A Warm Saturday Evening

I made the decision yesterday morning to keep my camera by my side at all times throughout the day. My personal photographic output had decreased over the past few months so I was looking for something to jumpstart my creativity. To sum it up, the idea was a great success. I was able to capture a handful of images that I am truly proud of. Below is a sample of some of the photographs I made as the sun was setting on the lake. Some family had come over for the evening and paired them with some golden hour light. Enjoy.


A larger selection of photos from the day can be seen in my Photo Archive

 
 

Hot, With A Chance Of Storms

Hazy Afternoon

We just finished a wild week of seven straight days of rain here in the Northeast. These photographs were taken this past Tuesday when we had a small break in the rain. It was a particularly hot day, and a thick haze blanketed the area. I tried to capture that in the photos below. It was one of those afternoons where you just knew a thunderstorm was going to roll through, and sure enough it did.

What The Weather

Somehow all of my posts tend to mention the weather in one form or another. If it gets to be too much don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. My fascination with meteorology comes from the idea that you have to spend your time observing the current conditions and taking note of them. I can make a correlation between that in photography but I’ll save that for another day. I should mention that I used to watch the Weather Channel as a kid, tracking severe weather as it happened, I was borderline obsessed. I used to be afraid of storms as a child and I remember many a sleepless night as the flashes of light and cracks of thunder would keep me awake. These days I enjoy watching storms roll across the landscape from the west. It’s an interesting process that creates all kinds of atmosphere and drama, prime conditions for good photographs. We are fortunate to have a great big view of the sky from our dock, something I elaborate in greater detail here.


Foggy Mornings, Twenty Years Later

Foggy, condensation filled mornings are a common occurrence at the Pine Barren Man World Headquarters. Drenched windows make for an interesting subject, and I tend to stop and photograph them whenever the opportunity arises. I'm hoping that by the time I'm fifty I have enough misty window content to publish a photo book on them. I can see it now... Moist (Gl)ass: The Michael Mroczek Story. I know I have your interested piqued however,  the book is still a little over twenty years away so, for now, the foggy photographs below will have to suffice.


Early Spring Thursday

A few photos of the pups from this past Thursday afternoon. Everything was captured with the Fujifilm X-Pro2 + Fujifilm XF 27mm combo. 

Autumn Lake Winery

Last Thursday, Victoria and I visited autumn lake winery with our friends Shannon & Brandon. We're fortunate that the winery is right next to the lake we live on. We arrived around 2pm and were lucky to be the only ones there. At the present moment, Autumn Lake's tasting room is in a greenhouse on the property while they begin building a permanent building at the winery. A cool thing about the greenhouse is that during the day the plastic diffuses all of the sunlight that pours into the room. All of that soft light is a photographers dream! I had a great time sampling the wine on offer as well as taking a few photos of our afternoon.

I find it exciting that we have places to explore (and photograph) right around the corner from our house. One of the advantages of living a rural area as opposed to where I grew up is that there is a greater abundance of small farms, breweries, wineries etc. Many of these establishments take great pride in the product that they produce and there is often a deep connection to the local area. Having pride in your community and the people is a big factor in helping call a new place home, at least for me it is. We will be back to Autumn Lake in the near future, I can guarantee it.

Washington Lake Park

Yesterday we decided to brave the cold and Victoria's cold, to take the pups out for a little walk somewhere new. Tori knew of a dog run in the next town over in Washington Lake Park so we packed the dogs up in the car and set off. I brought my X-Pro2 & the Fujinon 23mm f1.4 lens to snap some photos while the dogs ran around. The park was virtually empty so the whole trip was nice and relaxing. I wasn't feeling particularly inspired but it was nice to use my camera in a different setting and capture something new.

 
 

Just a heads up for everyone... I've started selling prints of my work. They are available for purchase here.

Early Morning Work

A few images from early this morning. Victoria was putting the finishing touches on a table that she had been refurbishing over the past couple of days. She had an hour or so of time to kill before starting work for the day. I took notice of how the light was soft and pouring in through the big windows in the great room, I quickly grabbed my camera and did some work of my own. 

First Snow

We've had snow on three separate occasions this week here at the Pine Barren Man World Headquarters. The surface of the lake has been frozen for the past couple of days. Here are some photos covering all of the meteorological events of the last week. Enjoy! 


A Light Morning

Light Inspiration

The other day we were having a little discussion in the Fujifeed Slack group about the Fujinon 27mm lens. We were trying to figure out where they lens stood between Fujifilm's other offerings of the 35mm and 23mm lenses. I have to admit that it isn't a lens that I use often despite owning it for the last 2 years. As a result of that discussion, I've been inspired over the last couple of days to incorporate this lens into my photographs on a more frequent basis. This morning I decided to put on a jacket and hat to take some photos off the dock at sunrise. What makes this lens easy to use is that it is equivalent to what the human eye sees. My goal this morning was to keep a narrow aperture and try to capture what I consider "normal things".

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Thoughts on the Fujifilm XF 27mm

One of the benefits of this lens is that it is much smaller than anything else Fujifilm has in his lineup. It's a great piece of kit to take out with you on a day where you want to keep things light. The beauty of this lens is that it is able to keep things in a relatable perspective but also capture intricate details that you might miss if you were looking at them in real time. The focal length of this lens has the distinction of sitting right in between wide-angle and telephoto. If you want one lens to put on your camera that is going to challenge you throughout the day it's this one.

Corvette Rebuild: Part 1

We are getting closer and closer to the day that my long lost love finally returns to me. My Corvette is finally coming back to life. It's been something close to two years since I have driven the car regularly. Two years of moving homes and changing jobs. Something that was once constant in my life has been missing for so long. Often times I find myself watching Corvette videos on YouTube and say something along the lines of “man I wish I had one of those cars…” Yes, on a regular basis I will have to remind myself that I do in fact own one of those cars. It's a very strange feeling indeed.

In reality, the car getting hit was the best thing that could have ever happened.  The nose which was never in the greatest shape will now be completely new. By new, I mean new to the car. We were able to find an original nose from another '75 up in Connecticut. It will be a vast improvement from the nose that we pieced together back when we first restored the car in 2012. Another thing to be excited about is the suspension on this car. Two years ago when we swapped engines, we noticed that suspension and steering were in rough shape. Now that the whole front of the car is exposed we can go in and completely rebuild the front suspension. The rebuild includes all new polyurethane bushings, coilovers, and a rack & pinion steering setup. The steering rack is something I'm most excited about. It's a nice update on the old recirculating ball system that was originally on the car.

I'm really excited about being this close to getting the car back on the road. Things have moved quickly over the last couple of weeks and I wanted to share some photos and update everyone on the status of the car. It is difficult being two hours away from the garage so I made the most of Thanksgiving day at my parents. I took a few minutes to sneak away from the table and snap a few photos of the car. Stay tuned for the next installment which will feature putting the nose back on the car and possibly even having the car in the spray booth.

Building a Custom Surface for Product Photography

 A few days ago Victoria was trying to take some photos of a bridesmaid gift she received the night before. She was trying to take these images on her phone and was not having any success. After a few unsuccessful attempts, she had given into my suggestion of taking these photos on her X-T10. She then ran into the issue of having a couple of photos that were poorly framed and somewhat noisy. After some more convincing we had her camera mounted on a tripod. We spent the next few minutes rearranging the objects in the photo and adjusting the tripod to get the composition just right. She remarked about how so much effort was going into a single photo. I told her that for me a lot of the joy that comes from Photography is all of the problem-solving that you have to do on occasion. This can mean a few different things. For example, you might have to climb a fence to get closer to your subject. You might have to use a reflector to modify the available light in a scene. In the most extreme cases, you might have to fabricate an entire set or some props for your images.

Why You Should Build Your Own Stuff...

You should build your own stuff because it gives you the opportunity to add a unique and personal touch to your photos. Creating something such as this surface, from scratch allows you to add an extra element of control to your photos. For example, in product photography, it's important to have complete control over the technical aspects of a photo.  So why not take things a step further and be in control of the surroundings as well. Imagine being able to custom build a prop for your clients on an individual basis. In a competitive marketplace, everyone wants something that will help them stand out.

How I Built This Surface

The individual boards are a part of our fence that was damaged in a storm back in August. They had been sitting in the garage for the last few months, waiting for someone to put them to good use. Some of the pieces were longer than others so I started by cutting them all down to the same length, 20 Inches.

The old fence, damaged in a storm back in August.

The old fence, damaged in a storm back in August.

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The pieces of wood with their original edge. 

The pieces of wood with their original edge. 

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I decided to give all the edges a rough look by taking a utility knife to them.  I then took some sandpaper and smoothed out the cuts that I had made.  You can see in the photos that the edges have much more character than when I started out. In some areas I took a hammer and dented some of the flat surfaces, adding in little nicks and chips. The boards now have the appearance of some old floorboards or an old table. The idea is to simulate something that has many years of wear and tear on it. After giving the wood some character, I took a piece of sandpaper on a flat block and smoothed out the entire board. A trick here is to cheat the edge a bit with the block. You want the board to be slightly higher in the center than it is on the edge.

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After I was happy with the shape of the wood I moved on to staining. I used two colors of which we had laying around to achieve the look you see here. The basecoat is a color called English Chestnut. The second color is a darker stain that I applied to accent some of the flaws in the wood. I wanted to give the wood a dirty look as if stuff had been spilled on it over the years. Both stains were applied with rags. I dipped a little piece of the rag in and would use that to go over the entire board. I like to stretch out as much stain as I can on as much surface area as possible. You don’t want to lay to stuff on too thick, you want to see the character in the wood. After the stain was applied I let the boards dry overnight, and just like that they were finished.

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In total it took me about two hours to do all of the cutting, sanding, and staining. I was lucky enough to have all of the materials laying around in the garage so the total cost for this project was a big fat zero. If you had to buy the materials for this they all tend to be fairly cheap. In most cases, you could probably build something just like this for around $50. It’s also a project that doesn’t require much space so you could even do it in an apartment as long as you don’t mind a little mess from the sanding!

The Joys of Building

One of the most satisfying parts of this little project is that I was able to create something useful with my own two hands. Now I know not everyone is mechanically inclined, and that I have a predisposition to building things. I tend to think “I can build that” before “I can buy that” most of the time. I see a great benefit to having something custom made, by myself, for my own little photo projects. I didn’t have to read reviews or wait for Amazon to ship me something that is going to improve my photography, and that is a great feeling. For me it’s satisfying to work on something for a couple of hours and just zone out. The joy that comes from the absence of a phone, a computer, and a camera is overlooked from time to time. So next time you’re feeling a little uninspired just go out into the garage, (or Home Depot) grab a beer, and build something. You’ll be surprised at how it can bring out other bits of creativity you did not know you were capable of.


Below are a few images of what the final surface looked like, and how it can be used. 

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Portrait Work

Just a few photos from a little portrait session that I had with Victoria this weekend. I’ve been having the itch to make some new portraits over the last couple of weeks but with owning a new home, the weather being so nice I haven't really had the chance. So you could imagine when it was raining all day on Sunday I jumped at the opportunity to sit down for a few minutes and snap some quick photos of Tori. These are all taken on my X-Pro2 with an adapted Nikon 50mm lens. This lens renders really well and is surprisingly sharp for a 40-year-old piece of kit.  They were lit with a mix of ambient light and a single strobe through a softbox bounced off the blinds in the great room. It was my first time trying this lighting technique and I have to say is that I was pleasantly surprised. It's a technique that I would definitely recommend trying out and you could probably achieve similar results using a smaller light source like a Speedlight. Overall I'm very happy with the photos. Portraiture is the one area of photography that I think I could use a little bit of work in. It's rewarding to try something out and achieve a good result my first attempt.

I should mention that Victoria is not as sad as she always appears in some of my photos. There's actually a photo of her that was published on my Unsplash page that was used in all kinds of depression blogs a while back. There's a running joke between us that someone from her high school is going to stumble across these photos one day and think she's one sad person. I think that's a hilarious idea. In reality this can't be any further from the truth. She just happens to be really good at taking moody photos I suppose. Im grateful for the fact that she’s always willing to pose for me, I couldn’t ask for a better model.

10/21 Weekend Adventures

Hello friends! First, apologies for the confusing blog schedule this week. I know it's weird reading a weekend review on a Thursday, seeing as we're so close to the following weekend. Being exhausted from the eventful weekend and losing our power yesterday morning didn't make things any easier. I'm breaking some blog rules with my erratic schedule but as one of my coworkers would say: “Why do you care, on your site, you make the rules.. so don't be afraid to break them.” So with that said, let's review the weekend.

We had two new visitors to the lake house this past weekend. Tony & Jen made the long journey down from Jersey City on Saturday. They arrived in the early evening and stayed in the guest quarters until the late morning on Sunday. We tried to pack as many fun activities as we could into such a small amount of time. We went out for dinner at one of our new favorite places to eat, the Harley Dawn Diner, make a quick stop at a new brewery called Vinyl in Hammonton, and finished off the morning on Sunday with a brunch buffet at the Scotland Run golf club right here in Williamstown. Our guests also got to experience one of my favorite things here in the lakes, that early morning fog. below you can see a couple of photos that I snapped before they had woken up… to show them of course.

After the lovely couple left us on Sunday, Victoria and I spent the rest of the day doing little things around the house. She mowed the front lawn, I washed my car, and we started our long-term project of trying to grow grass in our front yard by laying down some seeds! You can read all about that fun project here. I’ll be sure to keep everyone updated as much as possible too. So now, on to the photographs. They are a mix of styles and processing techniques all taken on my trusty X-Pro 2. I’ve been trying to use the XF23mm lens more over the last couple of days. You can see some of the photos have a wider feel to them. Omit I’m happy with the weekend’s catch, and I hope you enjoy them too.

Michael

Wedding Reportage

This one is going to be quick. Yesterday, Victoria & I attended the wedding of my cousin Alyssa and her (now) husband Danny. I had the pleasure of photographing them for their “Save the Dates” back in February. You can see those photos here, on my portfolio site.  To sum it up in a few words, we had a great time. It was nice to see the extended family, especially after moving a couple of hours away. This was my second time being back up north since we moved down here... Below are a few photos I snapped yesterday in an effort to exercise my creative muscles. Enjoy!

Hiking the Wyanokie High Point Loop

The following was originally posted on my old blog. It now lives here on Pine Barren Man for everyone to enjoy. 


This past Sunday my girlfriend and I decided to hike up to the Wyanokie High Point in Northern New Jersey. We hiked for roughly 5.5 miles over some rough terrain. The long and sometimes difficult trip was definitely worth it when we reached the summit and I was able to snap some amazing pictures of the forest and reservoir below. The hike to and from the summit also provided some great photo opportunities as many of the trees were starting to show their fall colors. 

Information on hiking the Wyanokie loop can be found here: 

http://www.nynjtc.org/hike/wyanokie-high-point-loop-weis-ecology-center