Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

As a gift to myself this year I upgraded from the Nikon D80 to a D90. This is not a significant upgrade but the features that I am gaining will be very useful to me. This includes more pixels, faster multiple frame shooting, and better noise performance. This means I will get better resolution, better selection of action shots (especially birds), and faster shutter speeds in many situations which allows for sharper images.

As I often do I purchased this camera secondhand, from a seller on craigslist. I find this a very useful way to buy and sell camera equipment, since it gives the buyer the ability to check out the equipment and the seller a chance to get cash in hand and/or a quick sale (assuming the item is priced right). There are other sites which are also specialize in camera equipment sales (such as and I have used these as well. This time I just happened to find a lightly-used D90 listed at a very good price, so I wasted no time.

Here is a bird photo I took last fall. It has an ideal background - fully blurred, and a nice color as well.

"Tufted Titmouse"

Main Site: Photography by Matt Schrier

Monday, November 29, 2010

Photo Contests

This has been a pet peeve of mine for years. It seems innocent enough. You find out about a photo contest, find your best photos, then upload them. Along the way you select "Yes" or "Agree" to every checkbox you encounter, never bothering to read what you're agreeing to.

You may be lucky enough to win, and that's great. But let's say you don't win (like most people) - what have you just agreed to? As an example here's an excerpt from the Smithsonian Magazine's latest photo contest:

"By entering the contest, entrants grant the Smithsonian Institution a royalty-free, world-wide, perpetual, non-exclusive license to display, distribute, reproduce, and create derivative works of the entries, in whole or in part, in any media now existing or subsequently developed, for any educational, promotional, publicity, exhibition, archival, scholarly, and all other standard Smithsonian purposes. Any photograph reproduced will include a photographer credit as feasible. The Smithsonian Institution will not be required to pay any additional consideration or seek any additional approval in connection with such uses."

Sooooo ... for absolutely no compensation you are giving Smithsonian the right to use your image(s) in any way they want ... forever. Did I mention that you get not a dime from them for that right?

For some contests your entries are limited in size, which is a good thing because it limits the potential usefulness of your image by those running the contest. But the Smithsonian has no resolution requirement:

"Digital photographs should be taken at the highest resolution possible."

Oh, and maybe you're thinking they severely limit how many images you can enter. Nope:

"You may enter up to seven (7) photographs in each of the five categories with a total contest submission of thirty-five (35) photographs."

Thirty Five is a LOT of photographs. And you're just handing over hi-rez copies to a magazine to use any way it sees fit, forever, with no compensation.

Still interested in entering that contest? I'm not.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Feeney's Nursery

The holiday shopping season is in full swing, and for something new this year my work is included in a special item produced by a local landmark. Feeney's Nursery has created an "afghan" (aka a "throw" or blanket) with nine images of local Bucks County scenes, and one of my images is included. The image is a popular winter scene of Lake Afton in Yardley. They are selling it for only $59.99. As an added bonus the store is also selling copies of my prints.

Forgive the quality of the photos below, as I took them with my phone.


Site: Photography by Matt Schrier

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Very Nice Morning

Now that I have some more reach in my lens "arsenal" I'm on the lookout for good bird photography opportunities. Now is a good time for this since we are in the fall migration season. Birds are on the move, and/or loading up on some good food.

This morning I spent the morning at the Conowingo Dam in Maryland. Here there are a large number of bald eagles that feast on the fish that make their way through the dam. The water of the Susquehanna River is fast moving and relatively shallow on the downstream side of the dam, and the fishing (for both birds and humans) is relatively easy.

I came away with a few good shots, and since this was my first time shooting birds of this type I missed a few due to lack of technique and experience with the equipment. That will all come in good time.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What's In My Bag

I've made some adjustments to my camera equipment recently. This reflects on the kind of photography I am moving towards. Here's what I have now:
  • Nikon 18-55mm: This is my everyday lens, nice and sharp. Most of my scenic and landscape shots were taken with this lens.
  • Nikon 70-300mm: This is an inexpensive zoom lens that has its drawbacks but it lightweight and easy to use. It's not the newer VR version, but it gives me adequate coverage in this zoom range.
  • Sigma 70-200mm f2.8: This is a little larger - and heavier - lens, but it is "fast" (i.e. it has a wide maximum aperture) and focuses very quickly. I use this for medium-range shots that require either quick reactions (such as shooting people or large animals at relatively close range) or for low-light situations, such as my daughter's high school theatrical productions.
  • Tamron 90mm f2.8 Macro: This is a specialty lens. It is designed primarily for macro situations, although it can also double as a nice portrait lens. This is my "fun" lens.
  • Sigma 150-500mm: I just purchased this lens, to allow me to create better wildlife photos. It is quite large and heavy, and has some performance and usability drawbacks. But for the reasonable price I get a reasonably sharp 500mm reach with optical stabilization. This is something I'm going to enjoy for a while. I'm already lining up bird-shoot trips.
Previously I was using a nice Nikon 300mm AF lens for my wildlife shots, sometimes with a 1.4x teleconverter. But this either didn't get me close enough to the animals, or lacked sharpness with the TC. I've since sold the 300mm lens, but I've kept the TC although I'm not sure how well it works on this 150-500mm behemoth.

I also recently sold a 50mm f1.8 prime lens. I picked this up a few years ago but I rarely used it. It is an older Nikkor lens that operated in manual focus on my newer DSLR.

So I think I'm set for a few years, but you never know ...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Bucks County Backroad

Autumn is a wonderful thing. Although the cool crisp air foretells the potential for more frigid weather to come, and ever larger heating bills, there is life in this season. The animals are actively finding all of the food they can, either in preparation for the long winter or for their upcoming migratory journeys. Also, plain scenes turn into beautiful ones, as with this back-road near Lake Nockamixon.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Active Egrets

I spent about an hour at a local pond this afternoon, testing out my new Sigma 150-500mm lens on my Nikon D80. This was not much a challenge technically, mainly because of the bright sunlight and white subjects. My shutter speed was usually well over 1/1000 sec. But regardless the lens performed very well, and the egrets were active. Here is one of the better ones.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

In Between Shows

Last weekend I attended a very successful Doylestown Arts Festival, despite the Sunday morning rain that failed to dampen the crowds (and the exciting road bike rice).

Next weekend (Sept 25 and 26) I have the New Hope Arts and Crafts Festival. Hopefully the rain will hold off. It's a busy week for me as I'll be on a business trip most of the week, so I am spending this in-between weekend preparing for the show.

Below is a local photograph that is becoming quite popular. In this early morning shot of the historic Fonthill Castle I was fortunate to capture some lingering fog.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

More Butterfly

This butterfly image was taken at Northampton Township park.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Bunch o' Butterflies

Taken the same day as my previous post. This one plant had about ten butterflies feeding on it.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Take Off!

Wow - it's been a while since I last posted. Unfortunately I'm not getting a chance to photograph much lately. Plus I'm looking for some different motivation these days. I'm less interested in getting up at an ungodly hour, grabbing my camera, and taking a long drive unless I'm pretty sure where I'm going and what I intend on shooting.

I found active butterfly and moth activity at Tyler park this morning, but while shooting them I was fortunate to have an American goldfinch land on a bunch of yellow daisies. I got a number of good shots, but this last one topped them all - my first quality photo of a bird in flight.

Website: Photography by Matt Schrier

Monday, May 31, 2010

Upcoming Show: Peddler's Village

I haven't posted in a while, but it' time to remind you of two upcoming shows. Next weekend, June 5 and 6, I will be at Peddler's Village in Lahaska, Pa. My spot has moved since last year - I am now along the path between the lower area and the upper areas (near the ice cream shop). If you are in the area stop by to see what new work I have.

The following Sunday (June 13) I will be at Newtown Welcome Day. I am hoping for better weather than the last two years., which were both ruined by heavy rain.

Here is a newer image of some budding flowers. I tried a few different compositions of this bunch, and this horizontal rendition seems to work best. This is one of many images that I have used my 90mm macro lens to make. Without this lens I would not be able to get close enough to do these kinds of shots justice.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Beautiful Princeton

We had a fabulous time in Princeton yesterday during the Communiversity event. This show drew throngs of people who took advantage of the great weather to partake of the food and drink and the many events for the kids. Below is a shot after I had set-up but before the people arrived.

I also wanted to post a photo I shot recently. As you know I try to look for unique perspectives on the subjects I shoot. Azalea bushes are very common, and their flowers don't really have distinctive features. But I really liked the way these flowers hung over this park bench. I used my macro lens to shorten the depth of field and provide some selective focus.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spring Has Sprung

There is a progression to spring, at least in the Northeast U.S. The very first sign of spring is the appearance of the crocuses. Then come the daffodils and other bulb-based perennials. Next come the flowering trees, including the yellow forsythia, followed by the emergence of leaves on the smaller trees. Later in spring comes the more hardier flowering plants, such as the rhododendron and the day-lilies. Then finally the wildflowers and the leaf-growth on the larger trees. I may not have the order perfect, but it's pretty close.

Due to the recent warm weather we've had I think the progression is moving pretty quickly. I am not able to get out to photograph as often as I used to, due to slight changes in work and family schedules. But this is a season where you can't procrastinate, since in a day or two the flowers on the plants or trees you've been wanting to photograph may be gone. (Summer is a different story - the same conditions can last for weeks).

Below is a beautiful pond scene near New Hope, Pa. I was hoping to find a nesting pair of swans here but they were absent this day. I don't know the habits of these birds, so I don't know if they've moved to another location or are simply migrating.

Main Website: Photography by Matt Schrier

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Central Park

On a day-trip to NYC in January I was looking for unique images. If you've been to this iconic city you'll probably have seen the dozens of street vendors hawking photos of the city. These are not artists - most vendors are selling the EXACT SAME PHOTOS. I have no idea if these images are properly licensed for sale, but regardless I was looking for my own perspective, not some image I've seen a thousand times.

Walking through Central Park I was amazed by the trees along this main walkway called The Mall. The silhouette of the long, bare branches provided interesting scale compared with the crowd below.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

First Round of 2010 Shows

I start with my shows in about 3 weeks. My first is in Princeton NJ on April 24, and after a vacant May I have Peddler's Village June 5-6, followed by Newtown Welcome Day on June 13.

Spring is upon us, and I found this flowering tree at a local arboretum. One thing I like about it is the splash of background color.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


This is another unique find of mine on the beach at Sandy Hook, NJ.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


I took a trip up to Sandy Hook in New Jersey yesterday, not knowing exactly what I was planning to shoot. There are a couple of schools of thought in this regard. I've read that some people think you are more focused and can yield better images if you have a game plan in mind when you go out to shoot. In fact they say it is preferable that you take only certain equipment with you, say your 50mm lens, to purposely restrict your flexibility (in a good way). This will force you to think more strongly about composition since you can't just slap on a different lens to get the shot.

The other side feels that that can be too limiting, that you can be more creative if you don't have any expectations of what you are going to shoot. This allows your creative juices to flow when you are out shooting, being able to select any lens that is necessary to get the shot that you see at the moment.

In reality I think both sides hold water, and as you might expect each photographer can chose when and where to apply each philosophy. There are times when I just want to meander through a park, with only my cameras a "standard" lens, because I don't want to drag around my telephoto lenses and tripod. There are times when I'm going to a bird blind, and I know that I'll need my telephoto equipment, and possibly my tripod.

Sometimes I'll be heading to a new place or very varied place and I bring everything along. This was the case at Sandy Hook yesterday. I wanted to leave my options wide open. I brought my telephoto lenses because I know that there are ponds that ducks like to frequent. Of course my wide-angle lenses for the potential beach sunrise shots (yes I was up at 4:45 AM and on the beach by 6:30). But I really did not know what I would be spending my time shooting - this short trip was wide open.

In my bag I also carry along my 90mm macro lens. I never know when I'll need it, but it's very handy to have around. And it turns out I made good use of it on the beach, as I found a few interesting subjects that really required the macro lens to do justice to. These shells below were three of many such shells I found along the beach, along with the beautiful water-worn pebbles, and even a live starfish that the birds had not discovered yet. If I had gone to the beach without this lens I would have not have been able to make as many nice images as I did.

Main Website: Photography by Matt Schrier


Sunday, March 7, 2010

New Show - Princeton NJ

Every artist that sells at art fairs goes through the process of re-evaluating the shows that he or she participates in. I only commit to a few shows a year compared to full-timers, so I try to pick the best ones I can. There are a few shows in Princeton that interest me, so I'm going to try one this spring. Princeton University holds a Communiversity event throughout town and the campus. The show this year will be on April 24.

Below is an image I made of a yellow rose a few weeks ago. I like the composition, and this is one image that just does not work as a 8x10 or 11x14. The "native" aspect ratio of the image, which is the 8:12 ratio of my camera, is just right. Cropping it horizontally will ruin the photo in my eyes.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

New Images Added

I've collected nine images that I've made over the past two months and added them to my main website. As always these images can be made into traditional prints, canvas prints, and notecards. As you'll see these include a bunch of bird photos, two fox photos, and a Bucks County scenic.

View new images at Photography by Matt Schrier

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Braving the Storm

Another shot taken during last Saturday's snowstorm. These goldfinches are in their winter plumage and as you can see the wind is really blowing at this point The thick snowfall covers most other natural sources of food, so the birds are drawn in large numbers to the man-made sources. That makes life easy for us photographers.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Cardinal Closeup

Over at the nature center the birds were very active today, right smack in the middle of the second major snowstorm of the season. I was able to move freely around the bird blind (there was nary another soul there today) and get some good closeups. Here is a nice vertical shot of a female cardinal on a feeder.

Main Website: Photography by Matt Schrier

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Snow Zen

Although my style mainly consists of color nature and scenic images, I also like to see what I can do with black and white. The exploration of form and expression within a photograph is often referred to as Zen. This is my own off-the-cuff description - it is not really possible to get a specific description because its one of those things whereby "You just know it when you see it".

We received a little bit of snow a few days ago, and I found myself outside with my macro lens photographing a neighbor's tree. The close-up shots I made were interesting, but I also tried to explore the form of the tree. Even though most of this shot of the small section of branch is out-of-focus, I feel it does a good job in representing the form of the tree and conveying the contrast between the stark coldness of the wintry snow and the new growth at the end of the branch. My own attempt at Zen.

Main Website: Photography by Matt Schrier


Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Foxes of Brigantine Beach

In the shadow of the glitz and hustle-bustle of Atlantic City lies one of the most peaceful beaches along the NJ coast. Both the north and south ends of Brigantine beach are quite isolated from the residential areas, and there is no boardwalk to draw throngs of crowds.

I spent a beautiful morning recently along the southern end, where the casinos of A.C. loom across the water. There is a wide area of brush and dunes between the houses and the beach, and this is where I found a bunch of foxes making their home.

I didn't see all of them all at once. First there was just one that peeked out from the tall grass, then another. They stayed near the dunes as I was about 50 feet away on the beach. I was making some progress getting fairly close to one of them that was resting on a pile of sand and leaves. This one was gnawing on a piece of wood that sticking from the sand.

At this point the foxes became spooked by someone walking down the path through the dunes. I thought my morning was done here, and was planning to move on to another location, but I soon discovered that the foxes were not so easily scared away. They came back within a few minutes, and I soon realized that there were at least five different foxes in this area.

I continued shooting them for a while, and even when I decided to finally leave and move on they kept an eye on me as I was walking back down the path. One even made itself very comfortable in the middle of the path, as if to show me the way out.

This was a very enjoyable morning at this peaceful beach. It was the middle of winter, and for much of the time I could not see another soul up or down the beach. The constant breaking of the waves was very relaxing - these foxes have picked a great place to live.

Main Website: Photography by Matt Schrier

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ocean City - New Years Eve

We spent our last day of 2009 in Ocean City NJ. As many other towns do they put on a First Night event in which attendees pay a fixed price and get the chance to either see many different performances or (for the kids mainly) take advantage of hands-on fun such as mini-golf and kiddie rides.

Kathy's dance group (the Crossroads Irish dance group) put on a couple of performances for the crowds. The kids and I played mini-golf and saw acts such as Trout Fishing in America and Broadway by Request.

The weather was overcast and a little rainy, and before seeing Trout Fishing at the music pier I caught this image of the boardwalk stretching into the darkness. Without a tripod I managed to get one clear shot.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Bone Chilling Cold

The weather is decidedly nasty to start the new year. Although there are parts of the country that are much colder, walking the dog in 20 degree weather in a blowing wind is not my idea of a good time. This kind of weather puts a real damper on my desire to get out with my camera and find something unique in the colorless, bare-tree environment that surrounds us.

So instead I'll post another work of digital art. I took this shot of a sunflower a few years ago, but it did not knock me over as a straight photo. I like it much better after massaging it in my digital darkroom.

Main website: Photography by Matt Schrier