any original thoughts?)

I’m blushing at the similarities, but stress I’m interested in manipulated images not naturally occurring reflections.

As such, I invite you to email your manipulated photo(s) to jonathan@mentgroup.com when I have enough to proceed, I’ll revisit Mirror:Mirror and share. I’d like to revisit in a week or two. Let’s see if interest grows.

Preparing your photos:

For the sake of my Internet connection and the needs of the web, images should be resized to low-resolution with the largest size 1,000 pixels or less and saved with a new file name (protect your originals!).

Please modify the file name to include your name or blog or website. Include a link to your blog or website in the body of the email.

If you have something great to share, but prefer to remain anonymous in the blogged version, that’s fine too. Just let me know.

Any questions? Drop me a line.


Getting the Shot: Part 2 No Two Snowflakes Are Alike

dscf1211_wmWith the election season behind us, thankfully, and only the uncertain future ahead many folks it seems have returned to talking about the weather. It’s cold, it’s hot, it’s raining. It’s not.

Political memes have given way to shots of snow covered back yards and decks, and it’s these shots that make me laugh.

It’s as though everyone is telling everyone else – look, it snowed. The proof is in the photo.

dscf1215_wmSo many of these shots include the snow-covered barbecue, patio table or deck rail.

Perhaps is unconscious.

Cabin fever expressed through a visual declaration of external in-hospitability?

“Look, there’s my deck. I could probably go out there, but I’d have to shovel.”

Perhaps, and more likely, it’s merely the slipper-clad-coffee-cup-wielding-cell phone-camera-clutching masses keeping warm and dry while commiserating.

Christmas wasn’t white, except on the ski slopes in our part of the Catskills. (Nor Chanukah!) My snow tires are barely getting a workout … so far … knock on wood … dare I mention it … glad I’m not superstitious … jinx buy me a — Pepsi! (Got ya!) But we have had a fair bit of winter precipitation of late. Flurries, what seems like most days, a few all-out snowstorms with measurable inches.

dscf1168_wmBut course nothing can save the snow from the repeated temperate afternoons, leaving most roads thankfully clear and snow lumps in a sad shrunken state.

The change comes quick. From winter wonderland wow to mud covered cleanup mode. Getting the shot means getting out there as soon as you know it might be waiting.

Now, I will confess to liking my Acorn slippers so much that they’re fairly worn out and due for replacement. And – I’ve taken my share of shots from the safety of the porch. But sometimes – the boots must go on.

Like after an ice storm, when every twig glistens within it’s shroud of frozen precipitation, I always admire the scenery when the snow clings just so. Rarely, however to I take off the lens cap and capture it.dscf1177_wm

Here are a few shots I did venture out for, earlier in this early part of winter.

Some I’ve taken before, meaning I’ve shot the same subject over and over before like a waterfall waiting for the shot.

Others are new to me-principally, such as the snow-covered branches for which I rarely get out in time to photograph.

There’s a narrow window of opportunity for these sorts of photos. Too early, and the snow is still flying. Too late and it’s melted away.

“Getting the Shot: Part 1″


Several months ago a prospective client approached me with a few questions.

OK, that’s what I’m here for. Ask away.

“Do you do scenic photography?” he asked.

“Sure, what do you have mind,” I replied.

“Like nature photography,” he said, “Scenery.”

“Did you want a piece of property photographed? Or did you want me to accompany you on a hike through the woods.”

“We’d like a shot of the falls,” he said. “Like this one,” he added pointing to the image on a brochure.

Now, I wasn’t going to go too far down that path. It would probably have been pointless.

It had been a dry summer. There wasn’t much water trickling over the falls. The time of year was wrong. If there was water and the time of year was right, it would have been tough to duplicate the light.

“I think you can buy prints of that photograph. Or ones a lot like it,” I said.

Every photographer knows, you can return to the same spot at the same time of day, at the same time of year and ‘the shot’ will be different. You keep taking them, waiting for “the one.”

I’m reminded of butterflies on a ring bearer’s shoulders. Private moments willingly exposed to my camera, looks of surprise or exaltation on people’s faces and the combination of joy and pride in parent’s eyes.

Except perhaps in commercial photography, such as real estate and catalog work, the camera records. The photographer is there to decide what. But the ‘what’ is generally beyond our control.

When I’ve done product photography, I’ve been able to control every aspect from position and light to angle. At the high end, real estate is filmed or photographed with measures taken to control both artificial and natural light. But in live events, or nature, we are there to pick, point, prepare and press the button.

I was reminded of this last week when Associated Press Photographer Burhan Ozbilici captured those frightful images of a gunman’s assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov.

“I’m a journalist,” wrote Ozbilici in an essay for the AP. “I have to do my work. I could run away without making any photos, but I wouldn’t have a proper answer if people later asked me – why didn’t you take pictures?”

I disagree. Fear for one’s life would be answer. There are others.

But I admire the path he took. The photos are chilling. They look like stills from a movie set. The horror on the faces of onlookers is real.

Ironically, the Ankara art gallery in which the photos of the murder were taken, was exhibiting a collection of photographs, and Ozbilici was apparently in attendance as a spectator.

This speaks to another point.

Capturing ‘the shot,’ means being prepared. Presumably off duty, this AP photographer still had a camera at the ready. It’s why news photographers (and videographers) keep gear in the trunks of their cars – in case they happen upon the next big accident or fire close to the moment of impact, so to speak.

If you’ve ever watched the nightly news and wondered why the reporter is still standing outside the yellow police tape for the 11 o’clock report, ask yourself if they’re overcompensating for not getting ‘the shot’ of the flames ripping through the roof earlier in the day.

It’s like a shot of the scorched earth where the conflagration occurred, or a splatter of blood where the ambassador’s body previously laid. Those both tell a story, but not in the way being there in the moment does.

Personally, enjoy photographing the occasional waterfall. But I’m pretty sure, if it’s that shot the guy wanted, prints are available – and the photographer selling them deserves to the sale.


Bridge Construction

A stroll with a buddy today brought me to the site of some bridge construction I’ve been trying to ignore. It’s resulted in a fair bit of traffic past my quiet country home, along with the threat of more traffic to come.

Nameplate from the 105-year old bridge destroyed during Hurricane Irene
Nameplate from the 105-year old bridge destroyed during Hurricane Irene

Of course, once this bridge is rebuilt – having been washed away during Hurricaine Irene, those drivers that follow their GPS down this now dead-end road and then out again will be able to complete the promoted course.  Ultimately I estimate there will be less traffic rather than more.

Fine old bridge
Fine old bridge

I’ve taken quite a few photographs along this road, including some of the old bridge before its demise. But as often as I walk it, I rarely bring a camera along – or there would be many more photos.

Did however bring the camera today, and found that once I started looking a few things did catch the photographer’s eye.

Don't know what these are, but I think they were made in America.
Don’t know what these are, but I think they were made in America.

We’ll file these under ‘texture’ or ‘construction,’ for lack of a better idea.

I’ve long been interested in construction – big and small. It’s what prompted me to buy the fixer-upper we call home, and what keeps me tuned in to remodeling and renovation shows on the tube.  I always notice construction cranes along the road, in the distance or in the city, where they’re hardest to capture in pictures (no helicopter).


I’m know I played with toy trucks when I was a wee one, but this didn’t carry over into an adult desire to run ‘em.


So while I still have this fascination with construction vehicles, I think it’s born of something other than a boyish love of big trucks.rebar_new

Where does all of this lead me? I’m not sure, but I wanted to share these few photos from today.  Perhaps this will motivate me to share the photos I completed about a month ago at a bigger construction site in nearby Cairo, NY.


Remembering Photographer Bill Madden

I will not say I knew Bill Madden well, though we worked together for years at the Daily Freeman. He would show up, occasionally grumbling of overwork, and take the pictures for some of the stories I was assigned to cover – or he’d show up smiling, after a nice drive in the country, to shoot the photos for a feature I’d figured out for myself a little off the beaten path.

I think I was on vacation, in the parking lot of a Krispy Kreme in North Carolina when I got the call that he’d died. He was young, mid to late 40s I suppose, 50? really not much older than I am now, I don’t think, though I believe he’d been raising kids when I was just newly married.

Over the years we both worked for the Daily Freeman, I can recall stumbling across Bill, or Billy as some staffers called him, catching his breath between assignments behind the wheel of the beat up company vehicle – parked in the shade of an uptown Kingston tree.

When you’re a photographer for a daily newspaper, you shoot everything. Varsity sports, features, murders, fires and accidents – it is not glamorous work and it doesn’t pay particularly well in Upstate, NY. But if you’ve got talent, and Bill certainly did, you bring your eye to as many subjects as possible.

I worked with a reporter at the Freeman, who in an effort to protect the sanctity of the photographer’s role, only brought back pictures of feet when sent out with the dreaded point and shoot sometimes foisted on the reporting staff. The editors stopped asking.

These days, most of the staff runs around with pocket-sized video cameras taking video and stills, most of which I can’t bear to look at. Learning to write news is hard enough, now many small newspapers want all their staffers to multitask across disciplines. Alas, much of the art is very long gone.

News of Bill’s death was shocking to say the least. Everyone battles their own health demons, and I was aware he had a few – but for the most part he was a rough and tumble, scrappy sort – clamboring down hills and through the brush with a camera in one hand. Always in jeans and hiking boots.

I loved this photo when it ran in the Daily Freeman. Loved it so much that it’s been hanging on my fridge ever since, and this morning I noticed just how yellowed it’s become. And I thought about Bill.

I remember talking to him about this stick-chewing beagle, and everytime I see the photo – every time – I remember what he said. Bill worked with this dog for several minutes to get this beautiful shot – and Bill was holding the stick, out of frame, pressing the shutter release with his other hand. Not exactly candid, and who cares?
It’s a great shot.

Bill was one of three main Photographers I remember from my eight years with the Freeman. Keith Hitlin, who may have exited before I joined the staff fulltime, took a beautiful shot for a feature I wrote about a carousel, and the resulting Page 1. Play meant a lot to me early in my newspaper career. He caught the movement of the ride behind the proprietor. If I can dig it out, I’ll shun another copyright and share it here.

Another Photographer, Bob Haines (now retired) was partly responsible for my meeting the future missus Ment. He needed her name for a caption accompanying a feature we were working on, and we joked for years that he was either to thank or to blame for the relationship. I still owe him a case of Michelob Light.

Photographers have touched my life on several levels, and as I looked at this beagle on my refrigerator door this morning – I felt like sharing. Thanks for reading.

Montana a 10-week-old beagle chews on a stick held by the  Bill Madden, a photographer for the Daily Freeman during my years on staff there. Bill died young, and I think of him often. It occurs to me Montana is a middle-aged dog now.