Slow Down to Get the Right Shot

red tulip

red tulip


One of the pieces of advice that veteran photographers often give to the beginner is to slow down. In many respects it  sounds counter-intuitive because the popular image of  photographers is of  their working in rapidly changing situations. Photojournalist, sports photographers and even nature photographers need to be fast and intuitive : to know the right place to be, with the  right equipment and right settings at the absolute right moment. Failing this, the resultant  image could very well be a pass or swing with no ball anywhere in the scene. Or a picture of baby cubs walking off in opposite directions who just two  seconds before  had been frolicking together.  Even the  garden photographer must work under the same time constraints as he tries to capture a bee on a petal. For these photographers the best advice is really not so much “slow down” but rather  “/f8 and don’t be late” or some other admonishment to  be ready at any moment.

But not all photographers need to operate under such time restraints and really can and should slow down. I am the photographer who shot the above photograph of the tulips. It was just beginning to sprinkle,  but there was no real need  to rush through the shoot, but I did. I didn’t take the time to ensure that  the image I was about to capture was, in fact, the image I wanted.  I missed capturing a pleasing composition which was easily within my grasp because I committed a novice’s error. Had I slowed down,  I would have noticed that part of the red tulip was covered by  green leaves . That is the kind of oversight, beginner’s mistake, that makes an otherwise striking photograph unfit for exhibiting or framing …. it is only suitable for use as a cautionary tale.

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The West Atlantic Ocean

Sunset at Chincoteague NWR

Sunset at Chincoteague NWR

sunset, lighthouse, beach

Sunset in Cape May, NJ



Irish landscape photographer, Peter Gordon, describes his on-going project Atlantic Fringe as “a collection of landscape photography from the west of Ireland focusing on the counties that border the Atlantic from Donegal in the north to Cork in the south. The work focuses on the wild parts of these counties.” In a previous blog I referred to Peter’s work as being an inspiration to me and posted one of his award winning images. The photographs that he has included in Atlantic Fringe capture the same haunting beauty and mystery that informs so much of his work. I encourage you to take a look.

The conceptual focus of Atlantic Fringe has affected my thinking about the direction in which to take photography. I have been in search of an idea for a long term project on which to focus. Atlantic Fringe suggests a direction for me. At first I thought I might “mirror” Peter’s Atlantic fringe by photographing the part of the western fringe of the Atlantic Ocean that is directly across the ocean from each of his photographs.  For now, I have  ruled out that idea because it would require spending a large amount of time along the northern coast of Quebec. Although I envision this project as potentially  life-changing even audacious plans can benefit from modest beginnings. With that in mind, this summer I plan to begin my photography project within my own little fringe of the Atlantic, holding steady between the 38th and 39th parallels, also known as the  Delmarva Peninsula.

Chincoteague National Seashore

Chincoteague National Seashore

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The Inspiration Image

This morning Spring served up a soft snow of  substantial yet weightless flakes. In a most agreeable fashion, the flakes fell upon only those surfaces whose beauty was enhanced by  them. The streets remained clear and cut a sharp black figure as they rolled out of the neighborhood. Snow covered the ground  just deep enough to form a pure white matting around the colors of the emerging spring bulbs -the yellows of the daffodils, purples of the crocus, whites of the snowdrops.  It really was the best kind of snowy day! A walk around Brookside Gardens with my new camera was in order.

Do you have an inspiration photograph? Someone else’s image that took your breath away the first time you saw it? The one that you return to look at, to gaze at, to study, over and over again? An image that has become for you, in a fashion, your Moby Dick?  The image that you must capture, the one that’s always calling to you? I have three  inspiration images – all shot in snow.


This image was taken by an Australian woman, Claire Takacs, who won the International Garden Photographer prize last year. It was taken in Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa, Japan. Aside from the snow, I love the violet umbrella being held by the woman on the bridge. I tried to take some photos today that were inspired by this photo. You can view all winners from the IGP competition at their site.



Coincidently, this second inspiration photograph was also taken in Japan, which is not the first place that I think of when I think about snow. German photographer Josef Hoflehner named his photograph “Patience”. Japan 2012. Visit Josef Hoflehner’s site.



PEG7559-2Irish photographer, Peter Gordon, won the prize for Best Single Image Landscape in this year’s Irish Professional Photographer Association competition. I am inspired by this image because of it’s simplicity and the mood. See more of Peter Gordon’s photographs and read his blog on his website.

I was hoping to capture something like Peter’s image when I saw The Cypress in Brookside this morning. There were too many other trees crowding it though, and I wasn’t successful – this time. I also tried to replicate Claire Takacs’s bridge photo. Again, not yet.

The two photographs below are my first attempts at capturing aspects of Takacs’s and Gordon’s inspirational photos.

Snowy Bridge at Brookside Garden, Maryland

Snowy Bridge at Brookside Garden, Maryland

Cypress at Brookside Garden, Maryland

Cypress at Brookside Garden, Maryland

I have posted  a few more images from today’s walk around Brookside Garden in my Landscape – Spring Gallery on this website. Take a look.

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A Short Time-Out in Charleston WV


My daughter, Elena, had a wedding to attend in West Virginia last week-end and I invited myself to go along for the ride. Elena and her friend, Megan, left me at Reservations to join 20 other Delta Gamma sorority sisters to start the festivities. I looked forward to taking photographs around Charleston, a town I had never visited.

I asked the young woman at the front desk if she could recommend places in town that I might like to photograph. She very obligingly took out a map, came around to my side of the desk and began circling and talking about areas and attractions. I anticipated a long afternoon of strolling and stopping and wanted to “travel light”, one camera and one lens. Do other photographers have trouble deciding what lenses to carry?

I set out on this walk the way I usually do – with a destination in mind. Today’s goal was an independent bookshop called Taylor Bookstore.  The weather was perfect that afternoon so I decided to walk towards the bookstore by way of the Kanawha River  which runs through Charleston. There are two paths along the river, an upper (which borders the street) and a lower. Joggers, couples both young and old, children with and without parents, were enjoying the day along the river. The occasional boat passed by and frequently the train whistle sounded as trains pulled up at the train station across the river. During summer evenings along the river at Haddad Riverfront Park there are live performances that Charlestonians can enjoy while relaxing on the riverbank or on their own boats. I don’t know what the city of Charleston has planned for this area, but I liked that there were no stores or restaurants along the riverfront, competing for my attention. Without that distraction I could see better and think clearer.

While Kanawha River borders the south side of Kanawha Boulevard, several well preserved  art deco buildings line the north side. You can see images I took of these in my Urban Landscape Gallery.

At one point in my wanderings I turned a corner and came upon an early 20th century building with the words Kanawha County Public Library chiseled across the top. There is almost nothing I love more than an old public library. As I walked up the wide steps, I imagined the original wood floors and oak tables, wrought iron railings leading up to an open second floor and perhaps some well preserved WPA art on the walls. Opening the wide doors and stepping inside, my heart dropped. Various “updates”  or modernization over the years had removed any historically significant architectural details from the library reading room, a space that I can only describe as desultory. Most of the patrons seemed to have settled in for the day and could only be what I recognized as “homeless or near homeless” and the staff was lackluster. With keen disappointment I walked out.

I did finally arrive at Taylor Bookstore. I was not disappointed. There was an impressive selection of recent fiction and non-fiction, popular as well as literary and academic. The magazine section included mainstream and small press publications. There was a small gallery along the left side of the bookshop that displayed fine local craft work such as glassware, jewelry and paintings. Very pretty to look at but you could also purchase a piece if it appealed to you. To the right of the main section of the bookshop there was a small cafe where you could look through your purchases or meet with a friend while you enjoyed a latte or tea and a pastry. Truthfully, I could have spent the rest of the afternoon in that bookstore…I had reached my destination, after all. But my camera was tugging at me, telling me to finish that latte and apple pie and go take more pictures.

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