Young Man © jj raia

Young Man © jj raia

A recent last minute trip to New Jersey to visit family and celebrate a 1st birthday, turned out to be enjoyable on two fronts. Obviously visiting the family, and second, I had a chance to stretch my photography. Photographing children has only been a sporadic subject, and have only done so a number of years back with two neighborhood children who, at the time, were around 5-6 years old. So they could take some direction and things worked out fine. But photographing a one-year old is an entirely different endeavor. There was no stopping him as he continually darted from place to place, crawling across the floor, trying to stand up, and just never pausing for a moment. So hand-holding the new 70-300mm VR lens was going to be put to the test. It was a serious challenge for me as I crawled around the floor with him, and I suppose you have to come away with at least one solid shot if you take enough frames; and I took plenty of frames! Unlike film, digital frames are free. But as I’ve always noticed in fashion photography, they tend to use beautiful women and handsome men as subjects. And even though I may hold a bit of bias since this little cherub is a member of the family, the overall consensus seems to be he is cute. No argument here.

On a Sunday morning, I took the train into New York City to visit Ground Zero, and see first hand all that’s been done to resurrect the destruction from 18 years ago. I took the earliest train and arrived before 8am to have as few people in the area as possible while the sunlight began to filter into the canyons of lower Manhattan. I found the architecture there inspiring and uplifting, with a special gravitation to the new transportation hub. This immense, soaring structure was simply mesmerizing. I tried to create a vertical panorama of its interior, but was stopped because I was using a tripod. So I had to resort to doing it hand-held, resting the camera on a railing overlooking the cavernous, beautifully sunlit space. Nine horizontal frames in all were taken with a normal 50mm lens to limit any distortion. The top of the image is looking straight up towards the sky.

Interior - Transportation Hub, NYC © jj raia

Interior – Transportation Hub, NYC © jj raia

Outside, abstracts were everywhere using the multitude of spires that criss-cross the building, stretching out from one side to the other. They were mostly taken with the 70-300mm zoom to eliminate any extraneous forms within the graphic frames. I went over to the two cascades and was stopped again from using my tripod. Even though I clicked off one image without looking through the viewfinder while I was being reprimanded, I never managed to get something I liked because I was even admonished when I leaned on the railings to try to steady the hand-held shots. But none the less, it was inspiring. But I couldn’t help thinking that being there on such a beautifully clear day, was very reminiscent of the type day it was on 9/11.

Detail — Transportation Hub, NYC © jj raia

Detail — Transportation Hub, NYC © jj raia

I also visited the 9/11 Memorial Museum and immediately found I couldn’t use the tripod there either. But at least they offered to leave it in storage so I wouldn’t have to lug it around with me. I’m not the best at hand-holding my camera, especially without a vibration reduced lens. So a bench was used to place the camera on for some longer exposures to blur the visitors in front of the huge wall of blue squares. Each square represents a single person’s recollection of the color of the sky on that fateful day. I sat there quite a while, clicking off frames as folks wandered by, or stopped to take cell phone photos. Visiting the museum was an emotional experience, with all the artifacts detailing the lives that were lost, and the events from that day, brought back so many vivid memories. I’m sure I was not the only one there holding back tears.

Blue Wall — 9/11 Memorial Museum © jj raia

Blue Wall — 9/11 Memorial Museum © jj raia

On another day, we visited NJ’s Grounds for Sculpture which is an arboretum with huge sculptures throughout the 42-acre park. I liked it enough to return the following overcast day which allowed for much more even lighting than the previous sunny day. But the clouds turned into off-and-on rain just 30-minutes after I arrived. No problem though, I brought a plastic bag to cover the camera while I was walking throughout the amazing place.

Coy Pond — Grounds for Sculpture, NJ © jj raia

Coy Pond — Grounds for Sculpture, NJ © jj raia

Photos of the koi swimming around their pond seemed a bit lifeless when I tried to freeze their movements. But slowing down the shutter, and moving the camera as the exposure was taken, made a world of difference in keeping with the abstract theme during that first day. You could spend quite a bit of time there taking frame after frame as different combinations of the fish clustered together, creating differing color combinations, with the sky and leaves overhead reflected in the water.

There were many opportunities to photograph entire sculptures, but I am reluctant to do so since it would be using someone else’s art as a subject. So limiting the images to only include a small portion of a sculpture as a design in itself was how it was approached.

Sculpture Detail — Grounds for Sculpture © jj raia

Sculpture Detail — Grounds for Sculpture, NJ © jj raia

On the way to The Grounds for Sculpture that first day, we passed an aging barn that immediately jumped out at me and made a mental note of any parking in the area. So it was the first stop on that cloudy second day. There were compositions all along the side facing the road, and although this was originally a horizontal which I liked, by cropping it to a vertical, there is a bit more focus on the door without competition from some other elements that were just to its right.

Faded Barn Door — Mercer County, NJ © jj raia

Faded Barn Door — Mercer County, NJ © jj raia

The original plan while there, was to deliver my camera to Nikon for deep cleaning of the sensor, since I prefer not to send it to them through the mail or other carrier if it can be avoided. But the opportunities for photography were too plentiful to waste a day traveling there and back when I could use the camera instead.

4 thoughts on “Stretching

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