PNC Building No.1 - © jj raia

PNC Building No.1 – © jj raia

For the past several weeks, I’ve been leaving my house early (still dark) on Sunday mornings to get out and photograph something, anything! just to be out of the house at a time when there might be fewer people around during this continuing assault of Covid-19. This particular Sunday, after seeing a blank sky again with poor prospects of a good sunrise at the lake, I traveled toward downtown Raleigh to wander the mostly empty streets while most folks were either still in bed or getting ready for Sunday Services.

The first thoughts were to look for window reflections, and so I walked around the streets to get a clear view of the PNC building without much interference from any others. But looking through the viewfinder, the building just seemed bland against a blank blue sky. Something more was needed to create some energy.


First Friday Showcase

At the Shore © jj raia

Water’s Edge © jj raia

The Triangle in North Carolina has a rich history in the arts with each of its four member cities having art exhibit openings on a different Friday each month. Every Friday evening can be spent gallery hopping in a nearby town, to view the latest work of artists, something that I found inspiring and fascinating when I first moved here ten years ago. But all that wonderful community engagement and support for the arts came to a screeching halt with the arrival of the Covid-19 virus, as venues closed up and exhibits were cancelled.

So in a very small way, this blog will expand in the near future attempting to fill some of the void left by these missing Friday night openings, to feature the work and thoughts of photographic artists from the Triangle Area on the First Friday each month. Highlighting a singular aspect or series, it will not in any way try to illustrate the wide range of their work, but rather just a small sampling of a cohesive collection to Showcase their creativity and imagination in an on-line “exhibition”. Hopefully, through their own words and images, we can dive into their photographic mind and discover what gets their creative juices flowing, to help us better understand the artistic process generally (and theirs more specifically), expand the base of our knowledge, and broaden our own vision. So…

Stay Tuned for the

—  Inaugural  —

First Friday Showcase

September 4th @ 7pm


Fran DeRespinis

Fran Portrait



Throwback Thursday No. 32


Images from the Film Archives — 1993 and 1998

Fox Prints & Dunes - Island Beach State Park, NJ © jj raia

Fox Prints & Dunes – Island Beach State Park, NJ © jj raia 1993

As mentioned in a previous TBT, Island Beach State Park was a frequent destination because it provided an environment that, for the most part, was left alone to exist without any interference from the human population. At most, beyond the built up areas for summer bathers near the entrance, the rest of the main road through the 10-mile long barrier island was dotted with only an occasional small pullout for a few cars, and a trail through the dunes to the ocean, with many missing any other improvements.

It was a bald sky that sent me inland among the dunes in search of something other than the surf to photograph, and although the dunes were beautiful, there was a lot of chaos among them that interfered with a simple statement in an image. I finally did find a spot with fox tracks leading in a curving line between two dunes that seemed to satisfy my search for a clean image with something to say. The idea that the island was home to a varied population of wildlife, was illustrated by the tracks, and the otherwise pristine dunes showed their beauty if left alone. The side-lighting across the sand added some texture, and I was careful not to walk too far into the scene for fear of ruining the foreground prints; the same thing faced when photographing snow.

Autumn Virginia Creeper - Island Beach State Park, NJ © jj raia

Autumn Virginia Creeper – Island Beach State Park, NJ © jj raia 1998

On a separate visit during autumn, without the need to enter disguised as a fisherman, I visited in the afternoon to explore some dunes near the very end of the island, but on the bay side instead of the ocean. I found some beautiful color on some Virginia Creeper that draped the top of a sand dune, and struggled to eliminate the sun that was near the horizon from intruding into the frame. But without any side-lighting, the sand appeared as a nearly uniform plane of white rather than the individual grains illustrated in the first photo. For some reason though, this photo always brought up thoughts of the Fourth of July, with the red, white and blue of the tiny berries.


Sculpture Interior Detail - © jj raia

Sculpture Interior Detail – Nasher Museum © jj raia

The quest for the ultimate sunrise photo at Jordan Lake continued a few Sundays ago to no avail, even though there was supposed to be fog around and some high clouds. There was nothing but a bald sky when I arrived, so after passing by and seeing nothing promising, I decided to head up to Durham and wander around the Nasher Museum and see what I could find there to photograph. I was hoping for some interesting architecture, and it was an interesting building, but nothing jumped in front of the camera, so I continued to wander the grounds in search of smaller details.

Throwback Thursday No. 31


Images from the Film Archives – 1999

Sage & Canyon Wall — Paria River Canyon, AZ © jj raia

Sage & Canyon Wall — Paria River Canyon, UT © jj raia

1999 marked the beginning of annual photo trips to the western United States rather than the northeast. I hadn’t been there since 1982 when my wife and I packed up the tiny car we had and drove across the country to revisit the places I had seen on the very first of my cross country drives with a friend of mine in 1977.

Rather than several long days of driving, that first trip began with a short 5-hour flight into Las Vegas, and was basically a circle route around the Grand Canyon, beginning on the south rim for a few days, then stopping in Page to experience Antelope Canyon, with the next stop the Paria River. The plan was to hike  the beautiful canyon through which the river flows, and I brought along some “river walkers,” hiking shoes specifically designed for being in water.


Clearing Storm at Sunset - Wake County, NC © jj raia

Clearing Storm at Sunset – Wake County, NC © jj raia

For landscape photographers, it is the sky that can really influence the success or failure of a photo, since a dull gray or cloudless blue sky can appear pretty lifeless. But add some clouds, at any time of day, and those clouds can immediately take the image up a notch. But there are times when we are not at a “great location” when there are interesting cloud formations and lighting, and are disappointed we are not where we would like to be to utilize this great sky in an image.

The beautiful, harmonious color throughout the image above, along with the combination of smooth color gradations of the background clouds, set against the gauzy, textured and sunset lit clouds in front, drove me to hastily grab my camera, and take this photo in the comfort of a lounge chair from the back porch!!

If only every photograph would come along as effortlessly…

We can, however, increase the odds of being somewhere when there are expectations for interesting skies by keeping an eye on various weather apps. There are a few that I’ve found to be useful.

For general and hourly forecasting, Weatherbug is quick and easy. The Clear Outside app gives a more detailed, hourly view of cloud cover as a percentage of low, medium and high clouds, as well as dew points, fog, wind speed and direction… even when the International Space Station is visible at your location! Skippysky.com.au is a web site that  gives you a radar view of the three levels of clouds and their movements, while the MyRadar app gives you up to the minute radar of actual precipitation, whether rain, ice or snow.

A combination of Weatherbug and Clear Outside is what I generally check to judge expected conditions for the following morning, and whether it’s warranted to set the alarm. But as with any forecasting, they can be incorrect as I have discovered on way too many occasions. Maybe it’s just better to look out the window and go from there.

Design vs. Subject

Kelp and Rockface - Acadia © jj raia

Kelp and Rockface – Acadia NP, ME © jj raia

What is more important to the composition within a photograph? Having a well defined subject? Or can a photograph stand on its own simply as a design? Can it exist successfully as an exercise in color, form and texture?

I’m sure many abstract painters (Jackson Pollock immediately comes to mind) might say that a subject is not necessary for a painting, on its own, to be successful. But can, or should a photograph be considered under the same standards used for painting when, for the most part (manipulated imagery aside), a camera will accurately record what is in front of it?


32 - Storm Surf at Diamond Beach — Iceland  © jj raia

Storm Surf at Diamond Beach — Iceland © jj raia

Since this web site began about 16 months ago with the 18-day trip to Iceland, 100 posts have gone live with the inclusion of at least three times as many photographs. Naturally, not every one was a stellar image, nor were they meant to be, especially when describing some shoots that resulted in disappointment in either conditions, subjects, or even failure to execute properly as a photographer. But marking the 100th Blog Post on this newer site is not only a milestone, but also a time to reflect on these past months to mention a few noteworthy events and images.

Throwback Thursday No. 30


Images from the Film Archives – 1997

Fog Bank & Ripples — Diamond Beach, NJ  © jj raia

Fog Bank, Sun & Ripples — Diamond Beach, NJ © jj raia

As mentioned in an earlier TBT, the family would take a week-long vacation in Wildwood, NJ, an ocean community long a destination for vacationers. It is miles of motels and boardwalk just north of Cape May, the victorian seashore mecca at the state’s southern end. Each morning I would get up early hoping for a beautiful sunrise, but on this day, there were no clouds in the sky, so I chose not to take the usual drive to a favored spot in North Wildwood, and stick close by in front of our rental. The only redeeming quality of the sky was a front of fog far out over the ocean, and I waited for the sun to clear it and reflect in the shallow sheen left by some small and lazy waves. What was interesting occurred when the water began its return to the ocean and built up ripples than ran parallel to the shoreline. Things might have been easier to take the photograph had I owned a split neutral density filter to block some of the bright sky, but economy won out on that expense. Instead, I had begun to use a moving dark card (having graduated from using my hat) held in front of the lens during exposure to “dodge” the bright area above the horizon. Most often using a 4-second exposure when I used the card, after tripping the shutter, I counted to three and removed the dark card to expose the sky for the remaining 1-second. This technique was sketchy at best, and more often than not, the results were not as planned. But this was one of the rare successful uses of that technique.

Fast forward a few years, and again we were on our annual vacation, when we decided to visit Cape May after dinner and wander along the promenade with loads of shops selling all sorts of souvenirs, clothing with Cape May emblazoned on it in some way, restaurants and art galleries. It was in one of these art galleries that I saw a large oil painting almost identical to the image at the top of the post. Same colors and same ripples, even the same gull way off in the corner!! I was able to eventually contact the artist who was completely apologetic, but it was the first encounter with someone who had used my work without permission, since he had seen the image in one of the calendars of my work. I was encouraged that someone thought enough of the work to use it as inspiration for their own, but disheartened at the same time to find myself within the uglier side of the “photography industry”.

But this turned out not to be the only occurrence. Since the main purpose at the time was to shoot locally, I was always looking for new locations in New Jersey that may provide an interesting landscape. I was flipping through a book about the state in the library, when I saw a photograph strikingly familiar to one of my own. It was in black and white, and couldn’t be sure at first, but as I thumbed through further, I found a second, and a third, and a few more that were definitely my photos; six in all as I recall. I looked back through some of my older calendars, and found they all were from a single one. So I contacted the publisher, and after a few phone calls and an email with a scan of the back of that calendar, they agreed I should be compensated. The publisher had contacted the author, and found that they indeed got the photos from the calendar, but thought the images were public domaine, even though every single photo has a copyright attached. It seemed pretty lame, but since I didn’t make any serious demands and threaten lawsuits, we agreed on a reasonable settlement.

I still don’t do anything more now than was done in the past to protect the work, being the slothful sot that I am; just depending on all the fine folks out there to be honest and do the right thing.

Search and Rescue

Flaming Sunrise — Cadillac Mtn. © jj raia

Flaming Sunrise — Cadillac Mtn. © jj raia

For anyone who uses Lightroom, at some point, you’ve probably experienced the dreaded “missing” indication on one of your images. For me, they’re scattered around my catalog more than I would like, and are probably linked to a hard drive crash two summers ago. They’re much worse than “the metadata has changed” icon, and now and then, I search through my files to correct those. I don’t know what causes any metadata to change, but clicking the “overwrite” option seems to clear up whatever the problem is. Not too interested in digging deeper since all I want to do is keep processing without any problems.

The other day, going through some older files from the 2018 Acadia trip to correct either of these problems, I found an image similar to the one at the top; but the original and all copies had that “missing” mark. So, even though I rarely ever find a missing file, I began the search. Most times, I’ll head to where it indicates the file last resided, and that particular number in the long sequence of numbered files, is missing! Every one is there except the one I’m searching for. That can be very frustrating to say the least. It turned out it wasn’t on the dedicated external drive for photos where it would normally reside, but managed to find it on the backup external for the first external drive! How could that be? Where did the originals go? (play The Twilight Zone music here).