New Shoot at Mountain Top Inn & Resort

December 4th, 2014

This past October I was back at Mountain Top Inn & Resort in Chittenden, Vt. to shoot their newly completed "cottage" Campion. I must admit that when marketing director Laura Conti told me at the end of July when I was there photographing Grand Vista to save a slot in mid-October to photograph Campion, I had my doubts that it would be ready. At that point, the 3-level mountain retreat was framed and roofed but it seemed unlikely that Naylor & Breen Builders, Inc. could have it completed by their Columbus Day deadline. I'm glad I didn't bet against them — Naylor & Breen deliver!

 

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New Photography and Branding at Mountain Top Inn & Resort

August 15th, 2014

I was delighted when I got a call from Laura Conti, the new Director of Marketing at Mountain Top Inn & Resort in Chittenden, Vermont. I grew up near the landmark property well known for it's spectacular mountain and lake setting. The latest additions to their wide range of accommodations are their Trailside Cottages. These are definitely not your father's trailside cottages! These mountain retreats are large and airy, incorporating luxurious, natural materials while maintaining a country ambiance. Laura asked me to photograph Grand Vista, the most recently built Cottage, in a style as dramatic and welcoming as the property itself, setting a new tone for the Mountain Top Inn & Resort brand. This was my first shoot at Mountain Top and I hope to return again soon. Here's a peek at some of the new images of Grand Vista.

 

Grand Vista

Laura's dog Beans sitting by the door on the entry deck. The Cottages are pet friendly.

Grand Vista

Fireplace inset into the stone faced wall and seating in the Great Room.
 

Grand Vista

View of the Great Room and dining room looking across the granite kitchen counter. I had to wait for the heavy, morning fog to lift before shooting the next one.

 

Grand Vista

Now you can see why they named this cottage Grand Vista!

 

Grand Vista 

Rich details in a vignette in the upstairs bedroom.

 

Grand Vista

Laura commented before the shoot how much she likes my images where the focus is on one room, but you can see into another. I think it makes an image layered and arresting and helps show the connection from one room to another. Here, it's the upstairs den in the foreground and a peek into the bedroom.

 

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In advance of a shoot, I "script" the styling and propping. Here in the upstairs den/sleeping loft (one couch is a pull-out bed) I suggested a story line that your kids or guests are upstairs relaxing, enjoying a game... while others are downstairs.

 

Grand Vista

Toiletries on the luxe granite countertop in the upstairs bath.

 

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Laura and I had some fun with wrapping the napkin around this wine bottle to use in the master bath shot. We thought it looked a bit like a plushy robe.

 

Grand Vista

Here's the great rain shower head in operation in the master bath.

Food Photographs, the old Aspect Ratio and Your Summertime Family Reunion Photographs

May 5th, 2014

I've been working on some food shots for one of my calendar clients. With the surging interest in all things food, the company recently added several food titles to their line of calendars. After checking out the food portfolio on my website, my editor at the company was very excited to see what I would cook up for them. (sorry, I just couldn't resist)

You may be wondering what that has to do with family photographs and aspect ratio, whatever that is right? Aspect ratio is the width of an image verses the height. Cameras, computer monitors, movies.. all have specific ratios. My Nikon, like film era 35mm cameras, has a 3:2 aspect ratio. What that means in the real world is that if I want to print something I shot as a 4" x 6", it will work beautifully — everything I included in my composition will be included in the print. If though I want to make a standard 8" x 10" print, a good slice of my image will get cropped off on the long edge. The only way I can get an 8" x "something close to 10" is to go "full frame", ie have an 8" x 12" print made or to plan ahead and shoot leaving extra room on the long side that I know will get cropped off. See where this leads for your family reunion shots? If you want to make 8" x 10" prints for all of your relatives that will work with an industry standard size frame, you better shoot leaving plenty of room on the sides or you'll be cropping off Uncle Fred who was standing on the end!

For my client, their calendar formats are square (even worse than the 8" x 10" scenario). As I set up my props and food that was a huge consideration. For these shoots, I was working tethered to my laptop with each image immediately opening into Adobe Lightroom's "Development" panel. With one click it allows me to see what my file will look like with a square 1:1 crop. If I'm not 100% pleased, then I can go back and tweak the composition until I know my client will be.

Below are a few of the photographs from the shoot. For the last image, I've included the "what you see is what you get" 3:2 aspect ratio and then the cropped 1:1 version my client needs. BIG difference. By the way, calendar companies work 1 to 2 years out. These images are for some of their 2016 titles.

Kitchen In The KitchenYummy cheesecake          

 

Herbs Kitchen In the KitchenMulling spices for holiday gifting.

 

Pasta1_053sxPenne pasta with tomatoes.

 

 

Kitchen In the KitchenOlives marinating in olive oil and spices. The square crop.

 

Kitchen In the KitchenThe same image as above before cropping square.

                                                                            

 

Godiva Chocolate Truffles

February 20th, 2014

As I have something of a sweet tooth, the most difficult part of this shoot was not eating the truffles before I photographed them! Below is the rest of the back story about this shoot.

I was going for a sophistocated and rich look. I knew the moment I opened my prop closet that the small shimmering gold plate was the one to use for the "environmental portrait." For the candy cups, the best I could find on short notice were white lined gold cups. I knew that the white interiors would be too prominent and contrasty for the golden look I wanted to achieve, so I got out some acrylic paint, mixed up a soothing brown and toned down the white. For the truffles in the box in the background, I placed a couple of layers of foam core hidden from view to bring the truffles up to just the right height so that they would be visible in the box from the angle from which I was shooting. The original concept did not include the shimmering backdrop. Inspiration struck though, when I saw a roll of gold mesh amid all of my props. The resulting subtle lens flare adds another layer of drama. I used the same mesh as the base for the second set up. For those of you who are into lighting, I triple diffused a Dynalite head that was my main light with a piece of Rosco Frost on the flash head in a Westcot softbox placed behind a big sheet of mylar. My fill was a big piece of white foam core and I added bits of highlights here and there with small white cards and a tiny mirror or two. Most of my work in post production was about perfecting the chocolate by eliminating the tiny defects in the chocolate's surface. It was akin to smoothing someone's skin in a portrait — love Photoshop's spot healing brush tool!

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Pre-Production for a Photography Shoot

July 10th, 2013

Pre-production is critical to ensure that on the day of a shoot everything runs smoothly, all on the set are at ease and the resulting photography is just as promised.

Judy Malcolm, owner of PerfectFit Pilates, needed new photography featuring her instructing students in her Pilates studio and hired me for the shoot. Her studio is located inside Bodyscapes Fitness, a gym here in Southborough, Mass. During pre-production, Judy and I sat down to talk about the kind of images she wanted, the look and style, the models, preparing and styling the studio, and what Pilates equipment she might want to feature. Professional models were not in her budget, so we decided to choose from her current clients. I suggested that she think about her target market and that we base our selections in terms of gender, age and physical look to reflect who she would like to attract to the studio. Once we had our models signed on, Judy, one of our models and I tested different poses and equipment to determine exactly what I would shoot on image day. I went over with Judy all of the equipment and Pilates props that would be removed from the studio for a nice, clean look during the shoot. Back at my office, I mapped out my lighting strategy. The challenge here was to provide seamless, soft, color corrected light to give a spa-like look while positioning the lights to be out of everyone's way. Oh, and did I mention that three of the four walls in the space have either large, floor-to-seven-foot-tall mirrors or windows on them? Not exactly a photographer's dream with the potential for lighting equipment and unwanted reflections showing up everywhere. Back at the studio that week, I tested out my lighting plan and it worked perfectly. With pre-production wrapped up, the only thing left was shoot day.

A big thank you to our models, Jes and Lucin. They were awesome. And another round of applause for my client, Judy, who did a great job in her first modeling gig.

 

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Judy instructing Lucin on the Reformer.

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Jes and Lucin on side by side Reformers. Since Judy does both private and semi-private training sessions, it was important to illustrate both.

 

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A shot I captured of Lucin while my "models" were taking a break.

Tips on Photographing Fireworks

June 30th, 2013

July 4th fireworks over Marblehead Harbor in Marblehead, Ma.

Fireworks in the harbor in Marblehead, Ma.

 

My favorite locations for photographing and viewing fireworks have always been by the water, preferably with some town/cityscape as a backdrop. I love the colored reflection on the water's surface and the added interest of glow lightly illuminating nearby boats and buildings. If you are thinking about doing some fireworks photography this year, I have some suggestions for you. 

First, what to bring: camera, tripod, cable release, bug spray if that's an issue where you live, and a small flashlight. Trust me, while you're shooting and when you're packing up to leave, that little light can come in very handy.

Second, where and when to go: Scope it all out ahead of time. Nothing is worse than arriving at your destination on July 4th and finding out that this place lights them on July 3rd. (yes, this happened to me, but only once and I learned my lesson!) Arrive early and pick out your spot. If you are at a water location, find out where the pyro barge will be and decide what else you want in your compositions. Look for a spot in front of and away from other people as much as is possible.

Third, how to shoot: Attach your cable release to your camera and pop it on to your tripod.  For all who shoot in all auto mode, sorry but only manual mode works well for fireworks. Set your focus to infinity and keep the focus on manual.  If your lens has built in image stabilization, turn that feature off. You want a low ISO to cut down on noise. I recommend  ISO 100 and I definitely wouldn't go any higher than 200. Instead of selecting a shutter speed, set your camera to B for bulb. This keeps the shutter open until you decide to close it allowing you to "burn in" the firework trails and other wanted ambient light. You will be using your cable release to trigger the shutter, decreasing the likelihood of any unwanted movement to your camera. I start off with my aperture at F8 and keep the shutter open for around 4 seconds. I check out what I'm getting and make any adjustments that I want or need  to make either by keeping the shutter open longer or shorter or opening up or closing down my aperture. 

One last "trick": I also bring with me a small piece of black cardboard. Every fireworks show that I've been to starts off with relatively long pauses between bursts and builds up to the grand finale where lots of fireworks go off one right after the other. The finale is amazing, but at a certain point there can be too much smoke in the sky. To capture multiple bursts in one image at the beginning of the show, I lock my cable release on open, get my 4 or so seconds in when I hear that first whoosh as they light one off, then carefully, so I don't bump the camera, place my black card in front of the lens and wait until I hear the next whoosh and pull the card away. How many times do I do this? As many as I want.

Happy 4th everyone.

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Boston

 

Boston

The three above taken in Boston, Ma.

Photographing the Ship’s Knees Inn on Cape Cod, Ma.

June 9th, 2013

I just finished a shoot at the charming Ship's Knees Inn, a rambling, 190 year old restored sea captain's home in East Orleans, Ma. The inn and its location, about a 4 minute walk to Nauset Beach, are fantastic. Innkeeper/owners Peter and Denise Butcher are in the midst of a complete redesign of their website and needed some fresh, new photography to capture the inn's ambiance. During my scouting trip, the three of us sat down and talked about the appeal of the inn and what they were looking for with the new website and possibly a new printed brochure. I walked through the inn — all 16 rooms, 1 suite and an apartment, made some notes and took some preliminary pics. In addition to my "Prepping Your Inn for the Shoot" list that I give to all of my hospitality clients, I made room by room suggestions to Peter and Denise a couple of weeks prior to the shoot for some furniture rearrangement and additions in the way of throws, pillows, rugs... to give some of the rooms a more fluid and relaxing look. Denise has a great eye for color and she was spot on with her purchases which I worked into the rooms when I styled for the shoot. They were so pleased with the way things turned out that not only are they keeping all of their new "props" and some of the new rearrangements, but I'll be making a return trip later this month to photograph more of the interior and the exterior, including their grounds and gardens in all of their June beauty. I'm very excited to go back.

Below are a few images from the shoot. Check back with my blog and I'll post a link to their new website with more of my photography once it goes live.

Ship's Knees Inn Room 4

 

Ship's Knees Inn Room 3

Ship's Knees Inn Room 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ship's Knees Inn Apartment

Ship's Knees Inn Apartment

 

Ship's Knees Inn Apartment

 

Ship's Knees Inn Room 1

 

Ship's Knees Inn Room 5

 

Ship's Knees Inn Room 16

 

 

 

 

 

Garden and Island Photography

June 27th, 2012

In this posting I'm going to share some photographs from two day trips I took last week. The first one was to Martha's Vineyard, Ma. with my sister and two of my cousins and the second, a solo trip to Hartford, Ct.

For those of you who are not familiar with New England, Martha's Vineyard is a lovely little island off the coast of Cape Cod. I've been there a number of times on assignment, but this was the maiden voyage for my companions so I was the designated tour guide. For first timers on a cool, non-beach day, The Campground in Oak Bluffs and Edgartown are must-sees. This Campground is not the one where you and the kids pitch your tent and roast marshmallows, although the original Methodist visitors did pitch their tents there back in the mid 1800's when they came to attend religious camp meetings. By the 1860's and 70's, those tents were quickly  replaced with incredibly fanciful Carpenter Gothic style cottages of which about 300 are remaining today. My suggestion while we were aboard the ferry of going to The Campground was met with a hint of skepticism which disappeared as soon as we entered the enclave of colorful cottages. In contrast to all of that wonderful chaos of purple, orange, red... and riotous detail, we next went to elegant Edgartown and a walk past (and in) the shops and then along the beautiful stately white houses lining Water Street to the Edgartown Lighthouse which happened to be open to visitors, an unanticipated bonus.

My second trip of the week took me to Manchester and West Hartford, Connecticut to photograph two gardens. We were in the middle of a really horrendous heat wave, (welcome to New England, 60° one day, 98° the next) but I was concerned that if I waited a few more days the roses would be too far gone. This was my first time photographing at Wickham Park in Manchester and now that I've seen it, it won't be my last. Scroll down to see images from Wickham's English Garden, Cabin Garden and Sensory Garden. I have been to Elizabeth Park in West Hartford several times, but this was the first time that I hit it when the climbing roses were in all of their glory. It was jaw dropping.

Enjoy!

         

Homes along Water Street in Edgartown.

Backyard of one the stately houses. Hmmm, the view is not too shabby!

 

The view from atop Edgartown Lighthouse.

Dock in Vineyard Haven.

Twilight view taken from the ferry in Vineyard Haven just before our departure.

Above is the Scottish Garden at Wickham Park in Connecticut.

The Sensory Garden

The English Garden

The Cabin Garden

This one above and the two below in the rose garden in Elizabeth Park.

2012 New England Innkeeping Conference

May 2nd, 2012

I just returned from the 2012 New England Innkeeping Conference in Hyannis, Massachusetts hosted by PAII, the Professional Association of Innkeepers International. It was my first time as an exhibitor with PAII and it turned out to be a great opportunity to meet member innkeepers and aspiring innkeepers from all over New England, New York and New Jersey.  Many of the innkeepers with whom I spoke are already quite busy and anticipating a good summer season. A wide variety of workshops were held and I popped in to a few of them. I'm always amazed at how fast things change with marketing through websites and social media. These topics were addressed in the workshops as was the need to make sure that you update your website with new photography as soon as you complete any room renovations or add amenities.

The exhibit hall closed at 7:00 pm on Tuesday. I said my good-byes to fellow exhibitors, packed up and was in my car on the way home by 7:45. It's a short ride back from Cape Cod back to Southborough, Ma. located just off Rte. 495 and the Mass Pike.  The close proximity of routes 495, 3, 93, 95 and the Pike, is one of the things that I like about having my home base here. I have quick access to all of the major roadways that crisscross New England.

Seasonal Photography

April 22nd, 2012

With the early arrival of spring, I've been very busy shooting for Mahoney Publishing's Harvard University and Newport, Rhode Island 2014 calendars. (Not a typo, the 2013 calendars are already being printed) Bold, seasonal imagery is key for this client. This year, the early spring has really worked in my favor for photographing the exteriors of the Newport mansions which the company likes to use for the cover shot and several interior shots. The grass is already green and lush and this early in the spring, few people are visiting the mansions first thing in the morning. This affords me the opportunity to photograph the facades framed by the broad lawns and crystal clear spring skies without throngs of visitors. Elsewhere in Newport, the flowering trees and spring perennials are in full bloom and even though this year I'm shooting in April, those photographs proclaim "It's May!!"

Below are some images from my Newport shoot and a few from my Harvard University shoot.

The magnificent Breakers built as the summer home for Cornelius Vanderbilt II.

With the very sculptural looking bare tree in front of The Elms, this could be a good choice for April.

I like the juxtaposition of architectural styles used on the grounds of Marble House built for the William K Vanderbilts.

Trinity Church is at the head of a small park opposite the waterfront in Newport, RI.

Daffodils in bloom along Cliff Walk in front of The Chanler hotel in Newport.

When most people think of Harvard University, they think of Harvard Yard in Cambridge. This photograph and the one below were both taken on the campus of Harvard's business school located on the Boston side of the Charles River.

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