Archive for the ‘The Back Story’ Category

Where in the World – Backstories About the Images – High Tide

February 18th, 2017 No comments

Seavey Creek in Rye New Hampshire

For the final six years I lived in New Hampshire, there was a good probability you’d find me at the Atlantic Coast at daybreak with my camera, looking to make images featuring colorful skies.

Especially when the tide was low, I frequently worked at a large tidal pool in Rye. On calm mornings when the sky was filled with color, the pool could be a magical place to create interesting compositions. High tide mostly erased the pool, so on those days I moved to alternate locations along the shore.

The inherent challenge associated with a project of this nature is New Hampshire’s location far to the north. The waters off its coast never get very warm (even in the summer), which impedes cloud production. This isn’t Florida, where nice cumulus clouds routinely appear over the sea! More often than not, the sky over the ocean in northern New England is either perfectly clear or completely overcast. Photographers looking for dramatic skies over the Atlantic at the beginning of the day will walk away empty-handed a lot of the time.

During February and March of 2014, there was a period of many weeks without morning color. It was frustrating, to say the least. Coincidentally, two snowy owls had been seen hanging around Rye that season. These beautiful birds, whose primary habitat is the Arctic, fly south to winter. That said, they generally do not appear as far south as New Hampshire….so this was most certainly a treat.

Given the lack of opportunity to make photographs of the sky at daybreak, I found myself shifting gears and heading over to the coast in the darkness before sunrise hoping instead to see and possibly photograph the birds.

I paid only cursory attention to the cloud forecast. For now, I’d focus on the owls.

I was surprised, therefore, one day very early in April as I made my way to the spot where the birds typically hung out, when I saw that the pre-sunrise sky was developing into something quite special. Though I hadn’t set out to photograph it, this was too good to pass up. After so many weeks – FINALLY there was some color up there! I stopped for a moment alongside a tidal creek to survey the scene. It seemed I would get better access to even more color if I continued to the ocean shore – so onward I raced.

The problem?

The only location I’d have time to get to would be my trusty tidal pool. And since it was high tide, there wouldn’t be much of a pool.

I arrived, flew out of the car, scurried up the embankment, and assessed the situation. Way too much water.

Now what? The clock was ticking. The color wouldn’t last much longer. I hastily retraced my route, heading once again for the tidal creek at which I’d stopped a few minutes earlier. Never having shot there, I didn’t know if there was a spot I could safely leave my vehicle, nor did I know whether I’d be able to compose a shot….but it was the only place I had any chance of getting to in time.

I parked as far off the side of the road as possible, turned on the hazards and crossed my fingers. Please nobody hit me! 🙂 Grabbing my gear, I ran to the edge of the completely calm water, getting as close as I could to include the reflected colors of the sky.

Bing, bang, boom. I just barely made it, but walked away with what I knew was going to be a good image – ironically, on a day when the sunrise wasn’t even on the agenda. I’d never previously tried to make a photograph at Seavey Creek (at low tide the area pictured is mostly mud and marsh) – and would never shoot from there again.

You have to be ready to improvise. Sometimes it pays off.

This image was later used in one of our personalized pastor appreciation plaques. The theme: God’s Love is Reflected in Your Ministry.

personalized pastor appreciation plaque

That’s this week’s behind-the-scenes story! There will be another next Saturday…

Is there a product image you’d like to know more about? Drop me a line. I’ll make sure it’s added to the “Backstories” agenda.)

Where in the World – Backstories About the Images – This Pink Cadillac Isn’t a Car

February 11th, 2017 No comments

Pink Cadillac

Granite, granite everywhere! In this case, it’s tinted pink.

The highest point at Acadia National Park in Maine is Cadillac Mountain. Located on the eastern side of Mount Desert Island, its summit not only is the high point in the park, but it’s also the highest spot within 25 miles of the North American coast between Nova Scotia and the Mexican peaks. As you can see in this photo, Cadillac’s bald ledges of pink granite are decorated with lichen and moss.

For roughly six months out of the year (early October through early March), the top of Cadillac Mountain is the first place the sun’s morning rays touch the United States. Because it’s reachable by car, it can be a very popular spot at sunrise – both in the summer months and during “leaf peeping” season. It’s not unusual for the ample parking lot to be completely filled at that early hour. As soon as the sun clears the horizon, though, most people jump in their vehicles and head back down to Bar Harbor. This leaves the nearly empty summit a wonderful place for any remaining photographers to work.

That’s when the image above was made: just after the sun had come up, and most of the people had departed. On a chilly October morning, the warm light brought out the pink tones in the granite and made the colorful lichen pop.

Once I got back to the studio, it seemed like this image was tailor made for the wonderful excerpt from Scripture that we use both for one of our Pastor Appreciation plaques – as well as a Service Appreciation design: “You show that you are a letter from Christ…written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God; not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts.”

Pink Cadillac.

Now you know the rest of the story!

Personalized Pastor Appreciation Plaque

Where in the World – Backstories About the Images – Did George Washington Look Thru This Window?

February 4th, 2017 No comments

Stained glass window at St. John's Church in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

If you’re a regular reader you’ll recall an earlier post about another beautiful piece of glass; that one was housed at the now defunct Museum of Stained Glass in Chicago.

The window featured here is, happily, still somewhere it can be admired – and that building is the subject of today’s backstory: St. John’s Episcopal Church in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I learned about the church’s rich history on one of my first visits to the Granite State. Later, after moving there, I ended up working across the street from it for a number of years. From my office window, I could look out at both the church and its adjacent burial yard.

For context, Portsmouth is a very old city (settled in 1623 and incorporated in 1653). St. John’s story goes back a long way, too. A wooden structure was first erected on the site of the present-day church in 1732; at that time it was called Queen’s Chapel in honor of Caroline, consort of King George II. The Queen was one of many distinguished benefactors of the parish, donating many items including the prayer books used on the altar and pulpit, and a rare “Vinegar” Bible (printed in 1717).

Following the American Revolution, a very famous figure attended services at Queen’s Chapel: one George Washington, a few months after he was first elected to the presidency. You’ll find a plaque inside commemorating that visit.

Not long afterward, post-Revolutionary references to England unsurprisingly having lost favor, Queen’s Chapel was renamed St. John’s Church.

That original structure in which President Washington worshiped was destroyed by a fire that raced along Portsmouth’s riverfront on Christmas Eve 1806 (one of three Christmas week fires which ravaged the city in the space of a few short years: December 26, 1802, this one in 1806, and again on December 22, 1813); embers from the conflagration landed on the roof of the all-wooden St. John’s, and that was that. The church burned to the ground and most of its contents were lost. However, a chair which had been a gift from Queen Caroline and used by dignitaries who attended services at the chapel, did survive the blaze.

A new building was erected, this time in brick: the cornerstone was laid in 1807 and its doors opened in 1808. This is the church which stands today – looking exactly the same as it did long ago. Its bell, originally cast in France and dating back to 1745, rang above the original church and was badly damaged in the 1806 fire – but Paul Revere recast it, and this is the same bell you see (and hear) today. It was recast once again at the end of the 19th century.

The “new” St. John’s was the first brick church in New Hampshire; it’s the oldest Episcopal church in the state, and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

The window pictured above is one of my favorites at St. John’s. (And to answer the question posed in the headline: because the glass post-dates the fire, President Washington would not have gazed through it when he visited.)

This imagery was used to create one of our gifts for Godparents – and the design featuring the window from this historic church in Portsmouth is consistently one of the best sellers in the collection. In a nod to the place from which it came, you’ll see that we used St. John’s in the sample personalization. 🙂

Now you know the rest of the story!

Personalized Gift for Godparents

Personalized Gift for Godparents

Where in the World – Backstories About the Images – Fire and Ice

January 28th, 2017 No comments
Fire and Ice ~ Yellowstone National Park

Fire and Ice ~ Yellowstone National Park

I made this image of a sunset over the Madison River in Yellowstone National Park just about a year ago. As you may know, the park is closed to vehicular traffic during the winter. If you want to explore it this time of the year, you must do so under your own power (cross country skis or snowshoes), via snowmobile, or via snowcoach.

As a result, the crowds and congestion – so common during the summer months – are gone. The park’s thermal features, always interesting, are even more spectacular and otherworldly when the mercury dips below zero. In short, winter in Yellowstone is magical. You just need to dress for it!

Last February I had the opportunity to spend nearly a week working in the park with a small group of photographers. It was brutally cold, with temperatures hovering at 24 below zero as we entered some mornings – but the frigid conditions created fantastic conditions. Steam billowing up from thermally heated rivers covered nearby trees with thick hoar frost. The geyser basin was even more stunning than usual, again due to the wildly contrasting temperatures between the steam and atmosphere.

Because the best sunrise locations were a significant drive from our base in West Yellowstone, Montana – and removed from the locations at which we planned to work – we did not attempt any daybreak photography. However, I had hopes for opportunities in the evening. Late on the first day, we followed the Madison River looking for wildlife while concurrently trying to find a suitable location from which to capture the setting sun – all while anxiously watching the clock.

As the sky began to pick up color, we still hadn’t found a place to make a photo.

The clock would not yield, so in desperation we opted for the nearest spot offering access to the river. No more time to be choosy! Bailing out into snow that was thigh-deep, we hoped we could move quickly enough through all that white stuff to make our way closer to the water, find compositions, and set up in time.

Spotting some reeds along the shore, I decided to use them to anchor the foreground. It was only after hastily setting up my tripod and mounting the camera that I noticed animal tracks now partially covered in fresh snow. Those were a bonus, since they would draw the eye into the shot. The color lasted for about twenty minutes, and then it was all over.

Ironically, there would be no more sunset opportunities the rest of the week due to overcast skies and/or snowstorms. That said, this one and only image featuring fiery skies was one of my favorites from six days of work.

It was later used in one of our service appreciation designs:

Christian Service Appreciation Gift

Christian Service Appreciation Gift

Now you know the rest of that story!

We’ll travel somewhere else for next week’s behind-the-scenes look at one of our images.