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I've lived within a few miles of the small park known as Sandy Hook, New Jersey for the entire 29 years of my life. As a child, with my father, I learned how to differentiate and identify species of birds through our hundreds of bird watching forays—waking up before the sun, scanning the beaches for shorebirds, and walking the woods in the springtime for warblers and other neotropical migrants and songbirds. Over the years, Sandy Hook became a part of me. When I cross over the Highlands Bridge and make the u-turn for "The Hook," I feel as if I am returning home. Through documenting the species of birds I was seeing, I became interested in photography. It has now developed into documenting the land and places I love that are rooted deep within my memories. After all, photography is a way to preserve the things we love.
"After all, photography is a way to preserve the things we love."
I made this photograph on May 17, 2012, right at the start of the summer beach season. The park system had recently installed a pedestrian overpass bridge that crosses over the main entrance to Sandy Hook. I thought it would make a great photograph with the right perspective. So, just after sunset, during the onset of the blue hour, I climbed to the top and positioned myself over the road. As a steady stream of homeward-bound traffic exited the park below, I opened my shutter. After making a few test shots, I decided upon 60 seconds, at f/20. I rarely shoot over f/16 but I was hoping to extend the streaks of light coming from the headlights of cars exiting the park.
One of my favorite things about the art of photography is the ability to express movement within a static medium. There's something really beautiful about long exposures. When that shutter opens, you can stand back and watch as the world unfolds, knowing that everything you see happening before you will be recorded in your camera. I feel it teaches us photographers a great deal of patience, respect and perhaps a better understanding of the world around us.
The end result is a photograph that captures a scene from a place I love—of families leaving the beaches after a day of memories. The Shrewsbury River and the receding tides to the right of the frame, the relentless Atlantic Ocean to the left of the frame, and the narrow strip of land sandwiched between. The fading daylight and the end of another day on the Jersey Shore as summer approaches. Rich color and movement, with leading lines that extend the viewer's eyes to the horizon, where the lights of New York City can be seen.
The photo was processed in Adobe Lightroom. Bumping shadows added a great amount of detail to the underexposed areas (always shoot in RAW). A gradient filter for exposure was applied to the sky to prevent highlights from blowing and to preserve more color. Contrast, sharpening and basic saturation adjustments were then applied to achieve what I saw in my mind as the final product.
About Chase Schiefer: "My passion for photography germinated from family vacations around the United States as a child. I now rely on my DSLR to continue my family’s tradition of capturing the landscapes and wildlife of the places I visit. My subjects also include American folk life and historic structures, as well as battle re-enactments, weather phenomenon, and light painting. I reside in New Jersey. I love my state. It has somewhat of a poor reputation with the rest of the country. I hope to prove that with some searching, there is much beauty to be found here. From our rolling oceans, to glowing red cranberry bogs. We've got it all." You can keep up with Chase on Facebook.