A Time for Children

We have approached that time of year in which the majority recognize and celebrate the birth of a child. Let me say that again, recognize and celebrate the birth of a child. I often wonder whether this is truly understood, as its commercialism has dwarfed this holiday seasons true purpose and meaning. Whatever cynicism abounds in our eyes one thing is for certain, this is the time of year for families and more specifically a time of year for the children. A smile on the face of a child is a priceless moment when we know there is still peace and purity left in our world, it is a smile that lights up a room, and a little twinkle in the eye that says it’s OK  we’re going to be fine.

I do not consider myself to be very religious however I do consider myself to be spiritual and I believe I am very open-minded with regards to other’s ideologies. There is no one right answer for the collective, it is up to the individual to decide the direction they take and once that choice is made, so be it. I do not want to, nor will try to, change the choice of others. Be accepting, be respectful, be grateful and generous. This is what we have within ourselves. I am truly hoping that our next generation of children is raised this way so we can escape some of the selfishness that is rampant today. That one statement is truly painful and concerns me the most about the future.

Luckily there are moments when hope abounds and it is understood what must be done.

Children are full of innocence and this is the time of year to make sure that stays intact. The threat of a stocking filled with coal is gone, and the countdown is on. Energy is in abundance and I try to absorb what I can and continue to learn how to make my life have some simplicity to it. I have dreamed many a time about buying out our family farm that one of my cousins live on. Though it has not been a source of income for many, many years, it has nature, lots of nature. There is a peacefulness in nature that you can not find anywhere else, well aside from a sleeping baby, and for me peace is happiness.

Happiness is:

As a child gets older you may find yourself feeling a little vulnerable, I know I have, and then you find yourself getting down right petrified. They grow up to become beautiful young adults and you just hope that you have steered them in the right direction. If I could freeze time I have yet to figure out the perfect age to keep our daughter at. Each year is magical. Maybe I could freeze time the moment she thinks she has met a boy she would like to start a relationship with….But then I would be stunting her growth…but you have to admit, for those of you with children entering that phase of their life you know you want to….

I found myself for the first time ever staying up and waiting for our daughter to get home Thanksgiving night. I felt like an expectant dad hoping his child is safe. I was really just psyching myself out thinking of what’s to come, undoubtedly sooner rather than later, either way much sooner than I want it to. And all along she was with one of our most trusted friends and her daughters. Yup, all in the head.

And then there are the ones that you know are going to be, well, dangerous. For our friend Tess: Good luck.

Cherish them, spoil them to a point. This is a time of year made for them and we should always keep that spirit alive. Whichever one that may be for you.

I was not sure where this post would lead me when I began drafting it. Kids are a tough topic for me – too sentimental. I hope it was enjoyed.

Happy Holidays to all!

Till next time…

Power loss? Make Pictures!

So what does one do without power for 11 days? The first couple of days you are walking around the house, entering rooms and turning on the light switch. Naturally since it does not work you utter self depreciating words, shake your head and laugh at yourself. A simple everyday habit that is so ingrained in your consciousness that even when you know there is no power in the house you do it anyway. Then there are the board games that have been collecting dust in the closet as you try and keep a 13 year old entertained. Surprisingly there was only one day of that. Music from the iPod broke the silence as Britt and I traded play time and trips to the car for charging time. Wood burning stoves are a godsend sending heat and moisture into the stagnant air.

And then you try and get creative:

The egg, naturally white, colored with two gels brightened by two lights. Reminds me of a Sunrise. This was a suggestion from a photography group i am in. Finally got the chance to try it.

I found this next one very intriguing. As I was getting the purple on the left side dialed in I noticed the red on the right. Where the heck was this coming from? As I looked around a spec of sun had brightened the sky putting some light in through the window and with it illuminating a Snapple bottle on the counter close by. Very cool. I do not think I could have ever staged this, but allows for interesting attempts in the future.

Remarkably not a single game of cards was played during this time. We have never really been into cards so much, I would imagine though as all of us get older the rummy tournaments will ensue. Not a bad thing, maybe that would keep me sharp enough not to get slaughtered when we visit my parents.

 My wife loves these mythical type figurines so naturally she has received many gifts like this over the years.


I have to admit there were a few moments when that creepy, helpless feeling set in and  that parental instinct took over. Protecting home and family from looters and scam artists. Double checking the surroundings became common place and the car proved to be an ample charging station for flashlights, iPods and cell phones.

All in all it was a very interesting experience. Comparatively speaking we were incredibly lucky and very fortunate our issues were just related to power. There are thousands of people left without homes and for many low lying homes that did make it their interiors were ruined by flood waters. Truly a catastrophic event. Please think about those in need and always be thankful what you have. It can be gone in a matter of moments.

A workhorse getting ready to be retired:

Thank you for stopping by, Till next time…

Sandy and Mother Nature

Mother Nature produces many offspring each year. Her latest incarnation was a daughter named Sandy. Sandy was a very aggressive and agitated child that was born in the Caribbean, grew up in and around the Dominican Republic, Cuba and the Bahamas then made a bee line straight for the north eastern seaboard where she literally destroyed coastal towns on the New Jersey shoreline. It has been years since a storm of this magnitude made landfall in this area.  Were we prepared? Yes. However, when a mom unleashes her inner fury through one of her children all you can do is hold on and pray. Cat 1 Hurricane meets Nor’easter during a full moon. It could be years before some of the shore towns are up and running again.

In Seaside Park, workers preparing the beach the day before Sandy’s landfall

I have always loved the raw fury of a good storm and have worked during many of them. This one I decided to work on making sure my home and family were safe. My wife however, had to go in. The only saving grace is that for this storm she was under a roof. Though, she did not have many resources available due to what amounted to be nearly a state wide power failure…I would have rather been outside than dealing with what she and her coworkers had to contend with.

Storm and surf the day before Sandy’s arrival

I went out the day before Sandy’s arrival and shot some of a beach in Seaside Park. Brought the 20 mm 2.8 with me. The wind was already pushing me along, you can get decent  traction by digging your feet into the sand…It really is an exhilarating experience knowing what a force nature is.

Although my neighborhood fared OK damage wise, we were without power for 11 days. And even though I had downloaded and backed up all my pictures, viewing them on a laptop just is not the same as a desktop.  As I was going through my photos today I came across one that I had no idea would mean so much to so many. 30 hours after this was taken, the structure on the far right was in the ocean and would become a symbol of this storms destruction.

The Seaside pier @30 hours before it fell into the sea

Sandy arrived on a Monday, I went in to work early so I could get home early. After I left work I stopped by the Shark River Inlet which separates Avon by the Sea and Belmar. I found a little shelter and broke out my 200 with a rain cover on it. I was actually surprised at how many people were out. Met some people who knew what they were up against and some who had no idea. These were taken between 11 and 11:30 am, 7 hours before landfall in Atlantic City, 70 miles to the south.

Waves crashing the jetty extension – Avon side
Inlet jetty Avon Side

We lost power around 2 pm and for the next 11 days candle lights and fires in the wood stove. Even though it sounded like there was a truck driving along our roof, my scariest moment was watching a rather large tree in front of our house twist back and forth. While I was watching though I became at ease when the wind direction said if the tree falls it will fall into the street and not onto the house. Trees are what scare me the most during storms.

Thousands of people were displaced as their homes were destroyed. Schools turned into shelters, Cars lined up 3 miles for gas because the refineries could not offload and many stations were without power. Cell phones were still operational. I really believe that this saved many peoples sanity. Facebook lived! This was the only way to find out what was going on in the state. The outpouring of help between friends and neighbors never ceases to amaze me. Everyone always comes together in a time of crisis.

Exploring the damage the day after proved to be difficult due to all the trees and power lines down, many of the roads flooded and impassable. These are a couple of the back bay shots from the day after:

Beachwood Beach parking lot.
The back bay in Pine Beach

So what does one do for 11 days without power. Kerplunk, Yahtzee, visiting people with power, eating Red Cross lunches and dinners and of course taking photographs of anything in the house I could think of. This I shall leave to another day as to stay on target with Sandy.

With assistance pouring in, power crews, tree services, EMS, Law enforcement and other personnel came in from many different states. Many people in NJ had lost everything. But these workers were giving up their own lives to come and help us. Leaving their homes, their families, their comfort to assist in getting us back together.

The Boys from Alabama Power made it to our section of town on Tuesday November 6 but ran into a slight problem:

A momentary delay

Six inches of snow decided to fall upon us. And we were one of the lighter areas hit in the state. This was not your ordinary snowfall though, this was a snow that was wet and heavy. Tree branches bent at unhealthy angles, I could hear the branches breaking through the woods across the street. Like the first night, the sky was filled with the unmistakable crack and glow of transformers blowing. People that already had their power restored had lost it again. Injury on top of insult.

But this little dig from Mother Nature’s Nor’easter could not halt their progress for long.The following day it was back to work. Those who had power would get it restored quickly, those of us who did not remained hopeful for continued progress.

Signs of Life!

And on Thursday before they turned us back on the folks from Jaflo Tree service in PA. trimmed back the branches off the power lines to keep us safe in the future. The anticipation was maddening, knowing that by the end of the day power would be restored.

The final step

All in all it was a very interesting week at the Shep’s Pioneer Shack. Brought back memories of child hood vacations at my grandmothers in Tennessee. Though this time, we did not have to use an outhouse…

Till next time when I will explore the world of preventing boredom during power loss….

Thank you for reading!

A review of the Rogue Grid

A well respected member of a photo group I belong to requested I do a review of the Rogue Grid by Expo Imaging. Whom am I refuse such a request. I have never done a written review of sorts so this will be a first. But first –

Short worded reviews: yes it is worth it. What the heck does this mean? Worth it to who? OR: It is awesome! Its awesome is in the same category as – Its a piece of crap. Opinions, just opinions. Everyone has one, so if everyone has one the majority would rule so it must be good right? There is never a correct answer when it is an opinion. Except of course for the person who is stating that opinion…So here it goes. No opinions.

Being new to off camera flash photography the Rogue Grid by ExpoImaging is one of the first flash modifiers I acquired. I purchased it as part of the Rogue Portrait Lighting  package however it sells as a stand alone item for $49.95.

Rogue Grid by Expo Imaging (Flash not Included)

Slipping over the head of the flash and tightened down with a thick elastic strap it is anchored by a velcro strip and a metal snap with a choice between two contact points based on the size of your flash head.The housing or grid support as I would call it, is a thick nylon material reinforced with a couple of bendable metal strips. The interior is a nice bright white. Seems very durable. My only gripe with this part of it are the elastic loops that hold the grid housing on the nylon covering. They seem a bit loose and I am concerned that they may stretch out over time. This may be negated though because the actual grid head slides over the nylon nice and secure leading me to think the elastic loops are secondary devices to secure the grids onto the holder. The grids themselves come in two different sizes. 45 degrees and 25 degrees  When used together they produce a 16 degree light spread. They are made of an incredibly sturdy plastic, I can not see these pieces breaking, ever.

Light spread at 45 degrees:

Rogue Grid using 45 degree head

Light spread at 25 degrees

Rogue Grid using 25 degree head

Light spread using both modifiers. 18 degree light spread

Rogue Grid with 18 degree light spread

I know, I know, it fit the bill for an example…  Tebow is NOT the answer. 0-4 if he was at helm. Whoops….I stated an opinion….

Do I like it? Yes, very much. So much that I want another one. You can still fit a rectangular gel on the flash head but there are specific gels made for the grid. A set of 20 goes for $27.95 and includes a case with dividers/color description cards. I will be picking up a set of these soon.

I did some self portrait shots with the grid using the different combinations.Produced a very isolated lighting area, great for moody shots. I posted a couple of these already in various places, so here is one I did not put up. I was checking out the 18 degree grid here. The moodiest one by far.

18 degree test, self portrait style.

So why did I choose this over the other style grids? I like the circular pattern it provides, the other models are rectangular. This also amounts to a 3 in 1 product. The others may be less expensive but offer only one size. To achieve similar flexibility as the Rogue Grid you would have to buy multiple sizes and spend more money. Do it right the first time.

Well, thus concludes my review, I hope it helped. If you have any questions please ask. I have not come close to using this to its potential, but as opportunities arise I will be learning about its advantages even more. Robert Harrington does some really nice work with all the Expo Imaging Products and has some great examples.

Till next time..

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