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The Mermaid Parade: What Photographers Need to Know

June 16, 2014
--Mermaid Parade - Coney Island - New York

The Mermaid Parade is an annual event that happens in Coney Island on the first Saturday after summer solstice.  It’s an odd and wonderful event that tests your street photography skills.  But not to worry, it is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel – you’ll definitely come away with some fun images.

I asked fellow photogs Mike & Sally Harris and Renee Giffroy to provide their tips for shooting at the Mermaid Parade.  Here’s our advice:

  1. Buy a Photographer Pass.  It’s only $20 and it gets you into the staging area starting at 10am.  This is where most of the mermaids will get ready.  But note, there are more photographers at this event than pretty much anywhere else.  You will trip over all the photogs. Registration opens at 10am at Surf Ave and West 21st St.
  2. Buy your “photographer pass” in advance.  You’ll pick it up from a much shorter line than from the masses of photographers buying it the day of the parade.
  3. Counter to #1, don’t buy a Photographer Pass and just engage people on the street.  You won’t be jostling with as many other photographers. You may need to work harder than those with the pass, but you might get some more unique images.
  4. Arrive early.  The setup time is more interesting than the parade itself.
  5. This is your chance to get comfortable shooting people, so feel free to get close.  Everyone there expects it and is almost insulted if you don’t find them interesting.
  6. Don’t be afraid to engage your subject.  If there is a pose you want, just ask.  When you find a good subject, stick with it.  The mermaids love to be photographed.  Try lots of different angles, move in, move out, move around.
  7. There is action everywhere.  You can get as many good shots staking out one or two locations as you can by wandering around.
  8. Remember to get detail shots – it’s a great place to get faces, hands, costumes, feet, etc.
  9. The back of people is sometimes more interesting than the front.  Be sure to look at them after they pass you.
  10. If it’s a sunny day you’ll need to account for harsh shadows.  A little bit of fill flash can do wonders.
  11. Mermaids come in all shapes and sizes, as well as a wide variety of clothing…or not.  If you don’t want to explain why Ariel is topless, you might want to leave the kids at home.
  12. If you don’t plan to stay for the parade, be sure you have your exit strategy mapped out well in advance, and be sure you are on the correct side of the street before the parade begins.  If not, you’ll be trapped on the inside of the parade route for a few extra hours.
  13. Bring water and maybe a snack.  There are places to eat, but lines are long.
  14. Dress comfortably. You’ll be on your feet the whole time.  Bring a hat if it’s a hot and sunny day.  There’s almost no place to hide from the sun.  Wear sunscreen, but wash your hands before using your camera.
  15. If you are driving, plan accordingly.  The streets will get very crowded and busy and it may take you longer to find a parking spot than you think.  There are lots available charging event parking rates.  Carpool with other photographers.

The details:

2014 Event: Saturday, June 21st.  Opens at 10am.  Parade starts at 1pm.


Registration and Photographer Passes:



--Mermaid Parade - Coney Island - New York


Exhuberance - Mermaid Parade 2012 - Coney Island - New York


One of the Girls - Mermaid Parade 2012 - Coney Island - New York



2013 – Reviewing the Year In Photographs

January 1, 2014

2013 was a great year.  I skied a lot and I traveled quite a bit.  I had the great fortune to visit some great places like The Palouse, Northwest New Mexico, my family cabin in Wisconsin, Maine, and Morocco.  We hosted family from India and showed them Washington D.C., Vermont, New Hampshire and the area closer to home, too.  I had such amazing experiences this year that I had a hard time narrowing down my favorites to just 13 images.

Without further ado, here’s what I liked the most from 2013.

1. Silent Echo, Acadia National Park, Maine.  It rained most of the weekend so our hopes of grand landscapes and colorful sunrises were dashed.  To blow the time during a cold and torrential downpour, we even escaped to the only movie theater in Bar Harbor to see Star Trek Into Darkness.  What to shoot in the rain?  As I walked through the woods near the Nature Center, I was reminded of my friend Roger Busch’s image here.  I set out to make my raindrops-in-water picture.

Silent Echo - Acadia - Bar Harbor Maine

2. Chaos Theory.  This was taken out of the car window near White River Junction in Vermont.  We spent a few days in Vermont and New Hampshire during the fabulous fall colors we get here in the Northeast.  We were probably a week too early for peak color, but there were patches that were spectacular. What I like about this picture is that it isn’t the normal “panning out the window” shot.  Somehow there is more motion than is usual.  I don’t know if the leaves were blowing in the wind or if we hit a pothole as I clicked the shutter, but it doesn’t really matter.

Chaos Theory - White River Junction - VT Vermont

3. Monsoon Season, Bisti Badlands, New Mexico.  For several years we’ve wanted to go to Bisti Badlands in Northwest New Mexico.  I had seen pictures of the area and had heard the “monsoon season” was the time to go.  I had no idea we had monsoons in North America, but after a bit of research, I confirmed that we actually do have one.  In this area in July and August, days are warm and clear.  In the afternoon though, clouds build up and storms pop up all around.  This day we planned to hike 2 miles into the wilderness.  The storms were encircling us in the parking lot and we didn’t venture more than 50 feet as lightning blazed on all horizons.  I was intrigued by the cracked mud and worked on several compositions to find something I liked.  I’m glad we stayed here long enough to get this shot.  The next day, after some torrential rain, these dried mud sculptures were all washed out.

Monsoon Season - Bisti Badlands - Farrmington NM

4. Dye Pits, Fes, Morocco. Sure, this is a pretty standard picture of the tannery in Fes.  But what I like about it is how much activity is going on.  It makes me think of a Where’s Waldo book.  There’s action and color, and the workers are completely unfazed that hundreds of photographers come through on a daily basis.  And bonus for us, it didn’t stink too badly the day we were there.

Dye PIts - Tannery - Fes el Bali - Morocco

5. Out of the Earth, Shiprock, New Mexico.  This was a freakin’ amazing sunset.  After what felt like years of being skunked on good sunsets, this trip completely delivered.  We scouted the area earlier in the day in full cloudless wonder of blue skies.  When this storm developed I had high hopes which seemed to be immediately dashed when it looked like the clouds would cover the horizon and any chance of a sunset.  Sometimes the landscape Gods do smile.

Out of the Earth - Shiprock - NM

6.  Untitled.  There’s a public boat yard in Norwalk, CT that’s my go-to location when I’m in need of some winter inspiration.  Hundreds of boats pulled out for the winter in various states of disrepair, just sitting out on stanchions waiting for me to discover them.  Usually, the stanchions are uncovered.  Here I was drawn to the water stains on the hull and how those drips seemed to be mirrored in the fold of the fabric.  The color palette was a plus, too.

Untitled - Boat Abstracts - Norwalk CT

7. Alleyways, Marrakech, Morocco.  Taking people pictures in Morocco was really difficult.  I ended up shooting from the hip a lot, and sometimes I liked what I caught.  For me, this picture captures everyday life.  A few people walking home, or heading off to the market, at the end of the day.  My mind races making up stories for these three people.

Alleyways - Marrakech Medina - Morocco

8. Sea Turtle, Bisti Badlands, New Mexico.   Yup, you can call me crazy.  I travel to see rocks.  These are the formations we wanted to see when we got stuck in the parking lot for image #3 above.  Instead of hiking out for sunset, we got up early and hiked into the darkness led only by our trusty GPS and headlamps.  The 2 mile hike in the dark felt like it was forever.  The rain the previous night left the earth a muddy mess.  I was at least two inches taller with all the mud that accumulated on my shoes as we worked our way around the hoodoos to find the Egg Factory. When we arrived here it was barely twilight.  This was an amazing experience to be here as the sun broke the horizon, alone in the wilds of New Mexico.

Sea Turtle - Bisti Badlands - Farmington, NM

9. Evening Stroll, Chefchaouen, Morocco.  The overcoat worn by Moroccans is called a djellaba, and what makes it uniquely Moroccan (and not just Middle Eastern) is the pointy hat.  Shamik and I split up for a bit this evening because we were finding interesting people and following them through the market.  We looked like crazy stalkers — and we were.  What I like about this one is that it’s a nice mix of natural light and street light.  The amount of blur is just right — you know this is a person on the move.  That, and it’s totally identifiable as being in Morocco.

Evening Stroll - Chefchaouen Morocco

10. Whitman County Growers, The Palouse, Washington.  I was disappointed by the hazy conditions when we arrived here.  After shooting a sunrise and a sunset in clear conditions over the next few days, I realized that this was a more interesting picture.  The view from Steptoe Butte is incredible.  I’d love to come back here at different times of the year.  I bet a fresh snow is interesting, too.

Whitman County Growers - Steptoe Butte - The Palouse WA

11. Irrigation, Farmington, New Mexico.  We stopped along the road to try to capture lightning.  I was rather unsuccessful at that endeavor.  Then I started taking pictures of the wheat whipping around in the wind.  I didn’t see this picture until I took a quick snap on my iPhone.  On the phone, I saw this composition and moved in closer to the irrigation unit with my big-girl camera and tripod and worked on getting the right mix of motion in the sprinkler heads and the wheat.

Irrigation - Farmington - NM

12. A Long Day’s Work, Marrakech, Morocco.  In the middle of the hubbub and the hustle and bustle of the market, this man catches a quick nap.  Or perhaps, a not so quick nap.  I know the feeling.  I often feel like this during long meetings at work.

A Long Days Work-Marrakech-Morocco

13. Berber Camp, Merzouga, Morocco.  This one is special for me.  Sure, it’s a nice picture of a small Berber Camp in the Sahara Desert.  Right after taking this picture, my sweetie proposed to me.  It’s a pretty awesome place for a proposal, and of course, I said yes.  I’m lucky to share my life with someone who not only tolerates my passion for photography, but who has the passion, too.  It makes planning trips really easy, and a heck of a lot of fun.  Here’s to many more years of spectacular sunrises and sunsets, to rain and fog, to monsoon season with crazy clouds, and all the adventures we have yet to experience.

Berber Camp-Sahara-Merzouga-Morocco

Changing It Up

December 8, 2013
I subscribe to Joe McNally’s blog.  He is the master of flash photography, which I myself haven’t mastered, so I’m in continual awe of his vision and execution.  Plus, I like his writing.
I finally  had a chance to read this blog post.  What really struck me was his comment about reminding himself “entire to detail.”  This is something I struggle with.  I get so honed in on capturing one image, usually with my wide angle, that I get too lazy to switch lenses to get a different take, a different angle, or a different view.
A few years ago, Shamik and I were at Pemaquid Point Lighthouse in Maine.  We had been there several times before.  We’d both taken portfolio worthy shots here, and I think we were both inclined to take “the shot” again and just keep moving on.  But I gave myself the assignment of using at least 3 different lenses in my bag.  It was a great exercise because it got me out of my wide angle view of the world.  I moved in on the detail and I walked around the lighthouse.  It was a great reminder that that creativity is at hand regardless of which lens you’re using.
A wide angle shot taken on the Canon 40D.  10-20 mm at 20mm. ISO 200, f11, 1/400th sec.
An overview scene taken on the Canon 40D with the LensBaby Composer.  ISO 200 at 1/400th.
A detail shot on the Canon 40D.  ISO 200, 135mm, f16, 1/160th sec.
Pemaquid Point Lighthouse-Pemaquid-Maine
The portfolio shot, a 5 vertical image panorama.  Canon 40D, 10-20mm at 10mm, ISO 200, f11, 1/200th sec.

Finding Bruarfoss

October 28, 2012

We did a lot of research on Iceland before we left home.  Months were spent browsing pictures from 500px, Flickr, Google, and a variety of other sites devoted to showing the splendor of Iceland.  We highlighted pictures from Gullfoss, Seljalandsfoss, Vik, Dyrholaey, and the Snaefellsness Peninsula, taking meticulous notes on what was there and why we’d want to see it.  All of this was put into a Google Map to help us figure out our itinerary.  As we constructed our itinerary, one waterfall really captured my attention catapulting it to the top of my must-see list — Bruarfoss — a small but mighty waterfall in the Golden Circle area.

I asked at the hotel how to get to the waterfall, but no one there had ever heard of it.  The guy at the front desk did manage to find the river Bruar.  (Foss means waterfall in Icelandic, so Bruarfoss should mean the waterfall on the Bruar River.)  I found general directions (with GPS coordinates) in one of Richard Bernabe’s blog posts so our afternoon scouting was supposed to be quick. We followed those directions to a tee, finding the turn and driving though the holiday park to the parking area. The notes said it was a 15 minute hike — and just remember to keep the river on your left.  Off we went, down the lane, turning right and heading upstream as instructed.  We hiked.  We climbed over fences. The path narrowed and we hiked further, and further.  After 45 minutes we were entirely sure we were not in the right place.

We got back to the car and re-read the directions trying to figure out the right way.  We turned into another holiday park and drove though.  We even stopped and asked some Icelanders on vacation if they knew of Bruarfoss.  They got a little map of the holiday park and we perused that, looking for any clues of where the waterfall might be.  We drove back to the main road and tried another holiday park, curving through gravel roads until they disappeared into grassy paths.  We got out and hiked a bit.  We found a tiny little waterfall, and our Icelandic holiday-ers who thought we’d found the waterfall we were looking for.

By this time, we’d been scouting for over two hours.  The sky was blue and cloudless — not prime conditions for stellar sunset pictures.  I was getting ready to give up.  We needed a plan B for sunset if Bruarfoss was a bust.  We walked back toward the car when I noticed a small sign that included the word “Bru” – meaning bridge.  From the pictures I’d seen, there was a bridge over the river.  As a last ditch effort, we crossed the small footbridge and hiked a bit.  We gave ourselves 20 minutes of hiking before we turned around.  To our surprise, we actually found it!

We made a quick trip into town for sandwiches and beer since we knew we wouldn’t make it back to the hotel before they stopped serving dinner.  We drove around and took pictures of horses and generally admired the landscape as well as the cloudless sky.  Yes, this looked to be another bust on the sunset front.

We parked the car, grabbed our gear and a few beers and headed back to the waterfall.  As the sun began to dip toward the mountains to the west and the temperatures dropped, a few wisps of clouds appeared.  We took a few pictures from the bridge before making our way down a steep and sloppy slope to the river. As we waited for the sun to drop, the clouds were developing nicely.

For me, this was a very successful shoot.  I didn’t get too committed to one spot.  I moved around trying different angles and compositions.  I tried my hardest to channel all my photog friends on the West Coast who shoot waterfalls regularly.

Here are some of my favorite images from that evening:

View from the bridge with a wide angle lens


View from the bridge with a long lens:


View from the river. Be sure to bring waterproof boots.  This water is very cold.



Directions to Bruarfoss:

UPDATED 22 JUNE 2013:  I’ve had several readers inform me that my directions are no longer accurate and there is now a locked gate.

MY ORIGINAL DIRECTIONS:  From Laugarvatn, take 37 toward Geysir. Just before crossing road 355, you go over a bridge – this is the Bruar River.  Stay on 37, go past 355  and take the 2nd left at Reykjavegur which is 1.6 km from 355.  Take a picture of the map next to the road so you can navigate all the way to the end (at the top of the map).  Park where the gravel road ends.  Walk a short distance on the grass road to a small footbridge.  Cross the footbridge and stay on the path, bearing right at the first juncture.  Continue about 10 minutes to the next bridge over the Bruar River at the waterfall.

SUGGESTIONS FROM READERS:  1) You can also park your car directly at the bridge at 37 and hike along the river (right side) – there is a path going up to Brúarfoss – and on the way you pass another beautiful even less well known waterfall called Hlaupstungafoss.  2) If you go to the next road, you can drive to the bridge, park and walk from there.

Please keep sending me updates on your best way to find Bruarfoss.  It will help everyone.  Thanks for reading!

Taking Stock – A Look Back at 2011

January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!  It’s that time to take stock of the past year, and in looking back, it was fantastic!  From the Eastern Sierras, to India and France, and kayaking, hiking and canoing in the tri-state area, we had a really blast.  I had the pleasure of being featured in Serendipity Magazine and getting a solo show at the Southport Galleries.  I met several new photographers including Darren White ( and Arnab Banerjee (  But the year wouldn’t have as fun or productive without the companionship and inspiration from Shamik ( 

Here are my ten favorite pictures of the year (in order by date):

1. Clear Night in the Sierras.  This was taken at Mobius Arch in the Alabama Hills on a clear night with a full moon.  We light painted the arch with our flashlights.  The full moon provided the light for the snowy mountains.

2. One Blind Eye.  This man was selling water near the temple in central Udaipur, India. 

3. Waiting.  This is one from the India in Motion series. 

4. Ricochet.  Taken on the Pacific Coast at Cape Kiwanda.  I love the tension in this shot as the wave ricochets off the cliff wall and starts its way back out to sea.

5. Majestic Maine was taken at Portland Head Lighthouse.  We were supposed to be canoeing the Delaware River this weekend, but our plans were cancelled due to unsafe river conditions after Hurricane Irene.  I’m so glad we decided to head to Maine instead.

6. Rockport Abstract.  This was taken the very next morning in Rockport, Maine.  A pretty heavy fog thwarted our landscape photography plans.  But give me a harbor and I’m a happy camper. 

7. The Overlook — taken at Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah.  This was the only day we had any clouds. 

8. Lone Kayaker.  This is from the Thimble Islands, just off the Connecticut coast.  We lucked out on the weather this morning and there was just enough fog and clouds to make Long Island Sound feel like it was the middle of the ocean.

9.  Ominous.  This was another morning of insane light.  Taken at Montauk Point, NY.

10. Earth and Sky.  A cold, clear, moonless night at Delicate Arch let us try photographing the Milky Way. 

Here’s to a healthy and prosperous 2012!  Let me know which is your favorite.

Why Aren’t My Images Sharp?

September 19, 2011
DUMBO - Brooklyn - NY

This is probably the most common question we hear from beginner photographers, and there are many possible explanations.  Here’s the checklist you should run though to make sure user error isn’t the culprit.

 1. Is Your Shutter Speed Sufficient?  A very common mistake is to get so caught up in the moment of shooting that you forget to check your shutter speed.  There’s a rule of thumb to keep in mind when you’re shooting pictures hand-held. Your shutter speed should be 1/focal length of your lens.  This means that if you’re shooting at 50mm, your shutter speed should be at least 1/60th or faster to get sharp pictures.  If you’re shooting at 200mm, you should be shooting at 1/250th or faster. 

 2. Are You Using a Tripod?  To get really sharp images, using a tripod is a must.  I agree that not all situations warrant a tripod.  For example, street photography is difficult with a tripod. Often, street photographers are trying to be unseen and need to react quickly to situations and scenes that unfold.  But in landscape photography, the scene isn’t changing rapidly and a tripod gives you the proper support to shoot sharp images. 

3. Do You Have Image Stabilization (Canon)/Vibration Reduction (Nikon) Turned Off?  This is the number one mistake made when shooting on a tripod, and I have fallen victim to this one myself.  Sophisticated lenses have special technology called IS (Canon) and VR (Nikon) which actually works to compensate for the small movements you make when hand-holding your camera to take a picture.  When you put your camera on a tripod and leave IS/VR in the ON position, the lens “thinks” you’re hand-holding and makes the necessary micro-adjustments to compensate.  As a result, the images come out slightly blurry.  It’s imperative that you turn IS/VR to OFF as soon as you put your camera on a tripod. 

Unsharp image with IS turned ON










4. Are You Using Mirror Lock-Up?  Now that you’re shooting on a tripod and you have IS/VR turned OFF, one other thing to do is to use the Mirror Lock-Up function.  When you take a picture, the mirror quickly slaps up and then back down – making the DSLR clicking noise.  Using Mirror Lock-Up ensures the camera doesn’t shake at all when it snaps the picture. (I’ll admit, I generally do not use Mirror Lock-Up.)

5.  Are You Using a Cable Release or Your Timer Function? Another consideration is that when you actually push the shutter button, you’re probably moving the camera a little bit, even on a sturdy tripod.  One way to eliminate this is to use a cable release button so you’re not actually touching your camera.  The cable release button is useful if you’re trying to take a picture at an exact moment.  I often just use my 2-second timer function when I’m taking landscapes.  The sun isn’t setting that fast that I need to snap the picture at a precise moment. 

Running through this check list generally resolves any issues with complaints about image sharpness.  If using these techniques doesn’t resolve sharpness issues, you’ll need to consider whether your tripod is sturdy enough, whether you’re using your tripod correctly, or whether you genuinely have an issue with the lens on your camera.

Play and the Creative Process

July 26, 2011

I’ve been thinking about the creative process recently.  How do you get out of a rut?  How do you find inspiration?  If you’re not in a rut, how do you find the next unique image.  I think play and experimentation are really important tools. 

When I’m out in the field and unable to deliver on my vision I may try panning or zooming.  This sometimes reveals some colors, shapes, or textures that are interesting that I couldn’t see with my landscape-reality-goggles on.  It can help me find new angles on a scene, and it can help me find something new to highlight in the image. 

Another way I get out of a rut is to force myself to use a different lens.  If I’m shooting wide angles, I put on the telephoto for awhile.  Or, maybe I grab the macro.  Sometimes I head out for the morning and force myself, regardless of the location, to use at least four different lenses.  It’s not about getting portfolio-worthy shots.  It’s about getting outside my comfort zone, experimenting, re-learning something I once knew.

Here’s an image I took in my dining room a few weeks ago.  I cut a peony and set it up in a vase with a nice white background for a high key image.  I was working with my Speedlight 580EX which can be controlled remotely with the 7D.  This was an experiment in off-camera flash and a lesson in managing the flash from the camera using TTL.  As I began to try new lighing setups I also turned it into an experiment with my macro lens with extension tubes.  I learned a lot about my equipment.  And, I liked how I was seeing new things in the peony.  With the extension tubes, I stopped shooting a flower and started to look for shapes and light and composition. 

Trying new lenses and new techniques helps me look at the world in new ways

NOTE:  Before I get a lot of comments about the color.  I also did some post-processing.  The peony was white or light pink.  With the flash, it was basically a black and white image.  By chaning the white balance and applying split toning in Lightroom, I was able to create a soothing balance of colors.


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