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Photography

Photo by Gerard Romano

SILVER BELLS

Gerard Romano of Port Jefferson Station was out with his camera on Dec. 17 ‘looking for something appropriate for the season’ when he spied these pretty bells adorning the door of the Belle Terre Village Hall and took the perfect shot. Happy Holidays!

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By Irene Ruddock

Marlene Weinstein

Marlene Weinstein, who “lives and creates” in Setauket, is a much sought-after photographer and mixed-media artist. She has exhibited her photo-art at many well-known galleries across Long Island and NYC, and has won numerous awards from publications, galleries, and art fairs. On my studio visit, I was able to learn more about this diverse photography artist. You may visit her website marleneweinsteinphoto.com, or on Instagram at marlene.weinstein. 

Many people think of photography as capturing a moment in time. How does that belief match your artistic vision? 

That’s certainly one aspect of photography. However, photography has been admired as a unique art form since the early 1900’s. Photographic art creates its own reality through thoughtful use of a specific camera lens, composition, lighting, exposure, and other techniques. When we reconsider the idea that the camera is just a recording instrument, then we can appreciate its versatility. My belief is that the camera is merely another tool used to produce art.

What inspires you to try to capture the perfect image? 

Most of my photography is inspired by the beauty of Long Island’s everyday landscapes, and everyday objects. I’m very drawn to simple scenes with a quiet beauty such as a solitary, silhouetted tree or a rustic barn, and especially foggy, ethereal weather. I also love to compose still life, which is a fun exercise when it’s dark or cold outside.

Did you go to school to study photography ? 

I have degrees in Computer Science and Computer Graphics, and my full-time job is in the technology field. I do have experience in painting so perhaps that is why my work is often referred to as a “painterly.” I’m completely self-taught in photography. It took a lot of practice and experimentation. Photography was another way to be artistic and I found that I loved it! And eventually, my comfort with technology made it easier for me to migrate from film to digital photography.

Was there a photographer who influenced you and how did they affect your career path? 

Alfred Stieglitz was a maverick who founded the historic “Camera Work” publication in the early 1900’s and insisted upon the then-radical idea that photography was an artistic medium. Other 20th-century photographers I admire are Eduard Steichen, Imogen Cunningham, and Man Ray, all quite innovative and experimental. 

What kind of camera do you use and what lenses are your favorite?

I use a full-frame Canon 6D. My most-used lenses are a long zoom for getting in close, and a wide-angle lens for capturing expansive landscapes and creating interesting perspectives. I recently acquired an older Hasselblad medium-format film camera and am looking forward to learning how to use it. 

How do you begin to create your photography? 

These are the questions I ask myself about every one of my photographs: What would I like to share about this subject? Is it color, pattern, motion, emotion? How can I express this? I want viewers to feel a connection to the image, to stop and linger.

Your work is unique in that many of your works are hand-painted. How do you go about creating those? 

Marlene Weinstein

I begin by printing the image in black and white. I then paint selected areas with PanPastels, using brushes and sponges. My technique results in a very soft, vintage look. I treat the image as a painting, paying particular attention to light and shadows, color, and contrast. Sometimes I add colored pencil for fine details. Completing one hand-painted photograph can take a few hours to a few weeks. 

Another distinctive type of photograph you create is called a cyanotype. Could you explain what that is?

Cyanotype is an historic, hand-printed photographic process that is created through UV exposure. There’s no camera! It produces iconic blue and white prints and was originally invented for making blueprints. Cyanotype is a completely manual, unpredictable, and rewarding process that produces fascinating results! 

How do you incorporate mixed media into your photographs?

My mixed media work blends my love of photography with the joy of creating one-of-a-kind, unique handmade art. My favorite technique is to print a photograph on delicate, translucent Japanese paper, and layer it over other papers to add color, pattern, and texture. Then, I’ll paint with acrylics or other media to get the desired effect.  

Do you have a favorite photo? 

One of my favorite photos is “Flight in Fog.” I just happened to catch a flock of geese taking off on a foggy winter morning over a marsh at Sunken Meadow and their line of flight was mirrored perfectly in the water below.

What is the most rewarding part about being a photographer?

It is so satisfying when my finished image is close to what I’ve envisioned. I also feel like my photographs are helping to preserve the memories of this area. When I was younger, I never dreamed that I would sell my photographs. I found it a challenge to do outdoor shows at first, but now I really enjoy talking about my artwork to people.

What kind of workshops do you offer?

I occasionally offer hand-painted photography workshops through Gallery North in Setauket. I’ve also been thinking about a phone photography workshop, or a photography class geared to artists. Stay tuned!

What are your future plans in photography? 

Oh, lots of things! I’ve been getting more and more into hand-altered photographs, because I love creating one-of-a-kind pieces. I’d like to try photo-based collage, printing more on handmade paper, and also more solar plate printing.  

Where can we see your work? 

At the moment, I have work at the Long Island Museum and the Reboli Center in Stony Brook, Gallery North in Setauket, and the Alex Ferrone Gallery in Cutchogue. And just this week, the beautiful Long Island based Paumanok, Transition anthology featuring poems and photographs by Long Islanders was published with one of my photographs on the cover! The book is edited by the tireless and dedicated Kathaleen Donnelly and is currently available as an e-book on Amazon.

Photo by Tom Caruso

REFLECTIONS OF AUTUMN

Tom Caruso snapped this peaceful scene at Caleb Smith State Park Preserve in his hometown of Smithtown on Nov. 13. He writes, ‘I found that the storms of the past week had blown most of the leaves off the trees, but I found this colorful scene on Willow Pond and couldn’t resist it.

Send your Photo of the Week to [email protected]

 

Photo by Tom Caruso

SUNSET FLIGHT

Tom Caruso of Smithtown snapped this awe-inspiring image on Aug. 30. He writes, ‘I went to Short Beach in Nissequogue to photograph shorebirds and the sunset. The sun fell toward the horizon and a flock of seagulls and terns took flight and flew right into the fiery colors of this sunset. I was lucky to capture this at just the right moment.

Send your Photo of the Week to [email protected]

 

By Cayla Rosenhagen

Cayla Rosenhagen

In 2011, Stitch, a young Red-tailed Hawk, was flying low over the grasslands hunting for her next meal adjacent to Sunken Meadow Parkway. She could never have foreseen how drastically her life was going to change that day. The hawk spotted a rodent darting out onto the highway and she swooped in. With all her attention focused on her prey, she did not notice the cars hurtling toward her and was struck. 

Fortunately, a good Samaritan rescued Stitch, and she found her way to Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown to be expertly cared for. The team at Sweetbriar did an amazing job rehabbing Stitch back to health. Although she cannot be released into the wild as a result of losing an eye and part of her wing, she now lives a comfortable and happy life at the Center.

Over 2000 animals, like Stitch, are taken to Sweetbriar every year to be rehabilitated, including various reptiles, rodents, opossums, deer, and birds. The staff at the Center work tirelessly tending to the animals and eventually releasing many of them back into the wild. The dedicated team also cares for about 100 permanent animal residents who cannot be released and often answer 50 to 100 calls a day regarding animals in need. Additionally, they run educational programs and events to encourage the public’s appreciation and respect of Long Island’s unique wildlife and ecosystems.

On July 11th, I attended an event at Sweetbriar hosted by Long Island BIRDtography, a Facebook group made up of local photographers and birding enthusiasts. The fundraiser allowed the photographers to meet and photograph Sweetbriar’s ambassador raptors. Participants heard the extraordinary backstories of the birds of prey and how each one made their way to the Nature Center. 

We met Bee, a female American Kestrel who was captured for falconry and malnourished, as well as Nugget, an Eastern Screech Owl who was rescued from a collapsed nest in a storm, and Tiger Lily, a Great Horned Owl who was hit by a car. Other birds of prey we met included Cleo the Harris Hawk, Nebula the Barn Owl, Seven the Barred Owl, and of course, Stitch the Red-Tailed Hawk. 

All of these birds are now permanent residents of Sweetbriar because of their inabilities to survive in the wild due to injury or imprinting on humans. In addition to our feathered friends, we were greeted by some furry ones, too. As we were snapping photos of the birds, Charlotte, a very amiable white-tailed deer, sauntered up to us looking for attention. Also, Ricky, an Eastern Grey Squirrel, and Tulip, a Virginia Opossum nearly stole the show with their cuddly antics.

Among the 2 dozen photographers at the fundraiser, Susanne Bellocchio, one of the administrators of BIRDtography, warmly expressed, “It was just a perfect day…Everyone is so kind…I am thrilled…These birds would never be something I could get to photograph.”

The team at Sweetbriar was so welcoming and eager to share their extensive knowledge about the animals. The employees and volunteers I met with greatly expressed how much they love their time at the Nature Center and how rewarding their jobs are.

Veronica Sayers began her career there as a volunteer to care for the baby squirrels and she was later hired as the program coordinator three years ago.

“I love teaching people of all ages about our local wildlife and the environment around them. When I see people excited about what I’ve just taught them, it’s a wonderful feeling. The wildlife rehab part of my job is a passion of mine as well. Nursing an animal back to health and seeing it released back into the wild is a thrill,” Veronica explained when asked about her favorite aspects of working at the not-for-profit organization.

Isabel Fernandes, the Wildlife Care Coordinator, feels it is critical to educate people about wildlife, so they become good ambassadors in their own homes and communities. She loves “seeing kids so excited to see the animals up close and personal.”

Sweetbriar’s many upcoming events can be viewed on their website. They truly have something for everyone. Check out their adult and children programs and the long-anticipated Taps and Talons beer-tasting event, presented on September 19th for those 21 and over. The Center also offers frequent yoga classes in person as well as online.

The Center and Preserve are open for the public to visit daily. The grounds are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and are free of charge to enter. The main house is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m and the butterfly house is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for a minimal entry fee. I encourage you to visit the outdoor animal enclosures and walk along the Preserve’s beautiful nature trails.

Sweetbriar Nature Center is a 501c3 not-for-profit organization and therefore relies on the community’s generosity to continue their invaluable work. Make a difference by attending their programs, visiting the Center, or through a donation. Monetary contributions can be given through the Donate Now button on their website or by participating in AmazonSmile and selecting Environmental Centers of Setauket Smithtown to receive donations. They also use Amazon Wishlist to ask for necessary animal care supplies.

Visit Sweetbriar’s website, sweetbriarnc.org, to learn more about their mission, to see complete listings of their programs, and to view heartwarming photographs of the animals they have rehabbed. The site also provides comprehensive resources for what to do if you should find an animal in need.

In the words of Veronica Sayers, when asked what else community members can do to support Sweetbriar, she replied enthusiastically, “Share, share, share! Talk about us and what we do. Let your schools and libraries know we do programs. If you learned something about wildlife through us, please share it. Become a Sweetbriar member. Attend our events! On social media, comment and share our posts. If you have the time and can commit, consider volunteering.”

Cayla Rosenhagen is a local high school student who enjoys capturing the unique charm of the community through photography and journalism. She serves on the board of directors for the Four Harbors Audubon Society and Brookhaven’s Youth Board, and is the founder and coordinator of Beach Bucket Brigade, a community outreach program dedicated to environmental awareness, engagement, and education. She is also an avid birder, hiker, and artist who is concurrently enrolled in college, pursuing a degree in teaching.

2020 Best-in-Show Winner “Happy Family” by Jan Golden. Photo from Gurwin Jewish

The Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Commack is now accepting submissions for its 28th Annual Photo Contest. Amateur photographers, including students, are invited to submit their best photos for the chance to win award recognition, cash prizes and the opportunity to have their work permanently displayed in the Center’s renowned Tiffin Gallery for the enjoyment of residents, staff and visitors.

New this year is a digital platform for submitting online entries, and the inclusion of a “People’s Choice” popular award which will be selected based on online voting.

In addition to the popular vote, a Best-in-Show winner will be chosen by a panel of judges, as well as a Grand Prize and Honorable Mentions in each of 12 categories: Landscapes, Travel, People, Pets, Children, Wildlife, Nature, Still Life, Altered/Enhanced, Student, Long Island/New York and Action/Sports. Gurwin residents and staff will also weigh-in on their favorites, choosing five “Resident/Staff Selection” winners from among the entries.

Photographers may submit up to seven photographs at a fee of $5 per entry via a secure portal. Contestants who prefer to send their printed photos by mail may download and print an entry form from the Gurwin website at bit.ly/GurwinPhoto and mail their 8×10 prints plus check payable to Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center at 68 Hauppauge Rd., Commack, NY 11725, attention: Gurwin Photo Contest. Deadline for submissions is June 15, 2021.

Photos not selected for a prize award are repurposed as reminiscence aids, for visual stimulation and art therapy, and to provide a source of comfort and inspiration, specifically for residents in the Center’s Memory Care Unit and Adult Day Care Programs, making each photo submission a “winner.”

The Gurwin Photo Contest is made possible each year by long-time sponsor The Tiffen Company, in memory of Helen and Nat Tiffen, the company’s founder and former Gurwin resident. Based in Hauppauge, The Tiffen Company is a leading manufacturer of glass filters and other fine products for digital, still, video, motion pictures and television. 

For more information, call 631-715-2757.

Reviewed by Jeffrey Sanzel

‘So many people ask why I photograph abandonment. To me, it’s more than the decay or what people leave behind. Rather, it is the why … It’s the when. It’s the how. Sometimes we can research it. And other times we have to imagine it.’   from the Preface of exploring HOME by Holly Hunt

Author Holly Hunt

Reviewing any book of art is the epitome of subjectivity, especially one that showcases the work and not the process or biography. The millions of words that have been written about painting, sculpture, and photography do not approach seeing the work itself. 

That said, I will try to find words to describe the visceral, sometimes disturbing, but always extraordinary photographic work of Holly Hunt, presented in her collection exploring HOME. 

The locations range from outside houses to inside churches, against brick walls or open to the heavens; the subjects are as varied as the images. Each one speaks for itself, but together create a breathless whole. It also helps that she is a strong writer, and the accompanying text only enhances the pictures. Her prose is both lyrical and raw, exposing her soul every bit as much as the visuals she has captured. Sometimes the narrative directly references the photo; other times it is a more elusive reflection of the tone. And, in perhaps the richest complementary pieces, they somehow stand apart and yet together.

All artists are adventurers of one sort or  another; they embark on journeys into the mind’s eye and soul. These are dangerous waters. Hunt takes this one step further. “… fear is a strange thing. It can hold you in its embrace and prevent you from flying, or it can propel you forward and set you free. Exploring set me free. And my camera was my security blanket.” Her camera was also a  key, a window, and wings. 

Whether sharing her mother’s struggle with cancer as well as her own illness, tales of bullying, or details of her love life, her efforts are ferociously, unapologetically personal. These are not bowls of fruit, sunsets, and landscapes. They are her heartaches and triumphs laid bare — fearless and challenging.

She is part alchemist, part phoenix. Ache and absence become imagery; art rises from the ashes. And occasionally, wry humor winks out in unusual places (“The Skirt,” “The Princess,” “The Prayer,” “The Gifts,” “The Cake”). 

There are intriguing juxtapositions. Discussion of an unconsummated soulmate shows against a house whose façade doesn’t quite mask the deconstruction behind. The sense of loss on this bright day creates a contrast with her prone figure on the front walk. In the curve of a back, she captures anguish. Each picture represents an event and a life lesson: in pain, in loss, in epiphany. 

Each will speak differently to the individual viewer. On a personal level, these moments demand attention:

The muted colors and forced perspective of “The Umbrella” perfectly evoking the intersection of dream and reality.

The peeling paint, subtly unsettling, above the fireplace mantel in “The Demon.”

The embodiment of the word “seems” as her figure hangs over a bathtub in “The Bath.”

“The Some Bunny” engulfed in a chair, almost obscured, passively peeking around the door frame.

The coldness of the steps in “The Letter.”

The prideful blank verse of “The Haters” versus the horror of disappearance.

The contrast of the light from without and the darkness within in “The Stained Glass.”

A ceiling that is celestially damaged in “The Voiceless.”

The whimsy of the story versus the terror in the image of “The Shadow Puppets.”

The harshness against sparseness in “The Grief.”

A sky both blue and icy in “The Farewell.”

The play of light through the window of “The Drive Home.”

The nostalgia of intimate chaos in “The Crafter.”

The absolute pain of isolation in “The Game.”

The weight of the “The Anger.”

The barren loss of “The Records.”

The sun bleaching the emptiness of “The Theater.”

The starkness of “The Monster.”

“The Diner” echoes pastoral into pain.

Or that which is indescribable in “The Memory.”

In the many self-portraits, she obscures part of or even her entire face. And yet, she is in no way less present or unseen. The directness makes itself known. She is not hiding; she is revealing. 

From sadness and grief — and the act of grieving — Hunt faces the shadows that looms. She also embraces the light that emerges from that darkness. It is not so much about resilience or survival; it is more than that. Time and again, she finds hope. Her final words: “This is only the beginning. I promise.”

These photos will haunt you. But, in the best sense. You won’t be able to look away.

Pick up your copy of exploring HOME at www.hollyhuntphotography.com and check out Holly Hunt’s current exhibition, “Abandoned Beauties,” at The Cheese Patch, 20 East Main Street, Patchogue, through May 30. Island Kava, 73 North Ocean Ave., Patchogue will also present a photography exhibit by Hunt this summer.

People can take as many pictures of their friends at the new interactive selfie museum. Photo by Julianne Mosher

It’s a new place to play and all are welcomed to it. 

Popup Speakeasy is an interactive photobooth museum, that allows people to come in and take as many pictures in different settings. 

“It really is for us a place where people can be creative,” said co-owner Catherine Ovejas. “It’s a selfie studio, you come and take your own pictures, or can come with a photographer, and you get access to the whole studio.”

Located at 1860 Pond Road in Ronkonkoma, like a speakeasy of the past, it’s hidden in plain sight. From the outside of the building, one wouldn’t know what to expect when they walk through the front door — a warehouse of 14 different stations from all different eras and scenes. 

Ovejas said that each season the stations will change.

Visitors of the Popup Speakeasy can choose from 14 different photobooth stations. Photo by Julianne Mosher

But right now, there’s a “record room,” decorated with a wall of vinyls and a boombox, a picnic scene where friends can pretend to pop champagne, and a pink repurposed Volkswagen bus tucked away in the back. 

“It’s a nod to pop culture,” she said. “I love retro things. So, you will see a lot of vintage things … things from the 70s, 80s and 90s.”

She said the idea for a selfie museum came amidst the pandemic. Between production, construction and the creation of each theme, they began the process a little more than six months ago, choosing Ronkonkoma as a central location that everyone interested can get to.

As far as she and her team know, she said, this is the first selfie studio in the whole state. 

“There are pop-up photo experiences that have taken place in and around Manhattan,” she said. “But those are more of a museum-type experience where you’re taking pictures of the exhibits, not so much of yourself.”

Oveja encourages visitors to express themselves. 

“We want you to go crazy,” she said. “We want you to interact with the scenes and the different themes and make it your own story.”

She added, “It’s not about looking at an exhibit and admiring it from a distance. I want you to actually bring your personality into the theme.”

For just $25 an hour (at the adult rate), visitors get access to the whole studio. Using an online booking system, the space is reservation-only. Social distancing is required, as are masks — except for when a quick photo is being taken in the scene.

Oveja said they are allowing one group at a time, and the whole studio (plus the props) are sanitized before and after each use.

Children are also encouraged to come and enjoy the studio, where kids ages five to 12 are just $15.

“This is a judgment free zone, we want you to be yourself, have a great time and bring your own personality to the table,” she said.

Co-owner Jose Rivera said the ultimate goal is to franchise, and those future locations will have their own vibe. 

“There’s no limit to how far we can go how far we can go,” he said. “We’re looking forward to collaborating with as many businesses as we can.”

To make reservations, visit popupspeakeasy.com.

FEATURED PHOTOGRAPHER: Jay Gao

Jay Gao

Hometown: Stony Brook

Photographer: When empty-nested, I bought myself a Nikon D750 camera, my first DSLR, at the end of 2015 as a New Year’s gift. Before that, I had experience in using compact point and shoot cameras.

Favorite camera: Nikon D750, an entry-level full-frame DSLR. I love its strength in low-light performance. 

Favorite lenses: For wildlife, I mostly use Sigma 150-600mm 5-6.3 Contemporary, and for travel I like to use Nikon 24-120mm f/4. When shooting flowers, I prefer to use Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G.

Favorite locations: I love to visit the Stony Brook Mill Pond and Stony Brook Harbor with my camera. It is a beautiful place all year round and there are so many kinds of birds. As a matter of fact, this is mostly where I have been practicing my bird shots. My other favorite spots include my backyard, West Meadow Beach, Nissequogue River State Park and Sunken Meadow State Park.

Have you entered any photo contests? I won first place in the 2018 Better Newspaper Contest of New York Press Association; was selected to exhibit in the Oversea Chinese History Museum in Beijing by the committee of the 4th World Overseas Chinese Photography Exhibition (2019); and won in the “China’s City View” theme of Impression of China photography contest in 2020, although the display was canceled due to COVID-19 pandemic.

Favorite aspect about taking photos: I enjoy going out and shooting with my camera. In addition to appreciating and sharing of the beauty of mother nature, you can benefit from the fresh air and physical exercise.

Best advice to get that perfect shot: 

Go out often and enjoy. When shooting birds, pay attention to the background and try to get close to their eye levels. I mostly use these camera settings: manual mode (1/1200 s, f8 and auto ISO), single point continuous focus and continuous shooting. I love to use the back button focus.

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A Smithtown East sophomore has used her love for photography to raise money for a cause close to her heart.

During May, 15-year-old Arianna Felber took part in a Front Porch Project. The goal is to take photos of people outside their front door to commemorate the time spent at home during the coronavirus pandemic. In turn, the photographer’s fee is donated to a charity.

The Nesconset resident has been interested in photography for a few years, she said, and when she turned 13, her mother, Shannon Buscemi, gave her a Nikon D3400. Arianna said she hopes one day her hobby will lead to a career as a fashion photographer.

The sophomore said she started to see porch photos trending on social media, and then a friend of her mother’s asked if Arianna heard about the pictures. The sophomore said she thought it would be a good way to spread awareness about COVID-19.

Arianna said she knew right from the start she would donate the proceeds to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s pediatric patients, as her younger sister Stefani is a cancer survivor. The 12-year-old, who has been cancer-free for more than two years, battled brain cancer since she was a baby and received treatment at Sloan in Manhattan.

Her mother reached out to a connection who put them in touch with a representative for Kids Walk for MSK Kids. The mother and daughter then set up an online link that would allow families to donate the suggested contribution of $10 directly to the pediatric patients helped by Kids Walk for MSK Kids. Arianna said out of the nearly 60 families that she took photos of, many donated more than the suggested $10 and she even received a $100 donation. Her original goal was to raise $1,000 but she surpassed that milestone, and at press time was anticipating raising more than $2,000.

“It makes me beyond happy,” Arianna said. “I’m just so happy that everyone loves the pictures which makes me feel good about my work, but besides that, I’m so happy to be raising money for such an amazing cause and spreading awareness about COVID-19 and giving back to the hospital that saved my sister’s life.”

As more friends found out about her initiative, Arianna’s project took her throughout Smithtown township, and she even traveled out east to Miller Place. Once she got to the subjects’ homes, she stayed outside and photographed them from 6 feet away or more, which she said she needs to do with her zoom lens anyway. She took approximately 10 photos at each home taking pictures of the whole family first and then with just the parents together and a couple of only the children.

Neighbor Denise Prudente said she was pleased with the photos taken of her, her husband, Joe, and their two children.

“It was a beautiful project that my family and I were proud to be a part of,” Prudente said.

The neighbor said she wasn’t surprised when she heard Arianna, who she has known since the teenager was a baby, was using her love of photography to raise money for Sloan. She said Arianna is a hard worker who possesses qualities such as integrity, good listening skills, high energy, perseverance and more, “that make her stand apart from her peers.”

Arianna said the pandemic and her project have left her with a valuable life lesson.

“Seeing how everybody is reinventing themselves and their lives since everything is changing, as I don’t think anything is going back to normal for a while,” she said. “I think it’s crazy to see how different it is yet how together everybody is.”