Saturday, July 30, 2011

B/W Infrared On The Highline

One of my favorite road trips was in Montana on Route 2-  the Highline - that runs along the top of the state.  I find the landscape in the great plains to be exhilarating -- something about the minimal land and the huge skies makes me happy.  These photos were taken more than 10 years ago, while I was at the Rocky Mountain School of Photography in Missoula, Montana.  I shot them with black and white infrared film, one of my favorite films, which is no longer made, alas.
Can't really see it here, but there is a long freight train stopped at the silos.  Route 2 parallels train tracks for many hundred miles, and each town was founded by the railroad and named after European cities.  The largest town in this area is called Havre, and it is a cowboy town with lots of casinos and really bad food.
This is one of my favorite photos of all time.  Love the train line and the UFO cloud above.  This is a busy train track - I counted 11 freight trains going through in one hour, and each one had 50-70 cars.
I also took my medium format camera with me on this trip.  I was photographing the mountain, the sign, the sky, when a freight train zoomed into the photo, leaving behind the colorful striations on the left side of the photo.

All three of these photos are part of a RiverWinds Gallery show in Rhinebeck at the Wells Fargo Advisors office on the 2nd floor of Montgomery Row, right on route 9 in the middle of town.  The show, called The Skies Above, features painting and photographs, and can be viewed during business hours, M-F, at their offices.  For more information and to see more images from the show, check out  The artists' reception will be held September 17, from 5-7.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Road Trip: A Russian Ballerina's Grave in New York State

Olga Alexandrovna Spessivtseva (18 July 1895 – 16 September 1991) was a Russian ballerina whose brilliant stage career spanned from 1913 to 1939. She danced with the Maryinska company (aka the Kirov), the Ballet Russe, and the Paris Opera Ballet, among others.  There are a couple of s short youtube videos of her dancing Giselle.  Her interpretation of the mad scene is, sadly enough,  particularly fine.

Her life was difficult.  She spent almost 20 years in a mental health institution after WWII before being rescued by friends and colleagues. She spent the rest of her days at Tolstoy Village, a refuge for Russian and Soviet expatriates, in Rockland County. She is buried at a large Russian Orthodox cemetery in Nanuet, New York. A friend of mine, who was a ballerina in her youth, wanted to visit the grave and pay her respects, so off we went. It was not the easiest place to find, to say the least, but find it we did (it's on Smith Road in Nanuet, behind a Russian Orthodox church).

The cemetery is populated by these distinctive Russian Orthodox crosses, and each grave has a lantern. Many also have photos of the deceased, which I always find fascinating.

We knew Olga was buried by a willow tree so eventually that's where we headed. All the grave markers are in Cyrillic, which I can't read, but my friend reminded me that Olga's grave was marked by a photo of her in her most famous role, Giselle.

The gravestone was lovely.  The stone resting on the ground features a ghostly engraving of her Giselle pose.
My friend paid homage with a bouquet worthy of a prima ballerina, a piece of chocolate, and a pair of ballet shoes.
Olga had traveled a long way, from pre-revolutionary Russia to a shady spot in Rockland County, New York.  May she rest in peace.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wedding at Round Hill

Amy and Mark got married this spring!  And Christine and I - we are fete accompli photography -- were more than happy to record it for them.
A tender moment during the katubah ceremony.
Closing the doors for a private session with the rabbi.
Dr. Mark and Dr. Amy - the best of luck!

To see more wedding photos, at Round Hill and other venues, check out

Monday, July 25, 2011

Summer Corn, Summer Sky

Fresh corn has arrived at the farmers markets.  Hallelujah!

This was taken while getting gas, near Lancaster, PA. Simple summer pleasures.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Lotus & Water Lilies at Innisfree Garden

Near Millbrook, NY is a landscaped garden, Innisfree.  Surrounding a lake, the landscape is designed in a series of  "cup gardens," using the natural stone and water features as a base to make picturesque scenes. A particularly notable feature of the garden is the lotus plants.
Not only is the flower lovely but the locust pods are very photogenic as well.  This kind of image works best with a shallow depth of field (i.e., the background out of focus), etching the foreground image and directing your eye to where you want it to go.
The water lilies cover the surface of the lake.  Every photographer has water lily photos -- they just photograph so well and they are easy to get to. Hence, I am not including my water lily shot, which is pretty standard. This, of course, is just a water lily leaf, but I liked its graceful shape. But I particularly love the variations on the water color, caused by light and shadow.
There may be a stray water lily in this shot, but what it is really about is texture, repetition and color.  For this type of shot, it's best to stay in the shade - the sun burns out the highlights, leaving you with less color in the image.
Finally, an example of a vista arranged for visitors by the landscape designer.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Join us: San Sebastian Spain Next April

The New York Times just posted a wonderful article about San Sebastian, Spain -- where our photo tour is headed next April.

To quote the Times:
"TO visit San Sebasti├ín, on Spain’s northern coast, is to fall in love. The first sight of the shimmering scallop-shaped bay, replete with crescents of golden sand and turquoise waves, will sweep you off your feet. Pairing this natural beauty with the unrivaled local cuisine — from decadent Michelin-starred feasts to delectable bite-sized pintxos (Basque-style tapas) — may leave your head spinning. A spruced-up seaside promenade, a renovated museum and a forthcoming culinary school all add to the city’s allure. But this love affair doesn’t have to be a fling. In June, the city secured a coveted designation as a 2016 European Capital of Culture, ensuring that it will put its best foot forward for years to come."

Christine Irvin and I have partnered with Fresco Tours to offer a photo tour of the Basque country, in the northeast corner of Spain.  This is not the hot plains of Spain:  the Basque country is green and cool, with great food and wine.

The tour begins at San Sebastian, and then will lead us through a wonderful variety of landscapes.

We will be able to photograph ocean vistas, small fishing villages, a portion of the Camino de Santiago...
And, of course, beautiful Bilboa, with a tour of the amazing Guggenheim Museum.

Fresco Tours is run by an experienced, enthusiastic, knowledgable, fun crew. The cost includes lodging, all meals, transportation in a minivan during the tour, daily photo critiques, and, when we get home, a gallery show at RiverWinds Gallery in Beacon, NY and a published book encompassing the best photos taken be each person on the tour.

For a detailed itinerary, pricing, and, of course, to sign up before the tour sells out, go to

Or feel free to contact me directly at

Next year: Spain!!!!  We deserve some fun...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Other Gettysburg

Gettysburg is not only a Civil War battlefield, it's a major tourist trap.  It's a small town, easy to navigate and has lots of interesting cheesy stuff to do at night.
For a quarter, get your fortune told by the Great Zorah, a handsome old-fashioned slightly animated mannequin.
Or check out the Gettysburg ghosts (there must have been at least 8 ghost tours offered in a 3 block area).
And, of course, there's always ice cream.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bloody Angle: Spotsylvania Courthouse

I took, with two companions, a short road trip to Bethlehem and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania -- to visit the famous Civil War battlefield.  Then wending down to Fredricksburg, Virginia, for a couple of days, then to Richmond Virginia for a couple more days.  
Fooling around with my new camera, I pretty much erased my Gettysburg images, alas.   But I was eager to visit the Spotsylvania Civil War battle sites.  Much smaller, and more rustic, rural than Gettysburg, the Spotsylvania Courthouse was, for me, more intimate and just as moving.  We spent time at the Bloody Angle, which saw, on May 12, 1864, 20 hours of the most intense hand-to-hand combat of the Civil War.  The battle also saw one of the first uses of trench warfare -- the Confederate mounds are still vislble.
This is the view of the Ohio monument -- 100 yards from the Bloody Angle.  The fighting took place on this field.
The Bloody Angle was a bend in the Confederate fortifications.  This is taken from the Confederate position.

"Around the Bloody Angle, the dead lay five deep, and bodies had to be moved from the trenches to make room for the living. The action around Spotsylvania shocked even the grizzled veterans of the two great armies. Said one officer, "I never expect to be fully believed when I tell what I saw of the horrors of Spotsylvania."
"And yet the battle was not done; the armies slugged it out for another week. In spite of his losses, Grant persisted, writing to General Henry Halleck in Washington, D.C., "I will fight it out on this line if it takes all summer."

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bannerman Island Photo Tour: July 23

Perfectly sited on the Hudson River, Bannerman's Island is one of the most picturesque ruins in the area.  On July 23, for 3 hours, photographers can take their time, set up their shots, and photograph the castle, the residence, the details, and the view.  We will leave the Newburgh dock at 8:30 for a half hour boat ride to the island.  A light lunch will be provided.
The cost is $110, which helps restore the buildings on the island.  If you are interested, contact  

Hope to see you there!

For more images of Bannerman's, check out my gallery, or my website

Just a reminder -- I also lead photo tours around the Hudson Valley - getting you to the best locations for the best light.  See Hudson Valley Photo Tours on my website or contact me via

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Industrial Ruins: Bethlehem PA Blast Furnace

Just got back from a trip to Pennsylvania and Virginia.  One of the sites I specifically wanted to see was the remains of Bethlehem Steel, which, when it closed down, nearly destroyed the town.  Many years ago, on a trip to Ohio, I passed them on the street -- enormous, rusted and awesome - I couldn't stop that day but vowed to go back and photograph them.  Ten or so years later, finally did so.  They are now part of an industrial museum and they are surrounded by chain link fences, natch, but you can still get a good look at them.

By far, the most impressive structure is an old blast furnace, which was used up until the 1950s.  It towers over the buildings and powerfully dominates the scene.  
A photo gives no indication of size.  It is, I don't know, 8 or 10 stories high and stretches for a long city block or two.
The details are beautiful.
It's definitely worth a trip.  Also in Bethlehem is a well-preserved Moravian district --  they first settled the town and gave it its name.