A photographer friend once commented that I studied at the "Dracula School of Photography" based on my use (or overuse) of dark, moody, black and white images, specifically my infrared images.

Infrared changes the rules of black and white photography: greens render as white and blues become black. While the otherworldly effects can be interesting during summer scenes, I prefer the winter for infrared photography because the eye is drawn to dramatic skies and smooth water and not unnaturally white trees.

A side effect of living in Rhode Island is having a reduced sense of scale. Because the state is so compact, so densely populated, and so diverse a Rhode Islander's world is a very small one. Everything we need is within a 20 minute drive. Anything that is more than 20 minutes away requires carefully considering if the drive is really worth it.

For me, it's worse: I don't just live in Rhode Island, I grew up in Rhode Island. Not only do I live and work within the 20 minute driving bubble, but for any Rhode Island destination beyond the 20 minute driving bubble...the 40 minute driving bubble (yes, the state is that small)....I've been to many, many times over. So when my wife suggested we take the kids and go for a Sunday drive, I was stumped. I've been everywhere.

I pulled up Rhode Island on Google Maps hoping a placename would trigger a memory or a desire to revisit when I noticed something interesting - there is another state to the north and the east called "Massachusetts." I saw on the map of Massachusetts a town called "Scituate" and thought, "Hey, we have one of those in Rhode Island! Let's go there." Yes, this alternate reality Scituate was beyond the 20 minute bubble, and even outside the 40 minute bubble, but I was determined to go somewhere new even if I had to cross a state border to do it.

Old Scituate Lighthouse
The Fujifilm X-M1 is an underrated camera. Even though it occupies the low end of Fuji's lineup, its capabilities defy its cost. Paired with the XF 27mm f2.8, the X-M1 becomes the perfect little travel/walk-about camera being highly portable and producing exceptional images.

Below are a few images from the Pawtuxet River Trail, Pawtuxet Villge in Cranston, Rhode Island. While the vibrant colors of peak foliage may have passed, we can still enjoy the rusts, golds, and browns. I tried an in-camera setting I read about at http://www.laroquephoto.com/blog/ of Velvia, Color -2, Shadow +2, Sharpness +1. I then did a bit of toning of the jpgs in Lightroom, uploaded the images to Google+ and tweaked them a bit more. To some eyes they may look over-processed, but I was going for a darker, dreamlike feel which is how I like to think of late autumn.

I look forward to autumn. Those of us who grew up, or currently live in, New England anticipate our seasonal treat of bold colors and cool temperatures. To enjoy this very best of seasons I walked with my wife the trails around the Maxwell Mays Wildlife Refuge in Coventry, Rhode Island and brought with me my Fujifilm X-E1 with XF 18-55 and 60mm macro. Taking the macro was an afterthought, but after the morning out with it, I am reminded I need to include it in my basic kit not limited it to specialty lens status.

With the 18-55 I started out taking the atypical Autumn in New England shots...

Day three was a long day. I left Isafjordur at 8 in the morning and checked into the Breidavik hotel at 7 at night. The scenery was speculator. The driving was not.

The region around the western fjords is very sparsely populated and the road conditions reflect it, being mostly gravel with many, many potholes. The inclines and declines were often steep and the drops sheer. It was a day of watching the road ahead of me, navigating around potholes, and staying away from the edges. It was slow going much of the way. Keep in mind I rented an economy hair dryer on wheels. It was like wearing slippers while hiking. Doable, but not comfortable. I will highlight the paved stretch of 63 between Bíldudalur and Patreksfjörður as being a joy to drive especially after the gravelly hours and pitted kilometers before it.
After a filling Icelandic breakfast at my home stay, I was ready to explore Isafjordur and the surrounding area.

One item of note, and I am not sure why the oversight, but I have no pictures of Isafjordur itself. Not sure why as it was a beautiful town. Suffice to say that if Ikea built a town, it would be Isafjordur, - clean, thoroughly modern, and restrained.

I started the day heading north through Isafjordur, through the tunnel, and to the village of Bolungarvik

Bolungarvik with Lighthouse

This was my third trip to Iceland. My intent was to take some pics, reflect, and submit to some geographic OCD.

My first trip to Iceland included eight glorious days driving the Ring Road. Three years later I returned with my family so they could experience this beautiful country and landscape. They got to experience a lot of the south coast along with the usual Geysir > Gullfoss > Þingvellir circuit. New to me on this family trip was a visit to the Snæfellsnes.

So on my map of Iceland I had completed the big circle and several peninsulas, but there was one major region left unseen: The Westfjords. And it bothered me that to have a whole region unexplored.

I flew from Boston arriving midnight at Keflavik, walked over to the Airport Hotel and grabbed a room for the night. After a good night's sleep and an Icelandic breakfast of breads, meats, cheeses, muesli and yogurt, I walked back to the airport to and picked up my rental car. My destination was Ísafjörður, far to the north.

When driving north from Reykjavik along Route 1 you will have a choice of taking the tunnel under Hvalfjörður or the route 47 bypass taking you around the fjord. Unless you are in a hurry, or desperately want to spend 1000 ISK, take 47. It adds less than an hour to the journey but as you can see from my pic below is well worth the additional scenery.

People joke about women and their love of handbags. But what about photographers and our obsession with finding the perfect camera bag? I really do not want to think about how many camera bags I accumulated and sold and bought and re-purposed over the years. Bags of varying sizes, materials, number of compartments, colors, etc. all in the quest for the perfect bag to compliment the perfect collection of gear to anticipate any and every photographic scenario.

I actually spent the last hour fitting my chosen cameras and lenses into the various bags I own in preparation for the upcoming Iceland trip.

Do I take my traditional, ballistic nylon Crumpler 6 Million Dollar Home (old style) with its extra padding and pockets? Do I take my larger Courser F1002 canvas bag that will not only fit my cameras with lenses attached, but also allow me to slide in a laptop? Do I use any of the inexpensive bags I found while scouting the local Army Navy Surplus store.

Among my choices, I think I am going with this:

In a week I leave for a photo/driving holiday in Iceland. Like any gear-loving photo enthusiast the bulk of my trip planning revolves not around booking flights, or cars, or accommodations, rather it is thinking about what gear to bring.

So after (way too much) careful consideration, I've decided to bring the following equipment as the best compromise between traveling light yet meeting all possible photographic situations (both real and imaginary).

Whether I was simply suffering GAS or had a real photographic need, I've expanded beyond the small and fast micro four thirds system I've happily used for the past three years, and bought a not as small and not as fast Fuji X-E1 with XF 18-55 "kit" zoom.

I built a light box today. No one in my family is making items to sell on eBay or Etsy. I do not make any income from product photography. I really have no reason for a light box except as an experiment. 

The Internet is full of DIY instructions to transform cardboard boxes into light boxes, but I decided instead to go upscale and use PVC tubing instead. Why PVC? Because I lacked a suitable cardboard box.

After bribing my son with a drive through Dunkin Donuts, we went to the hardware store and returned with this:

I previously blogged about "Making an Effort" with photography in which recounted forcing myself to go for a walk with my camera instead of taking a nap. For the second time in the same week I was faced with a choice - do nothing or take pictures.

I was in Boston with over three hours to kill waiting for my daughter to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. It was cold and raining. I considered grabbing a coffee and sitting inside warm and dry streaming a film on my laptop. But I didn't. Instead, I pulled the hood over my head and walked into the rain.

This is what I saw:

I am the laziest photographer finding more reasons NOT to go out and take pictures (too sunny, too dark, too early, too late, not early enough, not late enough, etc.) than finding the motivation TO take pictures. This Thanksgiving, I had a personal victory. After an enormous meal, instead of allowing myself to slip gently into a tryptophan-induced coma on my father's couch, I put on my coat, grabbed the camera, and forced myself to walk out into the cold. This is what I saw:

I like looking for bargains and experimenting, and photographic accessories do not get much cheaper or experimental than building your own pinhole lens. All you have to do is Google "DIY Pinhole Lens" and you will find ample instructions. The project is cheap and easy, but is it actually worth doing?

All the DIY instructions come down to this: Get a camera body cap, drill a hole in the center of the cap, tape on a piece of tinfoil, poke a hole in the center of the tinfoil with a pin. That's it. You now have a pinhole lens. You can tell in the picture below the lens cap can be old and the hole very poorly drilled. There is no skill evident at all. The important thing is to get the tinfoil taped down and poke the hole as small and as centered as you can get it.

There is something very special about Iceland. Iceland is the most consistently pristine and beautiful place I have ever visited. My first trip was an almost spiritual journey driving Iceland's Ring Road. Alone. I took eight days to circle the country, slept in hostels, and spent the solitude exploring the landscape and my thoughts. While I have since had the good fortune to return to Iceland and share the place with my family, I hope one day to return alone with my camera.

Several weeks ago my wife found my old SD card from my 2009 trip. I imported the images into Lightroom and let the images take me back.