These Are Your First Steps | Capture Date: January 14, 2016 | Location: Barnegat Bay Beach, Barnegat, NJ
For 2016 I added Barnegat Bay Beach to the rotation of spots to frequent on the regular in hopes of making photographs, and over the past 12 months it has produced quite well. Coincidentally it was my first visit that yielded my favorite result—the surreal, near upside down emptiness captured above. Made at blue hour looking east over Barnegat Bay, it’s easy to lose spatial coherence as colors, shapes, and forms merge at a horizon you can barely even see. The few clues offered the viewer come by way of an exposed jetty that I assume is for tying up jet skis and amorphous blobs just underwater atop the sand. It’s an image that commands thought, asking its viewer to piece together just what kind of otherworldly place this is.
Ephemeral Paradise | Capture Date: February 5, 2016 | Location: Greenwood Forest Wildlife Management Area, Manchester, NJ
What can I say? I’m a snow lover. All my life I was told I was going to hate it once I grew up and had to “deal with it.” Yet here I am, 34 years old and I dig it as much as ever. (Sorry, not sorry for the pun.) This photograph was made just after a heavy wet snow stopped falling deep in the New Jersey Pinelands. I was romping around Jeep style with my buddy Jon for some trail rides and photos. Once the snow stopped and the sun broke out we got out at a crossing within Greenwood Forest Wildlife Management Area to snag shots as the snow was rapidly starting to melt. I can’t ever remember snow melting so quickly. The onset of sun raised what were already marginal temperatures to the upper 30s/low 40s and natural snow balls began rocketing from the trees; snow was melting so fast you could literally hear it at a loud volume. It was fascinating. Struggling to avoid taking a snow ball to the lens I quickly made off with this handheld frame. Almost immediately it became a favorite. The way the sun works of the snowy pines coupled with the remnant red oak leaves marking the foreground. Despite being the dead of winter there’s plenty of energy and life imbued in this photo.
The Home Fire Still Burns | Capture Date: June 5, 2016 | Location: Surf City Sunset Park, Surf City, NJ
Fast forward a few months and we come to June. After a Long Beach Island afternoon of busted storm chasing with Jay and Jon, we stopped off at Surf City Sunset Park on the way back from Barnegat Light. Fortuitously it tuned into one of those exercises in timing. As it is with many things in life, timing is everything in photography. Here the frontal passage associated with a line of weakening thunderstorms timed perfectly with back edge clearing to the west just at sunset. This offered exceptional lighting conditions. A specific kind of drama that only comes with storms clouds that fill the column of atmosphere at numerous heights. The affords ample bouncing light contrasting against fascinating cloud shapes. Here it set the stage, and I was most pleased to be there to capture it.
Darkest Light | Capture Date: July 4, 2016 | Location: Ocean Acres, Stafford, NJ (my parents’ side yard)
Hey a Fourth of July shot so how about some fireworks and flags? Yeah!—well sorry. The best I can offer is this black and white photo of hibiscus. Two things you’ll need to understand about me: 1) I adore black and white, and 2) flower macros are always going to hold a soft spot—they’re how I learned to work a camera. But beyond nostalgia I appreciate this photograph for its shallow depth of field and smooth bokeh, as well as its lines and composition presented in a vertical orientation. And if I really want to tie in an Independence Day theme, the stamen and pistils seem to be exploding from the out of focus petals toward the rear. It’s a simple photograph but I just love the strong contrast and intensity that calls me back to look at it again from time to time.
When I Think of Summer | Capture Date: July 5, 2016 | Location: Cedar Run Dock Road, Stafford NJ
The title, When I Think of Summer, pretty much says it all. Even though many of my southern Ocean County cohorts would associate a sandy beach and sweet swells—and maybe some ice cream and barbecue—with summer, it’s the marsh that brings it on home for me. Particularly the marshland of Cedar Run Dock Road. For the better part of two decades this road has been a regular stop off in my routine. Physically close to home yet lightyears away for a quick and cashless escape. Well before I started making photos this was a place of zen. This past July provided a vibrant visual treat out over the marsh, bringing together lush green sedge and a kaleidoscopic pastel sky overhead. Here’s to thinking ahead to summer 2017—oh, and my parents now keep a boat here so this place just got a little bit sweeter.
Flip Side | Capture Date: July 20, 2016 | Location: Cedar Run Dock Road, Stafford NJ
Hey look, another Dock Road shot and another July selection. July sits head honcho in this years best of with three photos chosen. In fact, and as you will see, late spring through early fall dominated my 2016 with eight selections happening between June 5 and October 7. While I still maintain winter produces some of the best skies, this year has provided visual proof that spring and summer ain’t no slouch.
This photo works in the pastel peace and tranquility of the saltmarsh. Made just beyond its summer peak, tall grasses framing foreground pull the viewer into the image. The ghosting from a strong evening wind creates a sense of movement further enhancing the sense of place with the photograph. While taken at sunset, this shot is actually facing north by northeast—it just so happened to be one of those setups where the sky colored up for 360 degrees of cotton candy visual joy. You don’t always have to look west.
Ray of Hope | Capture Date: August 20, 2016 | Location: Harvey Cedars Sunset Park, Harvey Cedars, NJ
At the time I made this shot I knew the rays you see above as crepuscular rays. Which is to say a fancy word that I cannot for the life of me pronounce. However, I’ve since learned these are more accurately called anticrepuscular rays—which of course I still can’t say. Regardless this is what science calls rays of light the run from a single point of light—the sun—and radiate upward back into the sky. Pretty cool, huh? They aren’t exactly a regular occurrence so I was rather pleased when they timed up nicely with a serene sunset from Harvey Cedars Sunset Park. If you ever find yourself on Long Beach Island’s north end this is a great spot to take in a sunset, play on some swings, or take in a free concert on Wednesday evenings.
Still the Sirens Call | Capture Date: September 2, 2016 | Location: Cedar Run Dock Road, Stafford NJ
Ladies. Gentlemen. Children of all ages. Cats, dogs, alpacas. This is a big time favorite of mine. It definitely slots into my top five, and would have been my top choice for the year had I not made what you will see as the final entry in this list. Captured on Dock Road (shocker) a world class sunset caught fire over Cedar Run tributary and marsh. When you combine that with a still glass mirrored reflection and solid compositional elements, you have yourself a landscape photograph that brings together all the essentials. I can still remember being out there, completely enthralled by the sky around me. So much so it was easy to forget about my purpose, which was the capture the scene. Of course this is great in its own way, nature has a knack for shocking us, for stunning us, for overcoming us and forcing us to be present with the joy and wonder of our surroundings.
Stacked | Capture Date: September 5, 2016 | Location: Antoinetta’s Waterfront Restaurant, Cedar Run Dock Road, Stafford, NJ
Sunsets come in bunches. While we sometimes wait weeks or months on a truly great sky, when they appear, they tend to come in rapid succession. Only a mere three days removed from the stunner two photos up some more magic happened out front of Antoinetta’s Waterfront Restaurant. Antoinetta’s is a go-to photo spot of mine, and it’s had a photograph make both my 2014 and 2015 best of lists. The spot’s got charm, what can I say? While the compositions have been similar over the years, the sky and the sand is always changing. Offering a fresh perspective on an otherwise familiar scene. That said there’s one little detail I am particularly fond of here. The hand stack stoned cairn to the left, reflecting the orange glow of the sunset burn brings an extra element of charm—a positive human touch if you will.
Tend Your Craft | Capture Date: October 7, 2016 | Location: Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences, Loveladies, NJ
Whoa—a person? Is this for real? Obviously the list takes a turn for photo number 10. I suppose this would be a good time to mention these photographs are sorted in chronological order only, they are not listed in terms of rank. With that out of the way I selected this shot 1) because it’s a departure, and 2) I think it tells a great story. Pictured here is my good buddy Jeff. This past October I was hanging at the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences watching him work his magic on a soda kiln firing. Since I was there I decided why not make some photographs? Having zero expectations I strapped on my 35mm and popped off some wide open exposures. Jeff was good enough to ignore me and it helped me to better capture the essence of the real work that goes into making real art. I keep saying—to myself anyway—I want to experiment more with photographing people; perhaps 2017 will help bring that to bare?
Bayside Burn | Capture Date: October 29, 2016 | Location: Surf City Sunset Park, Surf City, NJ
This marks the second of what will be three vertically oriented photographs in this retrospective. This has me tickled because I admittedly struggle making good compositions in the vertical, and so to have three make the list has me feel like progress is being made. For some perspective, the past two years I’ve done this I’ve only had one vertical photo in each year end list. So keep it up, Greg!
This picture is another one from Surf City Sunset Park. Were this park not inanimate, and were I a famous photographer perhaps it would be pleased? Anyway, I was just happy to be there to capture what I think is the third—possibly second—best sunset (judging on sky color alone) I happened to capture in 2016. Intense orange radiating out from the horizon as it softened to pastel pink and purple atop the sky. I especially like how it works against the gentle wave lapping ashore in the foreground to tie it all together.
Once More Unto the Breach | Capture Date: December 21, 2016 | Location: Rand’s Marina, Great Bay Boulevard, NJ
Last but certainly not least is so damn cliché but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t apply here. Now I know I said this list was not going in any kind of ranked order, so it just so happens that this is my personal favorite of 2016. Made on the first day of winter it already marks a special place in my deepening photo cache. This easily slots into my all time top three, only behind this and this. Maybe it’s coincidence maybe it’s not, but all three have come from the same spot, what once was Rand’s Marina, and at the same time of year—December. Granted alignment has something to do with it—winter is when the sun jogs far enough to the southwest bringing it to a full prominence this spot otherwise lacks in summer. But more so I think it’s the hundred or so derelict pilings that make this spot so special. It offers seemingly endless combinations of compositions to exploit. It’s a true go to spot for any landscape photographer.
There it is, folks. My favorite photo moments from 2016 captured in 12 photographs. I want to thank you all for taking the time to share in the photo journey with me, and if you haven’t already please check out my best of lists from 2014 and 2015. Thanks again, and cheers to a happier, healthier, and better 2017. We all can make a difference.