My Favorite Places To Shoot In NJ

Most people who live outside New Jersey seem to think the whole state is like how it looked on The Sopranos.

Of the places I’ve been to and photographed at, these are my top 9 places, in no particular order, to photograph in New Jersey:

  1. Great Falls of Paterson
    • Paterson
    • Paterson was selected by Alexander Hamilton as the first planned industrial town.  The falls were formed during the last ice age approximately 13,000 years ago.  The Falls are viewable from Overlook Park on the south (this is the view where most of the images of the falls are taken) and Mary Ellen Kramer Park on the north. A footbridge over the Falls gorge also serves as an outlook point from which many have captured the Falls rainbow.
  2. Waterloo Village
    • Byram
    • A restored 19th century canal town featuring an inn, blacksmith, general store, and church.  During Canal Heritage Days, which occurs the second and fourth Saturdays in July through October, the blacksmith, general store, and gristmill are open.
  3. Hacklebarney State Park
    • Chester
    • There are several different trails to traverse, including one which focuses on the waterfalls and another which follows the river.
  4. Duke Farms
    • Hillsborough
    • Located on over 2,700 acres, Duke Farms is the former home of the family of J. B. Duke, including his daughter Doris.  There’s plenty to photograph, from waterfalls and flowers to historic buildings and sculptures.
  5. Liberty State Park
    • Jersey City
    • Liberty State Park has spectacular views of the New York City skyline and Statue of Liberty.  There’s also the historic Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal.  The track area is still fenced off but you can access the main building and photograph into the tracks.
  6. Donaldson Farms
    • Hackettstown
    • This family owned farm has one of the largest fields full of sunflowers I’ve ever seen.  They have over 40 acres of sunflowers.  The best time to go is the end of August to early September when they offer tours.  The absolute best time of day to go is at sunset.  There are several ways to get there at sunset – find a Meetup group going there, find someone (like Unique Photo) offering a workshop there, or find somewhere to park and walk along Airport Rd until you find the sunflowers.
  7. Red Mill
    • Clinton
    • The mill has been around for over 200 years and is located on the Raritan River.  It was originally used to process wool.  Later it was used to grind flour, graphite and talc.  The red color of the mill stands out, especially when the ground is snow covered.
  8. Solberg Airport
    • Readington
    • The main photographic opportunity here is the annual QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning. From twice daily mass ascensions of up to 100 special shape and sport hot air balloons, to headlining concerts, fireworks, a balloon glow, and more, the festival is jam-packed with plenty of stuff to photograph.
  9. Branch Brook Park
    • Newark
    • Branch Brook Park, the nation’s first county park, is located in the Newark, though a portion of the park is located in Belleville. The park has over 4,000 cherry blossom trees, whereas Washington D.C. only has 3,000 trees.

There are a few places in Jersey that other photographers recommend going to but I just haven’t had the chance to visit.

  • Leonard J. Buck Gardens
  • Grounds for Sculpture
  • The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

Geotagging My Images

One of the benefits of digital photography over film is the ability to tag the location of where the image was taken into the file.  I’ve been geotagging my images now for several years, especially since my iPhone tags the images automatically.

Up until recently, I’ve had to add the geolocation information into my images after the fact.  My 7D Mark II has GPS built-in, as well as my iPhone.  For any images captured with any other camera, as well as scanned images, I’ve had to add the location later on.

There are three different ways I’ve used to gather the location information and then embed the info to the image file.

  • Use iPhone app to save to GPX file
    • I’ve used an app called GPX Master, which has not been updated in several years, to create a log of where I’ve been at a particular moment.  As long as the time on my camera matches the time on my iPhone, when I load the tracklog into Lightroom, the proper images will get tagged with the correct location.
  • Use iPhone to take an image from the same location and then copy the coordinates to images
    • If I don’t want to turn on the GPS in my 7D Mark II nor use my iPhone to log my location (perhaps due to low battery), I can take photos using my iPhone and then copy the coordinates to the images from the 7DII inside Lightroom.
  • Manually add the coordinates
    • For all of my old images, including old film prints which I scanned into my computer to preserve, I’ve had to manually add the coordinates.  Before I used Lightroom, I would add the GPS information using Google Earth.  It’s similar to the map module inside of Lightroom.  One downside is trying to remember where I was years before.  Another downside is that I may not remember where I was standing but know what I was taking a picture of, so I would geotag the location of the subject, not where I was located.  This makes it hard for me to return to the same spot in the future.

Another option, which I’ve never used, is an external GPS receiver.  These are separate devices which attach to the camera, either with a wire or wirelessly, and embed the GPS information into the image as you’re shooting.  They typically run about $250 so I chose to go with the cheap/free method instead.

Apps I Use

Over the years, I’ve come across several applications, both desktop and mobile, which I found to be beneficial when it comes to my photography.

When I want to know where the sun or moon are going to be at a particular time, I use The Photographer’s Ephemeris (iOS|Android|Desktop).  It helps plan outdoor photography shoots in natural light, particularly landscape and urban scenes. It’s a map-centric sun and moon calculator which helps me see how the light will fall on the land, day or night, for any location on earth.

Another app I find indispensable is PhotoPills (iOS|Android).  While it has a lot of the same functionality as TPE, it has some features I find useful.  It has a depth-of-field (DoF) calculator, where you enter the camera, focal length, aperture, distance to the subject and whether you’re using a teleconverter; and it tells you the hyperfocal distance, DoF near/far limits, and total DoF.  It also takes advantage of augmented reality and uses your phone’s camera to help show you the positions and paths of the sun, moon and the Milky Way.

The next app I use, which does have limited functionality but I still find useful, is the Lee Stopper app.  I use the Lee Little Stopper (6-stop) and Big Stopper (10-stop) neutral density filters when I want long exposures.  This app lets me enter the shutter speed for a regular exposure and then gives me to corresponding shutter speed for the Stopper I want to use.  It also has a timer so if I need more than 30 seconds and have to put my camera into bulb mode, it will let me know when to close the shutter.

I use several weather apps, mostly because I’ve found that while one app will report there won’t be rain, another app may report rain, and I’d rather be prepared.  For regular weather forecasts, I use the built-in weather app on my iPhone, AccuWeather, The Weather Channel’s app, Yahoo! Weather, WeatherBug and Weather Underground.  For cloud cover and wind movement, I use MyRadar.  For trying to capture lightning strikes, I use an app called Storm.

How I Use Lightroom – Keywords

As part of my on-going posts regarding how I use Lightroom, I thought I would circle back and discuss how I keyword images and keep the keywords organized.

When I first started using Lightroom, my keywords were just one giant list.  I then came across a few free downloadable keyword lists which put everything in a hierarchy; and after some thought, I realized I preferred the hierarchy.  I took some cues from the lists I’ve seen and organize my keywords under one of five main criteria – Who, What, When, Where, and How.

  • Who – keywords describing any individuals in the images.  These can include names, ages, gender, profession, etc.
  • What – keywords describing any objects in the images.  These can include type of structures, make/model of vehicles, breed of animal, etc.
  • When – keywords describing when the image was taken.  While this information can be garnered by reviewing the metadata, I typically also keyword with what season the image was taken in, time of day (morning, afternoon, evening), holidays, time zone, etc.
  • Where – keywords describing where the image was taken.  While I can geotag the image and know exactly where it was taken, I may not want to include that when exporting images so I’ll keyword some geographical information (continent, country, state and town), some general location information (beach, park, river, etc.), and whether the image was taken indoors or outdoors.
  • How – keywords describing how the images was taken.  While some of this information is found in metadata, I like to add this information as a keyword as a backup in case the metadata gets stripped by accident.  I also keyword information which wouldn’t be found in metadata, like whether I used a neutral density filter, whether I panned the camera to capture motion blur, what type of light the image was taken with (sunlight, incandescent, etc.).

I’ve created smart collections which let me know when an image does not have a keyword which falls under one of these five categories (though most of the time I don’t have something from ‘Who’ since I mostly take landscape photos).

When I import images, I add keywords which apply to all of the images.  Then after the images are done importing, I go back and assign image-specific keywords to each photo.

How I Use Lightroom – Export Presets

Last time, I covered how I get my images out of Lightroom using Publish Services.  This time, I’ll cover Export presets.

I use export presets when having an image outside of Lightroom is only temporary and there isn’t a plugin to handle it automatically.  For example, if I want to share my images using social media that doesn’t have a Publish Services plugin, I setup a preset to export the image out of Lightroom, typically at a lower resolution.

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Another time I use export presets is when I need to send an image to be printed (AdormaPix, WHCC, Bay Photo, etc.).

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I also use export presets for when I bring images to a photography meetup.  Each month, the meetup group I’m in gets together and critiques everyone else’s images.  The images are exported out large enough where the detail can be observed but not so large that it takes time to progress from one image to the next.

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Of the nine areas that can be configured, I typically only change 5-6.

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I assign a separate export location for each preset and do not add the images back into the catalog.

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When I export images, I tend to leave the filename as it is since I rename during import.

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For file settings, I’ll leave image format as JPEG, color space as sRGB and change the quality to 80%.  I also don’t limit the file size.

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For image sizing, I only resize when needed.  For print, I leave the resolution at the original size.  Depending on the image and how large I’m printing, I may enlarge.

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Depending on the final medium, I’ll either sharpen for screen or print.

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I strip out person info for all images and also remove location info if the image was taken at home.

How I Use Lightroom – Publish Services

Now that I’ve covered how I get my images into Lightroom and how I organize them, now I’ll cover one of the ways I get my images out – Publish Services.

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I use Publish Services for pushing images to different social media like 500px, Flickr, Facebook.  I started using the built-in Flickr plugin but have switched to the plugin created by Jeffrey Friedl, mainly for the ability to find and link to existing images up on my Flickr account.

I haven’t published to my hard drive because I haven’t come across a need to keep images on my hard drive.  I typically export images to my hard drive using export presets, which I’ll cover next time.

How I Use Lightroom – Ratings, Flags and Labels

Now that I’ve covered how I get images into Lightroom, I figured I would cover how I (try to) identify my images and where they are in the post-processing workflow.

After importing all of my images, I will go through them in the Loupe view of the Library module.  Even though there are three different flags available, I almost always use only two.  Upon import, all images are Unflagged.  As I go through, if I see an image where the focus was off, I accidentally pressed the shutter and took an image of something I didn’t intend, or the exposure is too far off to even attempt to recover (usually because I forgot to check the light meter in the camera between shots), I will press ‘X’ to reject it (‘R’ is for the crop tool).  After I go through the images, I’ll delete from the disk all images marked as Rejected.  On the occasion where I have two or more similar images and don’t see anything about any of them to require me to mark it as a reject, I’ll pick one of the images over the others using the Pick flag by pressing ‘P’.  If I ever accidentally mark an image as reject or pick when it shouldn’t be, I can unflag it by pressing U.

flag

After I’ve removed the rejects, the rest of the images are given a star rating of one star.  Even though I can go up to five stars, I haven’t gone above three stars for any of my images.  To assign a star rating, I just press 1-5 on the keyboard.

rating

I have the same problem assigning a star rating to an image that I have to assigning a star rating to a song in my iTunes library.  A song (or image) I really like today may get 3 stars but a year from now, it may only get 1 or 2 stars.  Now that iTunes has added a like/dislike rating option (similar to flagging), I’m thinking about replacing my star rating with flags.  The only downside to this is that flag values are not written to metadata so if I ever switch from Lightroom to another post-processing program, the flags won’t come with the images.  Star ratings, however, are written to the metadata.

Upon import, all of the images are given a red color label.  There are five different color labels available but only four can be assigned by a keyboard shortcut.  The four colors, with their respective keyboard shortcuts are:

  1. Red
  2. Yellow
  3. Green
  4. Blue

The last color, Purple, is only accessible via a right-click menu.

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I use the colors to identify where the image is in my post-processing workflow.

  • Red = the image has not had any post-processing done to it
  • Yellow = the image has had some post-processing done to it but is not yet complete
  • Green = the image is done with post-processing but has not been published anywhere (Instagram, Facebook, Flickr, 500px, etc.)
  • Blue = the image is done with post-processing and has been published (Instagram, Facebook, Flickr, 500px, etc.)
  • Purple = the image is done with post-processing, and is part of an HDR or Panoramic image

Since I don’t do a lot of HDR or Panoramic images, it isn’t a bother having to right click to choose the color.