FFFF

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Frosted Forest Floor No.1 — Wake County, NC © jj raia

So what does the title of this post really signify? Read through to the end to find out the truth.


The temperatures had dropped to 30ºF overnight, with almost no wind, making the conditions perfect for frost one morning in late November. So I headed out to find some frost to photograph on some nearby autumn leaves that, at this time of year, completely carpet the ground. There was no problem finding the frost, but the difficulty was to find an interesting pattern, color combination or structure, among the homogeneous jumble of withered leaves. One thing in my favor was the cloudless sky that created the blue tones in the shadows and reflected light from the frost. The juxtaposition of the warm toned leaves and cool tones helped create a three dimensional quality to the images, but there was a bit of a race against the sun before it would reach the leaves, quickly melting the frost, and creating harsh lighting conditions, rather than the even light in the shade. During the processing, there was a slight shift in temperature to counteract some of the blue, but not eliminate it since my personal preference is to retain it, while I do realize others may not share that sentiment.

Hope for 2021

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— Free Print Available —

Now Extended until 11:59PM on January 3rd, 2021

This post is a bit different in that I am partnering with HOPE NC, a non-profit organization founded by three parents, to raise awareness and funding regarding an unmet need for individuals with developmental disabilities. In an effort to support their mission, donors of $100 or more by December 31, 2020, now extended until 11:59PM on January 3rd, will receive a signed photographic print of their choice from the gallery below.

Did you know that approximately 6.5 million people in the United States have an intellectual and/or developmental disability (IDD), and many of these individuals live with family members? Nationwide, almost one million of these caregivers are over the age of 60. Where will people with IDD live when their family members are no longer able, or alive, to support them? People with disabilities are facing a housing crisis in this country.

HOPE, Housing Options for People with Exceptionalities, is a nonprofit organization started by families in the Triangle area of North Carolina who recognized the critical need to expand housing options in the Triangle for their adult sons and daughters. To that end, HOPE’s vision is to create and market to both the general public and adults with IDD, a diverse, inclusive community that is intended to provide adults with IDD who choose to live there with a sense of independence and community, as well as the opportunity to pursue rich, meaningful and purposeful lives.

Would you consider helping HOPE by making a donation?

Some of you may know my son Brian (35) who currently lives with us, his aging parents who are both over the age of 65. He has been on the waiting list for Medicaid supports for over 10 years, which would enable him to move out of his family home to prepare for life without our continuing support; however he joins 14,000 other individuals on North Carolina’s waiting list. Until he receives those supports, his options for moving out are very limited, and most of those options are in separate, segregated settings.

HOPE seeks to expand the housing options for adults with developmental disabilities in the Triangle area so they may experience a richer, more diverse and inclusive lifestyle in a community of their choice, which we all deserve. If you would like to help in the effort to make HOPE’s vision a reality, simply go to the link above, or any of the other links within this post, to easily make a donation.

For more information and to stay up to date on HOPE, visit the

Beginning today, by making a donation to HOPE NC of $100 or more, as a thank you, you’ll receive an original, signed photographic print of your choice (free shipping) from those within the gallery of photos below that have appeared in the blog sometime this year. Just use any of the Donate to Hope NC links to make your donation, and also fill out the form at the bottom of this post with the number of your choice of print, and information for its delivery. Your information will be held in strict security. This offer ends on December 31, 2020 and shipments will begin shortly thereafter. All photographs will be printed on 13X19 photographic paper @ approximately 10×15, 12×15, or 12×12, depending on the photo chosen.


Gallery

Click on any image to view full size


Additional Print Choices


Here’s Hoping 2021 is Better than 2020


PRINT REQUEST FORM

The Perfect Wave

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Clearing Storm — Corolla Beach, NC © jj raia

There were so many photo opportunities each morning on this trip, and what made each one even better was that I didn’t have to travel anywhere except the one morning I drove no more than 5-minutes to the end of the paved road on the north end of the Outer Banks. Otherwise, the hardest part was getting up, putting on a pair of waders, and walking across the dunes to the ocean. There were clouds every morning, and even if they didn’t light up as they did on Sunday and Thursday mornings, they definitely were interesting none the less. The only problem the clouds presented was that, for the most part, they were always moving at a pretty good clip, so when some clouds had some real drama and were properly balanced within the frame, they didn’t stay put for long.

The History of Uncle Anthony’s Cheesecake

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Uncle Anthony (left) and me — January 2017

Well over thirty years ago, during the annual family get together on Christmas Day, Uncle Anthony brought over a cheesecake to go along with all the other delightful desserts of cookies, cakes, strueffulli (tiny squares of dough, deep fried and smothered in honey), and whatever else the table could handle until it was completely covered. There are probably as many cheesecake recipes as there are households, but to my wife and I, this was the absolute best cheesecake we’d ever had. Mind you, I had access to the “World Famous Baby Watson” cheesecake right around the corner from New York’s Penn Station where I worked, and Uncle Anthony’s Cheesecake put it to shame!!

Luckily, my uncle shared his recipe with my wife, and every time she made it, everyone agreed it was simply the best. So she decided to submit it to Bon Appetit Magazine as Uncle Anthony’s Cheesecake, since they occasionally published reader recipes the chefs there thought worthy to share with the world in their monthly publication. We were thrilled when they actually did publish it; now my uncle’s recipe could be shared with the world!! Fast forward many years later, well after the introduction of the internet, we did a Google search to see if Uncle Anthony’s Cheesecake would come up, and were amazed that it was listed under the Bon Appetit article, along with countless other hits throughout the world from folks who had enjoyed his recipe!!

A few years back, my wife decided to add a sauce to go with the cheesecake. Made from butter (a lot), brown sugar (a lot), and bourbon, this sauce took the cheesecake to another level, so much so that a good friend of ours claimed, “You could put this sauce on Dog S#!t and it would taste good!”

In order to be a bit healthier and get away from all that butter in the sauce, last year we tried to combine the top from Crème Brûlée with Uncle Anthony’s Cheesecake. Just after taking it from the refrigerator and adding some sugar to the top, all that’s needed is a propane torch to melt the sugar to form the hard crust. But extreme care should be taken to ensure you don’t burn down the house, or anything nearby!! (see video, I no longer have fingerprints on two fingers). Now instead of one large cheesecake, my wife makes several much smaller ones to have on occasion, rather than having to finish it within a few days. That’s what made it easier to add the sugar crust to it; they’re made to order.

I’m sure by now there are countless iterations of the recipe along with many other additions to it like the Bourbon Sauce or Sugar Shell, that folks have added to make it more personal to their own family. But Uncle Anthony’s Cheesecake remains the basis for the joy it brings to so many across the globe. Thanks Uncle Anthony!!


Merry Christmas

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Christmas Lights — 2012

Many folks throughout the world are spending this holiday season without the coming together of family and friends, along with the joy this time of year usually brings. It is so important to take a moment to recognize and be thankful for the blessings we have.

From our family to yours, no matter what holiday you celebrate, we wish you all peace, health and happiness, now and in the coming months, of what we pray will be a better year.


Throwback Thursday No. 42

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Images from the Film Archives — 1994

Thunder Mountain Lake, NJ  © jj raia

Thunder Mountain Lake – Delaware Watergap NRA, NJ © jj raia

I had always wanted to visit Thunder Mountain Lake, deep in New Jersey’s Delaware Watergap National Recreation Area, but never realized until many years later, that in 1960, the area was originally slated for a dam to be built. Work actually began toward that end with the purchase of land, hundreds of homes and the relocation of the owners, only to determine almost 20 years later, that the plan was not financially practical and was abandoned! By the time I began visiting the area, it was already designated as a National Recreation Area, but without much in the way of oversight or structural improvements. That would take years to begin and continues today.

It was a drive of about 2-1/2 hours, and of course as was usually the case when I drove that far for a sunrise, it looked like I would get there too late. But I suppose it didn’t really matter since there were no clouds that day, and no color in the sky. But there was some color in the autumn foliage, and while walking around searching for a composition, I found a few snags standing in the water with reflections. The problem was I wanted the green duckweed on the water’s surface to be in the foreground and the only way to do so was to move closer. But wading into the water and getting soaked just didn’t seem like a viable option. Luckily, there were a few tree stumps I could hopscotch on to get into a better position out on the water, and while balancing on them, the tripod was lowered half submerged into the water. A polarizer certainly helped in fully saturating the color of the duckweed, autumn colors, reflections and sky, and probably made the difference in its success.

I did manage to stay dry on those stumps that seemed to be purposefully placed just for the shot, but I did have to take off the “foot” of each leg of the tripod to drain out the water. A week or so later after getting back the processed film, I was pleased with the image, but not as much as I’d hoped, so there was a bit of surprise when the publisher chose it for the cover of one of the calendars. It just illustrates exactly what my thoughts have been for years, that judgements made on any art, photography included, is purely subjective. Or “One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor.” This holds true for those who make judgements in any juried exhibit or competition; accepted entries or winners are strictly selected by people with their own preferences, perception and biases, snd should never be taken personally. Suggestions on improvements should be welcome, but choices can only be made by those doing the choosing.

A few cases in point. One of the very first “camera club” slide competitions I entered clearly illustrates judging biases or preferences. When my slide of a sunset came up (no surprise here that it was a sunset), she immediately said, “I don’t like sunrises or sunsets, and for that reason, this one is rejected.” It was rejected out of hand simply because of the subject matter!! Obviously, being a newbie to these things, that singular incident shaped much of my attitude toward judging, but it was useful to understand the process of judging.

Another incident really brought into focus my own misconceptions about another form of judgement in terms of art. My work was part of a group photographic exhibit for the inaugural exhibit in a brand new art gallery in New Jersey; a gallery that was to exhibit all forms of art, not just photography. At one point, I asked the husband and wife owners of the gallery how they would determine what work to exhibit in the gallery, and was it based on any study or background in art? “Oh no,” they said, “we never took any art in college or anything like that, we’re just business people.” That raised the question: “Who is it that decides what is art?”

There were other instances along the way, and I won’t bore you with each one, but needless to say, these encounters galvanized a determination to set my own standards. Photograph your own interests, at a level of competence with which you are comfortable. Follow your own instincts. Enjoy what it is you do; chances are you will enjoy the results!

For those of you who celebrate the holiday

Merry Christmas !!


OBX 2020 — Day’s End

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Bald Cypress — Duck, NC © jj raia

During the trip, there were two instances where the skies looked promising for a good sunset, and each time my son and I went out in hopes that promise actually materialized. Each time there were a lot of clouds, but there was a thin strip along the horizon that appeared to be clear that would allow for the light after sunset to streak through and light up the darker clouds above. And each time, that light never showed up. We went to a different location each evening, and for one that was located on a dock facing the bay (reminds me of a song), most of the clouds disappeared altogether. For the other location, seen above and below, we went to a solitary bald cypress tree, definitely within the general distance from the car, as the saying goes, beyond which, “nothing is photogenic”, and instead of the clouds disappearing, as the sun touched the horizon, it’s light was snuffed out by a sliver of clouds! Those beautiful dark clouds never lit up as we had hoped, but they did provide a great background for the tree while the sun was still above the horizon.

Compositionally, I didn’t want the sun behind any of the branches or trunk for fear that they would be blown out, so I positioned it just to the left so there would be some of its reflection on the calm waters of the bay, with a clear view of the dramatic clouds surrounding the sun. Three frames were blended together to get the sun in the frame without being blown out and the tree itself in silhouette. Another frame or two were taken overexposed to get some information in the file for the water and duckweed on the surface, and while taking those frames, a finger was placed in front of the lens to block the sun to reduce or eliminate any internal reflections that might show up.

In both photos, since the tree itself would be a silhouette, there was no problem using a hard edge split ND filter to even out the light values of the sky and reflections on the water. There wouldn’t be any of the odd darkening of the tree branches above the horizon since the entire tree would render as black. Often, shots like these would present that problem, and the only way around that would be HDR, since blending would probably have that odd darkening as well.

Bald Cypress at Dusk — Duck, NC © jj raia

Even though the two images are of basically the same subject (the tree), the vertical image at the top shows all the drama of the sunset with the deep gray clouds illustrating the story of this solitary tree fighting for its existence day after day under the harsh conditions it finds itself. The image above has a much quieter and serene story to tell of the peaceful end of the day.

On a different day, at the other location on the end of the dock, there were a few other folks there relaxing on the benches memorializing the sunset with a bottle of champagne and some hors d’oeuvres. One of them took a picture of the two of us doing our thing to memorialize the sunset. We were happy that she shared it with us since this is the only picture of us out together shooting! So we are thankful to her. Unfortunately, all those clouds in the background never lit up as the sun set because of a thin band of clouds right along the horizon, and their continued drift northward, leaving almost none to the west. So the sunset itself turned out to be a complete bust. But, to get those shots of great light, you do have to actually be there when it does happen, and accept it when it doesn’t.

All and all, a very good trip for photography if not for lounging in the sunshine. But those clouds provided the much needed atmospherics that are imperative for landscape images with long views. It seemed afterward that the same conditions prevailed during last year’s trip as well; plenty of clouds to help with the photography, but not enough to call it a washout!!


Throwback Thursday No. 41

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Images from the Film Archives — 1991

Trout Brook Falls – Hacklebarney State Park, NJ © jj raia

On an overcast fall morning, I headed out to explore a state park with an odd name. Hacklebarney wasn’t very big, but with a lot of deciduous trees, the expectation was  for plenty of color, and there was no disappointment. Not far from the parking lot, the trail split, and I opted to head down into a small ravine through which Trout Brook flowed, eventually joining the Black River, hoping to find a spot with small cascades to photograph. What I found was a small waterfall, no more than 8-10 feet tall, that really funneled the water through a narrow sluice with a small pool of water below. It was an idyllic scene with bright yellow leaves collecting against a small branch in the pool, and others glued to the wet rock faces on either side of the water.

Since I was still new at this, I wasn’t sure what the right shutter speed was in order to blur the water as it cascaded between the rocks. So I tried several exposure variations and found this one to be about what I envisioned. Obviously, I don’t remember how long a shutter speed I used then, but it certainly is much easier now being able to check the shot instantly on the back of the camera.

In fact, you can get the water just as you wish, and then take another frame of equal exposure to do a variety of things to compliment the water. For instance the water can be blended with a shorter exposure to freeze any windblown branches, or one with greater depth of field, or a frame with an even longer exposure to blur a batch of leaves moving in a circle, or even several focus-stacked frames. I’ve seen photos where different sections of a cascade utilized separate frames to get the water right in every one of them. Of course, all the combined frames need to be taken on a tripod. But there are so many more options available now to make your image the best it can be.

OBX 2020 – Other Things

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Dune Pattern Pano — Currituck Banks Reserve, NC © jj raia

On the morning of fog, after the image of the log in the previous post was taken, I ventured among the dunes to find patterns in the sand. And some of the patterns I found, quite a distance from the log and surf, had all the tell tale signs that the ripples were created by the movement of the surf. Since these areas were much higher than the ocean, they could only be created during a major storm, since a normal high tide would have never reached these areas behind the front dunes. So I wandered around several areas finding some interesting patterns along with some elements that portrayed the various life stages there. These are things that take hold of you, and keep you searching for the next thing to put before the lens. And it becomes very difficult to break away from the search, to pack up the gear for the hike back.

The image above was discovered along the top edges of a dune and photographing the long stretch of ripples required a three frame panorama. That choice was motivated by the desire to keep as much detail as possible in the final image with every grain of sand in perfect sharpness. I could have used the 17mm end of the wide-angle zoom, but that would have resulted in a severe crop of both the top and bottom of the frame, effectively throwing away about two-thirds of the pixels! So the difference would have been somewhere in the neighborhood of 12mp vs. 80mp. Which do you think would print better?

Hope for 2021

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— Free Print Available —

This post is a bit different in that I am partnering with HOPE NC, a non-profit organization founded by my wife and two additional parents, to raise awareness and funding regarding an unmet need for individuals with developmental disabilities. In an effort to support their mission, donors of $100 or more by December 31, 2020, will receive a signed photographic print of their choice from the gallery below.

Did you know that approximately 6.5 million people in the United States have an intellectual and/or developmental disability (IDD), and many of these individuals live with family members? Nationwide, almost one million of these caregivers are over the age of 60. Where will people with IDD live when their family members are no longer able, or alive, to support them? People with disabilities are facing a housing crisis in this country.

HOPE, Housing Options for People with Exceptionalities, is a nonprofit organization started by families in the Triangle area of North Carolina who recognized the critical need to expand housing options in the Triangle for their adult sons and daughters. To that end, HOPE’s vision is to create and market to both the general public and adults with IDD, a diverse, inclusive community that is intended to provide adults with IDD who choose to live there with a sense of independence and community, as well as the opportunity to pursue rich, meaningful and purposeful lives.

Would you consider helping HOPE by making a donation?

Some of you may know my son Brian (35) who currently lives with us, his aging parents who are both over the age of 65. He has been on the waiting list for Medicaid supports for over 10 years, which would enable him to move out of his family home to prepare for life without our continuing support; however he joins 14,000 other individuals on North Carolina’s waiting list. Until he receives those supports, his options for moving out are very limited, and most of those options are in separate, segregated settings.

HOPE seeks to expand the housing options for adults with developmental disabilities in the Triangle area so they may experience a richer, more diverse and inclusive lifestyle in a community of their choice, which we all deserve. If you would like to help in the effort to make HOPE’s vision a reality, simply go to the link above, or any of the other links within this post, to easily make a donation.

For more information and to stay up to date on HOPE, visit the

Beginning today, by making a donation to HOPE NC of $100 or more, as a thank you, you’ll receive an original, signed photographic print of your choice (free shipping) from those within the gallery of photos below that have appeared in the blog sometime this year. Just use any of the Donate to Hope NC links to make your donation, and also fill out the form at the bottom of this post with the number of your choice of print, and information for its delivery. Your information will be held in strict security. This offer ends on December 31, 2020 and shipments will begin shortly thereafter. All photographs will be printed on 13X19 photographic paper @ approximately 10×15, 12×15, or 12×12, depending on the photo chosen.


Gallery

Click on any image to view full size


Additional Print Choices


Here’s Hoping 2021 is Better than 2020


PRINT REQUEST FORM