Photography

REFLECTION OF SUMMER

Laura Sprowls of Setauket recently captured this image of Port Jefferson Harbor from the dock at Danfords Hotel. She writes, “The lighting was strong so I put the sun behind the mini lighthouse to soften the effect and captured a lovely reflection in the calm evening water at the end of a beautiful summer’s day.”

A swan lands in Lake Ronkonkoma. Photo by Artie Weingartner

By Melissa Arnold

Artie Weingartner

For as long as Artie Weingartner has taken photos, his focus has always been on others.

Weingartner, who lives in Lake Ronkonkoma, is a fixture at local high school sporting events. He has faithfully chronicled the work of the Lake Ronkonkoma Historical Society and is the official photographer for the Lake Ronkonkoma Improvement Group.

Now, for the month of July, the focus is on him as Sachem Public Library presents an exhibit featuring a wide array of Weingartner’s photos in a collection titled Scenes of Lake Ronkonkoma.

It’s an odd feeling for 58-year-old Weingartner, who admits it took a serious push from friends and loved ones to move forward with the exhibit. But nothing makes him happier than bringing joy to the people who see his photos.

“I like seeing people’s reactions to pictures and hearing their feedback — it really makes me feel good, and it makes me want to do it more. I love the rush of satisfaction that comes with it. I guess you could say I’m addicted to it,” he laughed.

Lake Ronkonkoma on a fall day

While photography has piqued his interest for decades, it took a long time for Weingartner to really find his niche. His father bought him his first camera, a simple Kodak, when he was just 9 years old. But he admitted feeling frustrated over the process of shooting a roll of film, waiting to have it developed, and then discovering that many of the photos were duds. “I didn’t have the patience for [traditional photography],” he said. “Not being able to see what the result was right away was hard for me.”

When digital photography emerged in the early 2000s, Weingartner was thrilled. Finally, he had the instant gratification of seeing each photo, with no wasted film and the option to delete ones he didn’t like with the push of a button. His love for photography was rekindled, and he hasn’t looked back. 

He began casually taking photos of his kids’ sports matches, plays and concerts. Word spread quickly about his natural talent. “Parents stopped bringing their cameras around and my pictures were used more and more. It became a lot of work, but a lot of fun,” Weingartner said.

A swan lands in Lake Ronkonkoma. Photo by Artie Weingartner

Now that his children are grown, the photographer is focusing more on chronicling the history of Lake Ronkonkoma. On a frigid day in January of 2016, he was invited by Lake Ronkonkoma Historical Society member Matt Balkam to photograph the historic Fitz-Greene Hallock Homestead on Pond Road. The 14-room home was built in 1888 and contains all of the original furnishings of the Hallock family. In 2006, the Lake Ronkonkoma Historical Society took over the care of the home, and it is now the only historic home in the community that remains open for tours and other public programming.

That experience would lead Weingartner to become regularly involved with the historical society and the Lake Ronkonkoma Improvement Group.

In 2016, News12 contacted Evelyn Vollgraff, the president of the historical society, about filming in the area for a show covering historic places on Long Island. When reporter Danielle Campbell arrived at Long Island’s largest freshwater lake with Vollgraff, she was horrified to see how neglected and filthy the body of water was.

Fog encompasses Lake Ronkonkoma

Campbell, Vollgraff and several others put the word out on social media that they wanted to work on beautifying the area. The response was beyond anything Vollgraff anticipated. “We never asked for help. We just did it,” she recalled. “People got interested — legislators, councilmen. At the first meeting, 90 people were there asking what they could do and how they could help. The community came together in an amazing way. We have joined together as groups of friends that wanted to help our community. But now many of them are a part of the historical society as well, and most importantly, they’re my friends.”

In early 2017, the group held its first cleanup of the lake. Weingartner was there that day, too. They have since removed more than 300 tons of trash from the lake, and turned an old bookstore destroyed by fire into the historic Larry’s Landing, a popular hangout named for the bookstore’s late owner, Larry Holzapfel.

“Artie showed up with a camera at one of the cleanups and just started taking pictures — that’s just who he is,” Vollgraff said. “You have to record history. I can’t save every house in Ronkonkoma, but with Artie taking pictures, the history lives on forever.”

The community has also expressed its gratitude for Artie’s work through Facebook, where he frequently posts his photos on the Lake Ronkonkoma Improvement Group and Sachem Sports pages.

“People were coming out of the woodwork from Florida or South Carolina who lived there 30 years ago to say how much it meant to them to see pictures of the place they grew up,” Weingartner said. “When I first moved to Long Island from Queens in 1970, we used to swim in the lake, but over a few years it got so dirty that we didn’t swim there anymore. Before that, people used to come out from Manhattan just to spend time at the lake. It’s always been an important, historic part of this community.”

While the exhibit is named Scenes of Lake Ronkonkoma, Weingartner said it encompasses a range of subjects, including sports and landscapes from other parts of Long Island, including Port Jefferson and Belle Terre. More than 75 framed 8-by-10 prints are on display. His favorite photo features Lake Ronkonkoma at sunset, with two birds and sunlight streaming down to the shore. All the photos were taken with a Nikon D600.

The photography show also includes guest contributions from photographers Richard Cornell and Richard Yezdanian.“This exhibit will be interesting to people in our area because [the lake and other scenes] are literally in our backyard,” said Anne Marie Tognella who works in programming and public relations at Sachem Public Library. “It captures many of the scenes that we see and appreciate every day with natural and historic value.”

Sachem Public Library, 150 Holbrook Road, Holbrook will present Scenes of Lake Ronkonkoma in its art gallery on the lower level through the month of July. Join them for an artist reception on Saturday, July 21 at 2 p.m. For more information, call 631-588-5024.

‘ROSE BY BEACH’ 

Jay Gao of Stony Brook snapped this interesting photo of a lone beach rose at West Meadow Beach on June 3 with a Nikon D750 camera. A speedboat and the bluffs of Old Field are in the background.

Send your Photo of the Week to leisure@tbrnewspapers.com.

STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES

Gerard Romano of Port Jefferson Station snapped this photo of roses in the Village of Port Jefferson last week. He writes, ‘These red beauties were planted at the main entrance to Danfords Hotel. I positioned  my camera near the roses so that the gray and white railings provide a soft contrasting background.’

Send your Photo of the Week to leisure@tbrnewspapers.com.

‘Dingy Boat Rack’ (Brookhaven Town Marina, Mount Sinai) Photo by Gerard Romano

By Melissa Arnold

If you ask Gerard Romano how he’s feeling about his first ever photography exhibit opening this weekend, he’s quick to admit he never imagined this would happen.

“It seems like one minute I was submitting pictures to the local newspaper, and now there’s going to be an exhibit for [my pictures],” said the Port Jefferson Station resident. “I wasn’t expecting to do anything like this — the thought never crossed my mind before — so there was a lot to learn.”

Last year, Romano began to submit his photos to Times Beacon Record News Media’s weekly Photo of the Week series. Several of his photos were chosen over time, and eventually he was invited to submit a collection of his favorites for a two-page photo essay in the Arts & Lifestyles section. 

Now, Comsewogue Public Library in Port Jefferson Station is featuring Romano’s photographs in an exhibit he’s entitled Visions of the North Shore. The presentation will be on display in the library’s gallery throughout the month of July and will showcase images of this beautiful part of Long Island that we call home.

‘Low Tide’ (Stony Brook Harbor) by Gerard Romano

Romano’s interest in photography began more than 50 years ago, when he acquired a 35mm camera soon after he left the Army. “I enjoy creating images and seeing things differently through the lens of a camera,” said Romano, who went on to work as an engineer and auxiliary police officer for Suffolk County. After his retirement he became active in digital photography. “I find it very satisfying to share those images with other photographers around the world through the image sharing website Flickr,” he said.

That desire to share his work would become the spark leading to this exhibit. One day, while visiting Stony Brook Harbor, he met Donna Grossman who was instructing a plein air class through the Atelier at Flowerfield art school in St. James. He snapped a photo of the artist, and Grossman offered to critique his work. “She suggested doing an exhibit, and I thought it might be fun,” he recalled. 

Reached by phone, Grossman said that Romano was a talented observer of life on the North Shore. “I am happy that his work will finally be brought to the attention of the residents of this beautiful area. His show at Comsewogue Library is not to be missed,” she said.

Romano is happiest photographing the area he knows best — the landscapes and waters of the North Shore, especially its bluffs and beaches. Taking inspiration from Norman Rockwell, he also enjoys taking candid photos of people interacting with one another and recently began focusing on taking close-ups of flowers.

“I like to go out with a plan for the kind of photos I’m going to take, but mostly it depends on the weather,” Romano explained. “Stony Brook offers a beautiful harbor, a wonderful museum, the Village Center, the grist mill, Avalon Park and Preserve, and nearby Harmony Vineyards. I also love to take photos around Setauket’s historic district, Port Jefferson and Mount Sinai Harbor with the lobster boats.”

‘Seabird’ (Port Jefferson) by Gerard Romano

One of the photographer’s favorite images in the show is “Seabird,” an image of a seagull perched on a piling in Port Jefferson Harbor. “The gull let me get within three feet of him before flying away,” said Romano in disbelief. “It was very unusual.” 

To create his images, Romano uses two Nikon DSLR cameras, both equipped with BMP sensors. One camera has his all-purpose “walk around” 18-200mm zoom lens, which he uses most of the time. The other camera usually has a wide-angle lens. The photographer’s favorite is a 10.6mm fisheye lens for up close and personal shots. “It creates great special effects,” he explained.

Featuring over 45 images, the exhibit will display a variety of subjects, giving visitors a chance to find something that resonates with them. Its six sections will include seasonal landscapes, nautical photos, classic cars, Norman Rockwell-style color candids, black and white photos, and more.

Loretta Holtz, exhibit coordinator and head of adult services at Comsewogue Library said the library was happy to be showcasing the photographer’s work, adding, “Gerard Romano has captured so many wonderful scenes of our local area and we hope the community will take the time to visit the library gallery in July to see this exhibit.”

As he prepared for the exhibit’s opening a few weeks ago, Romano said that he didn’t realize how much work went into this kind of project. He and his wife Barbara Ann printed and framed each photo themselves, which had its own learning curve. It’s been hectic getting to this point, he said, but “it has also been a rewarding learning experience that has extended well beyond photography.”

Comsewogue Public Library is located at  170 Terryville Road, Port Jefferson Station. Viewing hours for the gallery are Monday to Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 631-928-1212.

Alexa Helburn, right, with Simone DaRos, the vice president of the Huntington-Oyster Bay Audubon Society, at the nature photography fundraiser on June 13. Photo from Ronald Feuchs

By Sabrina Petroski

Alexa Helburn’s interest in photography started at the age of 13, with an iPhone camera and a dream. Now 15, the Huntington High School honor student held her first photography fundraiser, Nature Through the Lens, at the Cold Spring Harbor Library on June 13 in hopes of educating people on how to conserve the environment, as well as how to appreciate the beauty around them.

The event was for the Huntington-Oyster Bay Audubon Society, a chapter of the National Audubon Society whose mission is to protect birds and other wildlife, and the habitats upon which they depend through education, public advocacy and conservation action.

Of the 24 photographs on display, 17 of them found homes with members of the community, raising $195. The money will be used to fund a Huntington-Oyster Bay Audubon Society (HOBAS) backed fishing line receptacle project by James Ricci, a seventh-grader at Greenlawn’s Oldfield Middle School, which helps prevent wildlife on North Shore’s waterways from getting caught in unused fishing line. 

‘Amber Breeze’

Reached by email the day after the event, Alexa, who took all the exhibit’s photos using her newest toy, a Canon EOS T6 digital SLR, was still taking it all in. “I worked really hard and felt both nervous and excited — nervous about people’s reactions and questions, and excited to showcase my work to the public.” Alexa said she still uses her iPhone 8 sometimes, whether it be to capture a moment that would otherwise be missed or to preview shots before using her Canon.

Relocating from South Salem in Northern Westchester a year ago, Alexa used her love of photography to explore her new home in Huntington and found that taking pictures of her surroundings made her more comfortable in her new community, as well as made her appreciate her surroundings more. 

“Moving was tough, but I guess you could say that having a hobby, like photography, made the transition a little bit easier,” she said. “Photography allows me to capture what’s going on in my life and share that with my friends and family. Photography is also a creative outlet for me, whether it’s snapping a photo of that perfect sunset or capturing a fleeting moment at the exact right time — the feeling of getting it right makes it all worthwhile.” 

Camelot Lavender Foxgloves

Alexa says that she has always been interested in environmental conservation, and when she found HOBAS she discovered she could use her two passions to benefit her new community while giving herself exposure and a chance to connect with the community. 

The photos at the exhibition included pictures taken on recent HOBAS field trips as well as images from nature preserves in the Huntington-Oyster Bay area. The selection included the aptly named “Spiral of Branches,” captured at the John Hume Japanese Garden in Mill Neck; “Amber Breeze,” taken at Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve in Lloyd Harbor depicting common reed grass blowing in the wind forming a natural fence in front of the marshes beyond; along with the beautiful image of “Camelot Lavender Foxgloves” snapped at Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay.

When asked what advice she would give to people her age interested in pursuing photography, Alexa said it is important that they know that they don’t need a professional camera to take good photos. “Newer smartphones have great built-in cameras, and that’s a good place to start,” she advised. The photographer also recommends focusing less on the technical aspects and more on the compositional aspects instead. 

‘Spiral of Branches’

“This was her first time exhibiting her photography publicly, and it’s great to see someone so young using their talent to not only benefit themselves, but also the community,” said Ronald Feuchs, the founder of Stand Out for College, LLC, a college counseling and mentoring service that focuses on helping students create significant service projects that benefit the community as well as fostering the student’s personal growth and confidence in the process. 

Feuchs has been working with Alexa to develop this community project that showcases her talents and gives back to her new community. 

“Alexa is a self-taught photographer, and her eye is incredible,” said Jackie Tepper, Feuchs’ assistant. “Her use of light and color is so sophisticated.”

Alexa’s family has been so supportive of her recent escapades and hopes she continues to pursue her passion. “I’m so proud of what Alexa is doing with her photography project with HOBAS. She’s using her tremendous talent to benefit a very important organization in our new hometown and she’s pushing herself beyond her comfort zone by exhibiting her work to the public,” said Alexa’s father Jim. “It’s a big deal for anyone, let alone a 15-year-old, to put their artistic talent on display. And, even though I know firsthand that a high school student has taken these photos, I am still amazed by how sophisticated her eye is.”

For Alexa, the opportunity to hold a photography fundraiser was a no-brainer. “I thought this would be a great way to make a difference and take responsibility to help care for our environment.” 

More of Alexa’s photos will be posted on the HOBAS website shortly to continue raising money for the society. For more information, visit www.hobaudubon.org.

‘Big Sibling’ by Michael Danielson

‘You don’t take a photograph. You make it’— Ansel Adams

By Heidi Sutton

Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Commack hosted an award ceremony for its annual Photo Contest last Thursday evening. The event, which was held in the center’s Simon Rainbow Room, celebrated 25 years of bringing beautiful photos to their residents and featured a slide show of the winning selections from this and previous years.

‘Indigo’ by Stan Mehlman

Generously sponsored by the Tiffen Company for the 12th year in a row, this year’s competition drew over 700 entries from amateur photographers across the country. Of those submissions, 47 photos were chosen to be enlarged, framed and hung on permanent display for the enjoyment of the residents, staff, visitors and volunteers.

“It’s hard to believe we’ve been doing this for a quarter of a century,” said Dennine W. Cook, public relations director at Gurwin, who came up with the initial idea in 1993 as a way of “making [Gurwin’s] bare walls worthy of a smile.” According to Cook, in its infancy, the contest had two categories — color and black and white — with less than 100 entries. The annual event has since expanded to offer 12 categories including Nature, Long Island/New York, Travel, Still Life and the ever popular Pets, Children and Nature. “Needless to say, we’ve come a long way,” she said.

Addressing the photographers in the audience, Cook said, “[At Gurwin] our mission … is to provide the highest quality of care to our residents while also providing them the very best quality of life. And that’s where all of you come in.”

She continued, “This contest … is different from any other contest you might enter. Sure there are winners … and there are prizes, but that’s where the similarities end.” Cook went on to explain that each year’s winners are displayed permanently for the enjoyment of the residents, first in the center’s Helen and Nat Tiffen Gallery and then up to the resident units to make space for the current year’s winners.

‘Popping Bubbles’ by Donna Crinnian

The public relations director went on to speak of the profound impact these beautiful images have made on residents of the 460-bed facility. She spoke of Faith who loves to look at photos of babies. “The babies, it seems, make her smile the most and so we move the [baby pictures] to Faith’s unit.” She spoke of Len, who is visited each day by his wife. “Together they stroll the halls, stopping to admire a photo that catches their eye. They may go the same way each day but they find something new to discuss every time.”

While the original 8- by 10-inch submissions will not be returned, Cook assured guests that all of them will be put to good use. “Each photo … is given to our recreation departments in our nursing homes, assisted living and day care programs to be used for all kinds of projects all year long.” Whether they become inspiration for a painting, part of a collage or even placed at the doorway of a resident’s room, “they have a much higher purpose.

This year’s judges, James Dooley (former Director of Photography for Newsday and Administrator of the Alexia Foundation), Susan Dooley (Emeritus Chair of the Art Department at Nassau Community College and member of fotofoto gallery of Huntington) and Tony Lopez (Tony Lopez Photography), were tasked with choosing a grand prize winner along with honorable mentions for each category as well as Best in Show, which this year was awarded to Kathleen Hinkaty of  Huntington for her playful piece, “Diaper Races.”

‘Diaper Races’ by Kathleen Hinkaty

In addition, Gurwin’s resident judges Nancy and Trudy selected five of their favorites to be honored. According to Cook, “They poured over the photos … considering not only their own preferences but also what they thought others would appreciate.”

“Although this contest is a great achievement for you as a photographer, it’s really about the people who get to see your work once it is chosen,” explained Cook.

President and CEO of Gurwin Family of Healthcare Services Stuart B. Almer agreed, stating, “We always enjoy this particular event,” sharing that when he gives tours of the facility, “everyone always stops to admire the photos. This is not just a once-a-year event — this is a 365-day-a-year event,” he stressed, thanking the photographers for their contribution.

 “All of the selections will be judged, discussed and enjoyed by so many appreciative eyes for years to come and to me that is the real honor — that your photos will hang for decades in our resident’s home,” said Cook. “These photos make all the difference in the world.”

Entries for next year’s Photo Contest will be accepted between Feb. 15 and April 15, 2019. Visit  www.gurwin.org/about/photo-contest to see more of this year’s winners.

All photos courtesy of Gurwin Jewish

SWEET GETUP

Ellen Segal of Port Jefferson spotted this candy dress in the storefront window of Carl’s Candies on a recent visit to Northport’s Main Street and just had to stop and snap a photo. The outfit, with a top made of gummy bears, a belt of gumballs and lollipops, a skirt made of candy button sheets and twizzler shoes, is as sweet as sugar.

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