Once again, I volunteered my time and photography skills to Flashes of Hope, which is a nonprofit organization. Flashes of Hope changes the way children with cancer and other life threatening illnesses see themselves through the gift of photography and raises money for pediatric cancer research. In addition to medical facilities, Flashes of Hope also sponsors portrait sessions at summer camps such as Camp Happy Times, which has been operated by The Valerie Fund with a generous group of volunteer staff and counselors for more than 25 years.
Camp Happy Times is a free one-week overnight camp experience for kids aged 5-21 who have or have had cancer. Nearly 200 children each summer attend the camp located at the 200-acre Tyler Hill Camp in Wayne County, Pennsylvania. The camp promotes friendship, independence, and a spirit of cooperation for cancer patients and survivors. Its philosophy is to provide a recreationally therapeutic environment that engages participants while building self-esteem, confidence, trust and friendship.
The hallmark of the Camp Happy Times experience is that while they are there, the campers do not feel self-conscious about their illness. Campers consistently revel in the fact that they don’t have to explain their disease to their fellow campers. I urge everyone to make a donation to Flashes of Hope and/or the Valerie Fund. Both are wonderful organizations, in my opinion, and if you cannot make a monetary contribution, they would welcome your time as well.
The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is a wonderful place to visit for outdoor enthusiasts such as hikers, bikers and paddlers. There are over 40 miles of calm river, 67,000 acres of valley, bountiful wildlife, 100 miles of trails, waterfalls and historic villages. It’s also a great place for photographers whether you prefer landscape or wildlife as your subject. I’m neither of those, yet it is a perfect backdrop for environmental portraits, editorial and lifestyle images as well. The river itself has plenty of opportunities for photographers, but there are also a lot of abandoned buildings and villages. Several decades ago, the government, through eminent domain, forced local residents to abandon their homes so that the valley could be flooded for use by a power generation plant to be located in the area. Many of these abandoned buildings still stand albeit barely. However, they are easily accessible on foot, bicycle and automobile.
For example, the town of Millbrook, NJ has a beautiful church that I used to photograph this lovely woman. Inside the church, I had her lay on her back with a look of expectation along the top of the altar. I’m not sure what I was after or the type of mood I was trying to accomplish other than something soft and dramatic. Some say I should call it sensuous sacrifice but I’m not sure that would be appropriate.
We continued outside where I photographed her as she was leaving the church. Again, I’m not sure what I wanted other than for her to hold the doors open, look down and close her eyes. Many stories can be created with this image and I almost prefer the viewer use their own imagination as to why I captured her this way.
So please visit the area and check out all the possibilities to practice your skill at the visual arts then share it with everyone. If you can’t make it, let me know what story comes to mind when you view my images.
The capture above did not start out with me looking to create an image full of apprehension. I had to photograph Tanner and I looked around to find an ideal spot. My goal was to show off his physique using harsh lighting, show off his strong jaw line and darken the background. Subject, simplify and focus. That is my normal process. I had him sit on the chair in a formal fashion because I did not want something cheesy, I clamped a speedlight to a post in front of him, pointed the flash directly at his face and told him to close his eyes so I do not blind him with my light. The outcome is a man bathed in bright light and framed by his own reflection while he sits on a chair next to an opening to the woods. I’m sure there is a story here about why he is so apprehensive and fearful of the unknown beyond the porch and in the woods.