Yesterday I saw a little blurb on Facebook. I’m not even sure who posted it. But evidently, today (1/9/13) was to be the ground breaking on the new boardwalk in Belmar, NJ after Superstorm Sandy destroyed the last one. On top of that, Gov. Chris Christie was to be on hand at 11 AM to “throw the switch” to install the first piling for the new boardwalk. My last blog post showed what happened to the previous boardwalk.
I’ve always wanted to try my hand at photojournalism. What the heck! Let’s see what it’s like to photograph a newsworthy event. Is it really as hard as some people make it sound? Can a photographer who just walks in get good pictures? I drove down to Belmar and parked a block or two away. Most of the streets near the ocean are still blocked off. I threw the camera over my shoulder and walked in, doing my best to look like a journalist (I don’t have a cool photo vest, though. I hope that isn’t a dead giveaway.). I was wearing jeans and a “Restore the Shore” sweatshirt.
So I get to 4th Ave. at the ocean. There’s chairs and a podium set up in the street with some heavy equipment on the edge of the sand. A few people are milling around and there’s a heavy police presence. Yup. Right place. There’s a restaurant on the corner, which is open. A police officer walks past and nods, saying, “Good morning sir, glad to see you.” Ummmmmmm, OK. Evidently I must be looking like a photojournalist. I return the pleasantries and move on. Time to take a few test shots and make sure the camera is set right…. all looks good. The press begin showing up. Eyewitness news and NBC4 have their satellite trucks set up. The audio and video guys are setting up their cameras and tripods (on a side note, I really feel for videographers. Damn, they’ve got big cameras and big, heavy tripods. My camera is heavy, but jeesh! OK, OK, no stupid jokes about that.). The State Police have now arrived, some undercover, trying to do their best Secret Service impression. Cool. It’s getting crowded now. Start to jocky for position. The first row of chairs is reserved for the Governor’s staff. I’ll hang out right next to the front row until someone asks me to move. A waiter from the restaurant walks up with food. “Would you like a sandwich?”
These political events are great! Music on the PA, food, great view of the event….
The construction crew starts to set up the first piling that will become part of the foundation of the new boardwalk. One of the construction crew goes over to the pile and writes “1st 1/9/13.”
The public are now arriving. The police are keeping them back on the sidewalk. Cool- I’m not the public! This seems to be a fairly open environment. The fact that I’m walking around with a Nikon D800, extra battery grip, a 70-200 f/2.8 lens and a backpack full of camera gear doesn’t hurt either! I am surprised at the cameras that many of the journalists are using. It just goes to show, these guys travel light and don’t have much sophisticated equipment. That’s fine- most of the places their pictures get published (like the newspaper) really kill the quality of the image anyway. They don’t need a lot of camera and lens. That works to my advantage as I’m looking more like a photojournalist than some of the guys working for the paper! I’m sure the only way to survive as a photojournalist is to carry what you need and not much more.
We’re getting close to 11AM and I’m standing about 15 feet from the podium, as close as is allowed. There’s that waiter again… do I want another sandwich? What happened next absolutely shocked me. The Governor’s Press Secretary comes out, does an audio test at the podium, and announces that “cameras only” can follow him into the restaurant where the governor and Mayor of Belmar will meet the owner. Cool! My first photo opp! I duck in line behind the other photographers and walk into the restaurant. I grab a position on the floor in front, being careful not to block anyone’s view. These guys all need to return with good shots and the last thing I ever want to do is be the reason they didn’t. I loved when the Press Secretary held up a white card for the photographers to get a white balance setting on their cameras. Cool!
A few minutes later, in walks Gov. Christie and Mayor Doherty. Everyone is smiles and the Governor is talking directly to the restaurant’s owner. He seems genuinely interested in what he has to say. Snap away! After about ten minutes, they all walk outside. The Governor’s staff has made a lane for us through the crowd so we can get back to our positions. I find myself back where I was, next to the front row of chairs, with about a thousand people behind me!
Mayor Doherty was first at the podium. Start shooting! I’m about 10 feet from the podium (yes, I was able to get closer then before!). This is gonna be great! The pictues on the camera are coming out great! The light is overcast and perfect for photography. I was in the exact spot I wanted to be in… until my knees started hurting (I was kneeling down on the pavement). Hey, no one is sitting in the front row, grab a seat…. I’m now sitting in the front row as Congressmen Pallone and Smith are brought to the podium to make their remarks. This is unreal.
Finally, Mayor Doherty introduces the Governor. Right spot, right light, right lens…. ISO 100, f8 @ 1/160 at 135mm. I’m sitting in the front row for the next 45 minutes at the Gov’s press conference. Neat!
After the press conference, the Governor and Mayor are ushered over to the pile driver to throw the switch that will start the machine and drive the first telephone pole sized pile into the sand at the Belmar beach. After about 10 minutes of the machine running and driving the pile to its final depth, Gov. Christie walks over with a grease pencil and signs the top. Cool.
So my first experience as a “photojournalist” has taught me a few things. First, looking the part is important, as is being polite and doing what you’re told when in the vacinity of dignitaries. Never challenge security, even if you’re in the right- just walk away and find a less intrusive way to get what you need. Second, arrive early. Third, photojournalists travel light. In line with this, don’t do anything to bring attention to yourself. I have no illusions that I would have had the access I had if this had been the President of the United States. I’m pretty sure those guys all need to display press credentials and freelancers like me need to be shooting for someone, not just writing for my blog. But I guess with state officials, things are a bit more open, especially at outdoor events. Of course, many in the press act exactly the opposite of all this, but I choose not to be part of the story. The ones who act dignified and respectful seem to be on a first name basis with those they are covering… it’s easier to catch a fly with honey than with vinegar.
It’s fantastic to see the Belmar boardwalk make a comeback. I’m so happy that construction has begun. They claim it will be completed in time for Memorial Day. And supposedly, it will be improved, and longer, than the last boardwalk. We’ll see…. I certainly hope so! Gov. Christie promises to be back for the opening, and hopefully, I will be too.
Besides, I can’t wait to go back and get some more of those sandwiches…
(If you would like to see the rest of the pictures from today’s photoshoot, check out my Facebook page… http://www.facebook.com/marlopix.)
Wow, have I been lax in writing blog posts. It has been a busy summer with job loss and getting my photography business up and running. No excuse- a blog is a big part of it. But those who read my blog know I usually post when something somewhat dramatic (to me) happens. I find it difficult to just wake up on a Tuesday morning and write a blog post that is even remotely meaningful.
So if you think back a year or so, we had earthquakes, stock market “crashes,” and a hurricane. Hmmm. Sounds almost familiar. So this year, we had a hurricane (sorry, superstorm), an earthquake (centered on Ringwood, NJ), and we’re in the midst of a presidential election. And now we have a nor’easter bearing down on us right after total devastation in parts of NJ.
As I write this, a vast section of the Jersey Shore has been devastated. Indeed, parts of the map of the coast of NJ may have to be redrawn. Hundreds of thousands of people are without electrical power going on a week. Fortunately, the earthquake of which I spoke was small (2.2 on the Richter Scale) and did no damage- but I’m sure it frayed a few nerves. And a powerful nor’easter is bearing down on us for Wednesday. We have massive shortages of gasoline (due to closed roads and gas stations with no power) and we are basically facing this crisis for another few weeks as Winter approaches.
Another ho’hum year of being a Jersey-ite.
The roads have been unsafe (traffic lights out), and I didn’t want to waste gas- so I stayed home rather than venture out until now. But with some other commitments, my wife and son needed to go out. So I made a day of it and went with them to scout and take a few pictures. Sometimes I get lucky and see something everyone else is missing. Today was no exception.
I would be shocked if people have not yet seen pictures of the Jersey Shore after the storm. They’re all focusing on the damage. Since I often go to Belmar, I was horrified to see pictures of the boardwalk. It was gone.
Well, I found it…
I often visit the Belmar Marina- it is a great little spot with a scenic sunset, boats, birds, and parking. And there’s a Dunkin Donuts a mile away. So I can take pictures with the convenience of my car nearby and yet get a few nice shots. And there is rarely a crowd. As I drove down there today, I fully expected to see boats piled on top of boats and utter devastation. What I actually found was the butt-end of the disaster. Ever wonder where all of the rubble and debris goes after an event like this? Well it often starts out in a staging area such as this. The parking lot of the marina has been transformed into a dump of sorts.
Many people will choose to look at that picture and be sad. I admit, it tugged at me a bit when I first realized what I was looking at. A beloved boardwalk. People would go for morning and evening walks. You’d cross over it to get to the beach. You’d walk up and down with your best girl in tow, proud of the fact that she was wearing a skimpy bikini…. and she was with you! If you’ve ever been to the Jersey Shore, you know all about the boardwalk.
And there it was. A pile of garbage. Sad that it would all get put into some landfill or dump site along with the remnants of people’s houses and belongings- all victims of a horrible night.
But wait! What is this? Out of the dust and smoke of a working dump site, another truck appeared out of the mist…. what is this?
The Doppstadt DW-3060-K wood chipper… (to paraphrase Agent J from MIB)… Now that’s what I’M talkin’bout!!! Basically, this machine has a giant screw inside and it just spits out tiny pieces of wood. The site foreman told me they had a second machine that can handle metal on its way.
[Photography info: All shots on this blog are shot with a Nikon D800 and 24-70/f2.8 lens, ISO 100.]
The other heavy equipment stood by, ready to jump into action….
That actually made me feel good in some small way. It’s all going to be recycled! Who knows where it may wind up. As the boardwalk is rebuilt, we may eventually be sitting on a wooden bench made from recycled materials from the last boardwalk. Maybe you’ll build a deck on your house using composite wood materials- you can build your own back yard boardwalk out of bits of Belmar’s boardwalk! I think that’s cool.
Many can be sad and negative about this disaster. But I’ve decided to be positive. Again, to paraphrase a movie, out of destruction and chaos, order and life will appear (Zorg from The Fifth Element). Please don’t think I’m a horrible person. It is horrible that people lost their homes, businesses, and some lives. And the shore area will probably never be the same. But the storm happened. It’s gone. It can’t be undone. We need to move forward to get through this so the next one isn’t as horrible (and that’s in like, I dunno, two days from when I write this). I’m positive because, as horrible as this was, I truly believe that we’ll come back stronger than ever.
The Doppstadt DW-3060-K proves that.
Well, who’d a thunk it. After about six months of shooting pictures at The Downtown Cafe in Red Bank, NJ, I get my own photo exhibit!
So, lots of people were asking me the “back story” on how it all came about. And since I’m always talking to those people while the band is playing, it’s kind of hard to really answer that question. So here goes.
About 18 months ago, my wife Dee got back into singing after a long hiatus to have a family. So her voice teacher suggested that she ease her way back on stage by trying some karaoke, of which there are several of the traditional karaoke nights at local bars. Nothing against them, they’re probably lots of fun for the singers. But it leaves a little to be desired if you’re not singing.
Then we found The Downtown Cafe in Red Bank, NJ. Red Bank was voted one of the hippest towns in NJ awhile back (I think it ranked third). And The Downtown has to be one of the hippest places in Red Bank. So of course, that’s where Arlene’s Famous Rock and Roll Karaoke Band would plant itself for the last several years.
When Dee discovered a live band, she took to it like white on rice (sorry for the cheesy simile). Of course, that was followed by pictures on Facebook. And nothing personal against anyone shooting pictures on Facebook, but they just weren’t good enough for me- point and shoot or cellphone cameras leave so much to be desired when you have a dark room and stage lighting. These cameras just can’t keep up without blasting the scene with a little tiny flash. I tried it myself, with similar results.
Blurry, lens flare, bad lighting, and sooo many other things wrong with this picture. In the world of photography, this is a snapshot.
My DSLR to the rescue.
Pulled out the Nikon and a simple 50mm f/1.8 lens and got this:
Now that’s a little more like it!
So in an effort to improve on this, I decided to hang out at Rock n Roll Karaoke a few times a month, shoot lots of pictures of lots of people with different lenses and see where it went. During this time, I noticed that The Downtown would occasionally exhibit an artist’s work on the brick wall upstairs. Then the lightbulb went on! Wouldn’t it be great if we could get the best pictures printed and hung on that wall? How cool would it be for everyone to show up and see their Rock Star Fantasy moment on stage? Hey, I always wanted to be a rock star when I was a kid. But like my other fantasy of hitting the game winning home run in the bottom of the 9th inning at Yankee Stadium in Game 7 of the World Series, I wasn’t blessed with the talent or desire to carry that particular fantasy through to the end.
But, lots of people tell me I can take pictures. And I remember reading all those rock and roll magazines when I was a kid (is Circus Magazine still around?) and a few of the photos reminded me of those old magazines. Cool. Maybe there’s something to this. So I kept shooting. And shooting. And about 3000 pictures later I was getting stuff like this….
… and this….
I put a bunch of pictures on Facebook and got nothing but positive feedback.
So Dee approached The Downtown and we showed them some sample prints… and they loved the idea! Then we heard about MAD Wednesday. MAD stands for Music, Art, and Drafts, and the second anniversary of MAD Wednesday was June 27th… The perfect night!
We printed about 40 or so images and had them mounted on foamcore. The next challenge was hanging them on a brick wall. The wall at The Downtown has holes, crumbling mortar, and nails, screws, and molly bolts sticking out from everywhere. So the challenge was getting a method to mount the prints. Well, not so easy believe it or not. It took several weeks to find the proper method- which turned out to be flat, plastic picture hangers with adhesive on one side, and a small cutout near the top. And all the arts and crafts places had them- like two packages each. I needed 41. A trip over to Colorest Art Supply in Red Bank netted us the mother load. Crisis averted (two days before the opening!) Add a bit of velcro to the back of each print to prevent the wobbles on the wall when the AC kicked on, and we were set. It took us about 2-1/2 hours to mount all the pictures. (And, just a note, we used EVERY single nail, screw, and hole in that wall to mount the 41 prints. There would have been no room for #42!)
So, on to MAD Wednesday. A bunch of bands were playing at The Downtown, including our buddy Poppa John Bug and the Jam Band who was doing a release of his new EP, “Before and After- Chapter 1.” What a great night! The bands were awesome, the pictures looked great with stage light reflecting off them, and the drafts were nice and cold!
But the big test was going to be the next night. Thursday. Rock and Roll Karaoke- that’s what this was really all about. How would everyone like their picture?
Let’s just say the feedback was pretty darn good. It was really cool watching some people who brought their friends all looking up and pointing at the pictures… and smiling! I sat there in amazement as person after person seemed to love their picture! Awesome.
I’d like to send out a special thank you to Chris Masi at The Downtown for thinking our idea was so great and supporting us and giving us anything we needed to make it happen.
So, stop by The Downtown Cafe, 10 West Front St., Red Bank, NJ between now and July 11th and you’ll get to see how good New Jersey really looks….
Every year I get cheesy and silly, and 2012 is no exception.
The Easter Bunny is real, and I have proof!
So the first thing my wife said was, “Maybe she’s laying eggs.” And then I said, “Rabbits don’t lay eggs. They’re mammals.” And she said, “The Easter Bunny lays eggs.”
I can’t argue with that logic, with magic and all, of course.
On the photography front, rather simple… D5000, ISO 200, 200mm lens, 1/320 @ f/5.6. Another example of grab the camera and shoot. With rabbits, there’s usually no time to set up tripods and change lenses (always leave a zoom on your camera when it’s in the bag), they’re kinda quick. Although, this one must have just awakened from a good snooze as she hung around for a little while, but you can never count on that.
I’m happy on two fronts. My lawn is nice and green and growing, and another year we have rabbits. I can’t help but remember when my son was about three years old and he used to run after them… the rabbit would look at him as if to say, “Really kid?” then wait till he got good and close and take off at 100 miles per hour. This, of course would go on for 20 minutes while my wife and I just watched the show. And laughed. He slept good that night. There was much rejoicing.
And then there was the other time my neighbor planted a vegetable garden in his yard. He was told to surround all the vegetable plants with marigolds because rabbits don’t like marigolds and avoid them. In the morning, we had about five rabbits sitting there eating marigolds. It was like rabbit cocaine. The next day, they did away with the veggies. We have tough rabbits. My neighbor doesn’t like rabbits.
And in a weird way, the little buggers are comforting. If we drive home at 3AM, there’s always three or four of them around the house, surprised and frozen by the car’s headlights, to greet us. They’re “watch” rabbits- hey, Bugs Bunny would never let anything get past him either.
Happy Easter little bunny, and try not to tear up my lawn too badly this year! Ya gotta believe.
This is Miss E. Demine, in a photo taken by Mathew Brady circa 1863. Her image is part of a collection titled “Women of the Civil War” and is commonly referred to as “Girl in a Double-Breasted Jacket.”
I downloaded the full-size scan of this image from the National Archives and did a few hours of restoration work in Lightroom and Photoshop. I’m an absolute amateur when it comes to restoring old photos. This one was in very good shape, though. The only problems were many white spots and lines across the photo. It was tedious, but certainly not impossible to restore. The restoration is certainly not complete or perfect, but I didn’t want it that way. After all, it was taken in the 19th century- no photography from that time period was perfect.
Mathew Brady is known as the father of modern photojournalism. His photos of the Civil War were the first to show Americans the horrors of war, and the first to show the gore of battle, something most people had never seen before. Some believe these images helped end the war. In fact, Brady was more of a “project manager,” sending out a team of photographers to photograph the battles. Many of the images attributed to him were actually taken by others.
But there was something else too, more than just battles, dead bodies, and canons. More than Lincoln and slaves. More than North and South, Union and Confederate. There were people like Miss E. Demine. I wonder what her life was like? What was her first name? What horrors of the Civil War did she witness? Was she Union or Confederate? Was she wealthy or poor? I guess we’ll never know.
The famous French war photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson, said it best in his 1952 book, The Decisive Moment…
“Photography is not like painting,” Cartier-Bresson said. “There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative,” he said. “Oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever.”
When involving yourself in photography, you either get this, or you don’t There is no way to teach The Decisive Moment. There is no way to say, “I will now pick up my camera and take a winning picture,” at least in my mind. If all the stars align correctly, these moments will appear before you. The key is to know your equipment well enough that it is ready, up to your eye, your finger poised on the shutter release, and you press it at just the right instant in time… The Decisive Moment. The problem is that those moments are short and electrical signals to nerve endings and muscles are painfully slow, even at the speed of light. When I see what I want in the viewfinder, that microsecond where I SCREAM to myself “PRESS THE SHUTTER YOU IDIOT!” and my finger actually reacts, seems to take forever… The command has been issued, but it is a painfully long time before the human body can carry it out.
Recently, my wife started singing again. And since I got into photography again, she gets me into situations where I can get some great photos. Now, concert or stage photography was never my specialty, although I did it a bit when she sang in a band in the late 1980’s. But music, especially rock music, has been part of my existence since following Black Sabbath in 1970. So recently, I found my self and my camera at The Downtown Cafe in Red Bank, NJ for Rock ‘n’ Roll Karaoke. This is different from traditional karaoke- you know, cheesy electronically created music with no vocals. Some poor slob who thinks they can sing reading the words they don’t know off of a video monitor they can’t see because they drank three shots to get up the courage…
Rock ‘n’ Roll Karaoke is live. The band is great. The vast majority of people who try it can actually sing. And the lyrics? Yes, they have a big book on a music stand with all the lyrics. But unless it’s the singer’s first time or they’re nervous, most don’t even look at them.
No, this is open mic night with the band. And the singers are great.
So, when someone gets up in front of your camera lens, and you begin having flashbacks to 1975 and reading articles about Led Zeppelin and Robert Plant in Circus Magazine as a kid (especially when this person is actually singing Zeppelin at the time!) – you start to feel good about where the pictures are going that night.
As Gil began to get into his performance, I found someone before my camera who looked like he didn’t care about the rest of the world – and for a few moments, maybe didn’t know the rest of the world was even there. On top of that, the stage lights were just right and I had the right lens on the camera (a simple 50mm f/1.8).
But, he was still having fun, as you can see. (Zeppelin is always a crowd pleaser.) I was close- but I didn’t yet have The Decisive Moment. But, as the song progressed, I knew it would come.
And with a final drum kick and power cord, I finally had it… The Decisive Moment…
These images were all shot on a Nikon D5000, 50mm f/1.8 lens, ISO 3200, 1/40 or 50 sec @ f/1.8 or f/2.8. The lens flare in the last image was a bonus.
Thanks Gil for a great performance and a great moment in time!