Wynwood Walls

We had a little time in Miami today and wanted to have lunch somewhere less touristy.  On the recommendation of the hotel, we ended up in an area called the Wynwood Walls. This is a part of town dedicated to graffiti art, funky shops, and great restaurants.  It was so much fun to wander around admiring the amazing art adorning pretty much every wall in the area.


Travel Tip: This looks like a hopping spot for night life.  If time permits go during the day to admire the art and stay through evening to enjoy the night life.

Restaurant Recommendation: We thoroughly enjoyed lunch at SuViche Wynwood located at 2751 N Miami Ave, Miami, FL 33127.  The Peruvian cuisine is served in a cool, trendy, hipster kind of place.  Service was great.  The Lomo Saltado was delicious as was the Arroz Chaufa with seafood.  And the Blood Orange IPA was delightfully refreshing.

Beer Garden: While we didn’t stop in, the Butcher Shop Beer Garden has tons of beer on tap.  They are located at 165 NY 23rd St, Miami, FL 33127 and get great reviews for their food, too.

Exploring Boston

I just returned from a day trip to Boston to reconnect with friends.  We met at the Jay Maisel workshop two summers ago at Maine Media, and a few of the lessons we learned in his class were still front of mind.  Jay set a few rules up front:

  • “No pack mules!”  This meant going out with only one lens and not carrying the entire equipment closet on your back.
  • “Do your visual pushups.”  Take photographs daily.  Photography is like a language, and if you don’t use it you lose it.

I didn’t really follow either of these rules today.  I showed up with my Canon and 3 lenses in a small backpack, and I haven’t been dong my pushups. But I did go with enthusiasm and an open mind.

We trekked through several neighborhoods, including Back Bay, Beacon Hill, North End, and South End.  Remarkably, my favorite images of the day are from City Hall, a large and imposing building located in downtown Boston, and a few other public buildings constructed in roughly the same era.  I really liked the shapes and textures these buildings presented, even though they are likely considered ugly monstrosities locally.


All of these images were taken on a Canon 5DM3, processed lightly in Adobe Lightroom, then converted to B&W and tweaked a bit in the VSCO app on my iPhone.

It was a great day doing visual pushups.  And funny, I only used one lens the whole day.

PS. Be sure to check out my friends, too:  RJ Lynch and Karen Bobotas

2015 in Review

It’s January 31.  If I don’t post this today, I think I’ll have to skip reviewing 2015 altogether.  So without further ado, here are my 10 favorite images from 2015. I chose these images because they represent some kind of learning or photographic leap for me.

  1. We took a fantastic weekend workshop with Vision Explorers in NYC this year.  This was a huge learning experience for me and really highlighted that I need to push myself photographically.  I can push my processing.  I can push my storytelling.  I can push beyond landscapes.
    Gehry Grace.  ISO 100, 24mm, 261 seconds at f8.0.
    Gehry Grace. ISO 100, 24mm, 261 seconds at f8.0.

    2. I didn’t give up landscapes.  I just added to my arsenal.  In February, we took a trip to California and Yosemite, and it was the first time I visited Yosemite Valley.  We had visions of shooting Yosemite Valley in the snow, but those hopes were dashed quickly when we had clear, bluebird skies and temperatures in the 60s and 70s.  This image reminds me that photography is about the light.

    In the Spotlight.  ISO 400.  55mm.  1/50th at f11.
    In the Spotlight. ISO 400. 55mm. 1/50th at f11.

    3. This was taken from the bridge where every photographer goes to take THE iconic image The Watchman in Zion National Park.  I have that image, but I’m sparing you by not posting it in my top images of 2015. That picture is nice and I like it, a lot.  While I used my long exposure techniques from the workshop, it’s still just another shot of The Watchman.  Here, I aimed my lens in the opposite direction.  I liked the cloud and the diagonals that presented themselves.

    Looking Back.  ISO 400. 50 mm. 1/640th at f11. Processed with Nik Silver Effects.
    Looking Back. ISO 400. 50 mm. 1/640th at f11. Processed with Nik Silver Effects.

    4. I can’t go through a year without heading over to my favorite boat yard.  I led a field trip of the Stamford Photography Club to Calf Pasture in Norwalk.  I think we had about 8 – 10 members come to the field trip.  And what I love is that no one comes away with the same picture.  This boat was amazing.  I actually had to go back the next weekend with my wide angle lens to capture this. I took a whole series of images here and waver between 2 -3 as my favorites.  It took a long time to frame these with a wide angle.

    My Broken Weeping Heart.  ISO 400.  16mm. 1/10th at f18 on a tripod.
    My Broken Weeping Heart. ISO 400. 16mm. 1/10th at f18 on a tripod.

    5. This image comes from my new-found passion for architectural photography that was sparked from the workshop.  This was taken on a holiday in the US and in Canada which is why there weren’t any people around in this subway station.

    Architectural Arcs.  ISO 3200. 24mm. 1/50th @ f4.  Processed with Nik Silver Effects, Luminosity Masks, and Photoshop.
    Architectural Arcs. ISO 3200. 24mm. 1/50th @ f4. Processed with Nik Silver Effects, Luminosity Masks, and Photoshop.

    6. We headed to Colorado for fall color in September, but we arrived a week or two too early for peak.  This is an example of me pushing myself on processing.  I tried new techniques (for me) and stepped outside my box to “create” this one.

    Morning Delight.  ISO 400.  35mm. 0.8 sec @ f11.
    Morning Delight. ISO 400. 35mm. 0.8 sec @ f11.

    7. I finally discovered Instagram this year.  Yes, I’m late to the party.  I’m excited about the community and sharing some new things there. In the last 3 months of 2015, I did a lot of business travel and I focused on creating imagery around business travel.  This image is from that series.

    Convention.  ISO 800.  105mm. 1/100th @f11.
    Convention. ISO 800. 105mm. 1/100th @f11.

    8. The last three images are going to be from Spain.  Ah, Spain.  This was such an inspiration for me.  It was the best combination of culture, architecture, and amazing food.  I’ll be honest, this was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken.  So, I’m posting this image because I tried this scene several times.  I tried the wide-angle pano which didn’t give the results I wanted. After many attempts, I made this on my nifty-fifty lens.  It’s a compilation of 26 images and I can say I finally executed on my vision.

    Bridge of Sighs.  26-image panorama.  ISO 1600. 50mm. 3.2 seconds @ f16.
    Bridge of Sighs. 26-image panorama. ISO 1600. 50mm. 3.2 seconds @ f16.

    9. This is another image inspired by the Vision Explorers workshop.  I had plans to do a lot of Long Exposure photography on our trip to Spain, but if there aren’t any clouds, what’s the point of Long Exposure?  You can’t create dreamy, blurry clouds if there aren’t any clouds.  I chose this image for the top 10 because it took me time, and a lot of thought, to process this.  I’m sure in 5 years I could do this better. For now, this represents a big step forward.

    Lyre.  ISO 400. 32mm. 1/320th @f11.
    Lyre. ISO 400. 32mm. 1/320th @f11.

    10. This image feels like the culmination of my learning this year.  It’s the perfect combination of composition and processing.  And I’m really, really happy with how the processing turned out.

    Attic Archways. ISO 1600. 16mm. 1/20th sec handheld @f5.6.  Processed In Nik Sliver Effects, Luminosity Masks, and Photoshop.
    Attic Archways. ISO 1600. 16mm. 1/20th sec handheld @f5.6. Processed In Nik Sliver Effects, Luminosity Masks, and Photoshop.

    Like I said, these aren’t necessarily all my best images of 2015.  These are images that show a progression, that show how I pushed myself to learn new techniques.  It was a growth year for me, and that’s both scary and inspirational.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.


The Mermaid Parade: What Photographers Need to Know

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.

Website: http://www.coneyisland.com/programs/mermaid-parade

Registration and Photographer Passes: http://www.coneyisland.com/content/mermaid-parade-registration-page

Portfolio: https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/109812154559522809355/albums/5759906797614095521


--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

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

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

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 20 DECEMBER 2016: Runar Gunnarsson, a local resident, tells me there is an official way to reach the falls.  It looks like you park at the bridge and walk upstream on the right side of the river.


SUGGESTIONS FROM READERS (These directions are the same as the ones from Runar, posted above):  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.

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.


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