Wrought Iron Window Bars: Waldo Ave Jersey City

Wrought Iron Window Bars: Waldo Ave Jersey City

Photographing the Same Thing Over and Over

I was born in Houston, Texas.

That’s a long way from where I now live in New Jersey.

Never in a million years growing up did I think I’d live on the east coast.

But that’s where I am.

Most kids from Texas don’t aspire to move to the east coast…. because if you’ve never been up here, it’s hard to imagine how so many people can find happiness so close together.

Because of the 2008 recession, I ended up taking a job on the east coast in that year and moved to Jersey City, NJ in 2009.

The first couple of years here in New Jersey were hard on me.

Yet, I survived the move, the adjustments to driving style, and learning to “go right to go left” when navigating in traffic.


Jersey City Lights

Jersey City Living & Photography

Growing up in a semi-small, college town in north Texas and spending my summers fishing, swimming and water skiing at a lake house in south eastern Oklahoma, I never had thought about crime or break-ins.

My apartment in Jersey City was in an area called “the island” on Waldo Ave.

It was on a ridge just above a very old cemetery – one where they supposedly shot some Sopranos tv show scenes.

My street was a mix of pre-war old school apartment buildings, 2 family homes, and 1970’s aesthetically unpleasing homes.

At the end of the block, if you strain your eyes to peer around the chain link fence, you can see the Statue of Liberty.

My apartment was not too large, just big enough for two people and a couple of pets.

The bedrooms were on the back side of the house, facing NYC.

Even though the windows were about 8 feet off the ground from the landlord’s private backyard garden, they had wrought iron window bars to keep intruders out.

Each morning the sun would rise over the NYC skyline and cast shadows from the wrought iron window bars onto the curtains, the wall and the bed.

I became completely fascinated with the wrought iron bars.

Unlike any windows I grew up with  – which were barless – I began a photographic relationship with the bars.

Snow would come down and pile up on the top curve… rain would come and drip down off the bottom edge.

The sun would beat hard through the window and create shapes on my floor to ceiling curtains.

At night, I could focus on the bars and get the blurred city lights in the background.

I photographed those buggers incessantly – at all times of day – and from every vantage point I could reach from inside.

Moving out of that apartment was kind of bittersweet.

The view of NYC was amazing.

I watched the new World Trade replacement building go up for 5 years and moved away before it was finished.

I woke up one morning to see the top portion of a cruise ship glide by at eye level… because the Hudson River was just a mile away and in direct view.

And, little did I know, but down there, among the apartments and high-rises, my wife was making her way in the same city we both love.



Wrought Iron Window Bars: Waldo Ave Jersey City

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If you have something in your life you find fascinating, like my wrought iron window bars, make it the subject of your photography for a while.

Create a series of images and explore its textures and nuances.

Take photos of it at all times of day, in every light, and explore it with your camera.

Check out my article on photographing a series to learn more about how a series of one thing will help you grow as a photographer.

By exploring the wrought iron window bars with my Canon, I believe it was one of the catalysts for my macro expressionism style.

Carlin Felder Author Biography

Best Lens for Landscape Photography for Canon Cameras

Best Lens for Landscape Photography for Canon CamerasBest Lens for Landscape Photography for Canon Cameras

“Landscape photography shows spaces within the world, sometimes vast and unending, but other times microscopic. Landscape photographs typically capture the presence of nature but can also focus on man-made features or disturbances of landscapes.” – Wikipedia


Notable landscape photographers include Ansel AdamsMark GrayGalen Rowell, and Edward Weston. – Wikipedia


Landscape photographers are adventurers who know no limits and push their photo-hunting, wanderlusting souls to extremes so they can capture the drama in nature.


That’s not me. I’m a landscape artist who spends time on the ground pushing my macro lens kit into the next scrubby undergrowth of grass and leaves trying to find what’s hidden among the grass or leaves.


Yet, I do have a hankering for trying to get dramatic shots of nature in the area around my home in Pennsylvania. And, I was on the beach in Miami a few years ago with my 50mm lens wishing I had something with a more robust range of view than the narrow 50mm can afford.

Best Lens for Landscape Photography Canon, tokina 11-16mm lens

So, I did some research on which lenses are best for nature & wide angle shots for my Canon camera and decided to give the Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 lens a go.


It’s a solid lens, has a great hand feel and doesn’t feel cheap. The angle of view gives me all the drama I want and need when I’m photographing landscapes or even taking photos inside real estate for sale.


For a non-Canon lens, you can’t go wrong with this one. You’ll be able to capture a lot of the foreground and background clearly.


What I really like about it is the amount of scenery I can get in a shot. It lets me get a wide and sweeping view of the scene, but it won’t let me zoom in and really get a close-up.


If you are wanting a lens to focus on an object and not a sweeping view or the ability to get a lot of the foreground and background in a shot, you’ll want to find a lens that has a pretty good zoom capability as well as a fairly wide range of view.


Your kit lens like the Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II Lens isn’t a bad lens to use for most landscape shots if you are on a budget. The only drawback is the f-stop range being limited.


The Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 has a better opportunity to get shots in low light – especially when you are using a tripod.


My landscape photography inspiration is Andrew Wyeth, the painter. His landscape work has the depth of field and imagery I aspire to in my photography. To see some of his paintings, you can find his work here.

Best Lens for Landscape Photography for Canon

You don’t have to try to be like the next great landscape photographer… you see on Instagram. You can find inspiration from painters and other creatives as well.


To be an artist, which I think photographers are, you can draw upon all the genres of art to see how they deal with lighting, mood, creativity in their scenes and so on.


Study your favorite shots in movies – in drawing & sketches – on television – to see what inspires you to make better photos.

nature photography, pennsylvania, four seasons

These photos are a few of the photos I’ve taken with my Tokina lens on my Canon 50D ( I think… it may have been my 7D).

best canon landscape lens

Pick up a wide-angle lens like the Tokina and head out into nature. Try your hand at different vantage points in your environment… head to a river or water fall and take sweeping shots of the water cascading over the rocks or winding off into the distance.


You’ll love how a wide angle lens like the Tokina 11-16mm lets you set up your shots for a more dramatic view of the landscape!





To buy the Tokina Wide Angle lens for landscape photography, pick it up on Amazon:

Need help mastering landscape photography? Go from average to master with direction from Rob Sheppard.

Carlin Felder Author Biography

Photography Projects: Focusing on One Concept at a Time

carlin felder photography

Photography Series – Blurred Stripes: After The Rain – Series of Leaves, Ferns and Water Drops

Photography Projects: Focusing on One Concept at a Time

Most new photographers set out to take photos of whatever crosses their path at that moment in time.

We’ve all been there, trying to figure out what to shoot… what would “look cool”?

What would look like “my favorite Instagram photographer’s work”?

And, that’s all good – for beginner photographers.

That’s part of the process of being/becoming an artist, a photographer, and an explorer.

A photography explorer has to find their way, uncover what resonates with them and snap a shit-ton of photos along the way!

But after a while, every photographer starts to feel drawn to a specific genre, a specific look, a specific filter preference for post production, specific lighting effects, and a favorite time of day to shoot.

The more work you produce as a photographer, the more you will find your own voice and grow into your work.


Why Focus on a Photography Project or Theme?

Focusing on a photography project theme helps you build a body of work So You Can grow as an artist.

A photography theme helps you discover different ways of looking at the same idea.

A photography theme forces you to get creative and discover angles, vantage points, camera settings, lighting and other elements that will push you out of your comfort zone with your subject matter.

A photo project theme can push you to think outside of the box you normally put your work into and discover other photographers who have shot the same theme (this requires some research), and explore your camera settings to achieve better results day after day.

Photography projects can also give you limitations and guides to help you stay on a path without falling into the trap most beginner photographers fall into – shooting EVERYTHING that crosses their path.

If you decide upon a theme for the week or month, you can pursue the theme with unrelenting passion.

Tim Gilbreath from Photodoto.com said it well:

A photo theme simply means creating a set of photographs that are related in some way, whether it be through subject, color or other recurring pattern.  The beauty of doing this is that you are not required to constantly come up with a new subject or idea for each consecutive photo; once a theme’s subject has been established, you only need to find new instances of that subject.  This forces you to think along one idea path and allows you to forget about the subject altogether and concentrate on what’s really important…taking an interesting and thought-provoking photo.


How to Set Up Your Shots:

carlin felder paintingsI studied painting and drawing in college.

My specific area of study was water-color and mixed media on paper.

My inspiration was the abstract expressionists, color field painters like Mark Rothko and sculptors like Henry Moore.

My watercolor professor, Rob Erdle, taught us to think of including 3 things in our work that set it apart. Don’t just paint a tree in a field… think of the lighting, the scenery, the abstractness, the mood, the time of day, the feeling you want to convey with the tree in the field, and so on.

Don’t just paint a tree… give it a personality, convey a feeling, create a mood.

The same is true for photography.

When creating photos, think of 3 things that will make your photo have more meaning than a simple snapshot of a location, person, subject, etc.

Don’t just see something “cool”, stand in front of it, and take a snapshot. Anyone can do that… those photos are printed out at CVS and passed around at family reunions every summer.

Ask yourself if you can do more with the lighting, the vantage point, the mood, or the lens choice.

Can you remove unnecessary background noise in your photos by adjusting your relationship to the subject?

And most essentially, what can you do with the story?

Affecting more than where your feet are planted will elevate your work and move you toward fine art photography.


What story are you telling in your photography project?

The story is up to you… it doesn’t mean you have to create a narrative with people.

The story can be the location or relationship of objects to each other or the effect in the final output (like the photos at the top of this article which have been rendered in duo-tone and shot as abstracts).

How does your environment change with light or time of day?

Can you create a series of photos that play off of each other by showing the same scene in a different way?

Try to keep in mind 3 things that will make your photos really pop.

When you look at your photography project ask yourself if there are 3 things that make your work have more meaning. If not, push yourself to explore how to add meaning and depth to your project.

Now that you have a concept of how to approach your photography project, go forth and conquer your world.

Need more inspiration? Brooks Jensen will inspire your work. Pick up one of his books to elevate your photography mind!

Carlin Felder Author Biography

Macro Expressionism Tenets 2 & 3 Explained

carlin felder, macro photography, macro expressionism

Macro Expressionism

Of the 7 Tenets of Macro Expressionism I want to combine #’s 2 and 3 in this article. All of the concepts work together to create the sum of my idea for abstract macro photography, but I want to create more of a conversation around my points to flesh out what each tenet means overall.


#2 Subjective views of minute details:

All of photography or art, or creative endeavors in general, is the result of one’s feeling about what “looks good, looks right or sounds good” in the world.


As artists we begin to create what we have been trained to think looks good or to make what we think is appropriate subject matter. Maybe we were taught to draw representationally or taught to write in perfect rhyme or with impeccable grammar. Regardless we begin our lives with our own point of view, and then as we grow our point of view either gets trained out of us (or conversely, encouraged) depending upon who our teachers are and what their agendas are toward art education.


I spent many years trying to let myself feel comfortable enjoying the types of images I preferred to photograph – not only enjoying, but also allowing myself to focus on this imagery as my subject matter.


When I was younger and looking at photography online or in magazines/galleries, I would see artists focusing on portraits, photojournalism, vast landscapes, architecture, or tack sharp macro photos of flowers or bugs. I thought this was what I am supposed to photograph because this is what people were getting accolades for in the world.


What I was seeing wasn’t what I wanted to photograph though. I wanted to photograph and share with others abstractions taken in solitude. Abstractions with blurred focus, non-representational subject matter or even unattractive subject matter.


Accepting that I didn’t want to be a photographer of people or buildings or landscapes was pivotal. Once I was able to discard what I thought was appropriate, I was able to focus on what my eyes enjoyed seeing.


I found myself going deeper and closer to the subject until the subject was a larger than life color field and the result was visually appealing to me. What I have learned is to allow myself to love the subject matter I create and try to care less about what others think.

macro photography, abstract macro photography, macro expresssionism

How this relates to Abstract Macro Photography, or Macro Expressionism Tenet #2?

There is no right or wrong way to approach abstract macro photography. It is a feeling and attitude one brings to the art of photography. It’s not bound by technique nor limited by the equipment one chooses. Nor is it a product of years of attention to detail. It’s a way of approaching photography which relies less on the technical details and more on the artistic interpretation of the object in the moment.


Distortions of color, shape, line and form are acceptable and encouraged. It is the artist’s (photographer’s) right to interpret the world as she or he see fit.


The Macro Expressionist photographer uses to one’s advantage calculated accidents of the camera which are a result of movement and intent. It is important to let the camera act as the paint brush which captures images for print (or the screen) and let subjective views of minute details be the result.



Tenet #3 – Expose the Unseen

The human eye cannot naturally create blur or color distortions that a Macro Expressionist photo can represent. The camera can alter perspective in tones, form, shape, color and line. It can foreshorten images and selectively focus on details.


Jean Cocteau said “photography is unreal, it alters tone and perspective…” What looks accidental to a photo realist is an expressionistic, artistic interpretation to the Macro Expressionist. It is the result of playing with the subject or object photographed.


When I make photos I intentionally allow light to make the subject translucent or the edges of the object to become distorted. I move my lens under the subject to get images of the subject from a viewpoint I don’t normally see. I move my camera into the object and let the lens penetrate the subject matter. I wouldn’t normally walk up to a plant or flower and insert my face into it a few inches, but with my camera I do. And the result is a view of the subject I don’t see from an everyday perspective.


I want to move beyond the surface representation and make images which represent what I don’t see. My aim is to be child-like, but educated, in my approach to the art of photography. It is not pure imitation of the environment, as a child imitates his or her parents, looking to them for cues as to what’s right or wrong. It’s not setting up a tripod and adding a glowing light ring to illuminate the subject.


It’s taking what I see and evolving it visually by the penetration of my lens, investigation from angles which my eyes don’t see naturally, and the application of artistry to an object in nature. Macro Expressionism is a calculated approach to the creative endeavor of photography whose goal is to expose the unseen.


Tenet One for Further Reading


Need more inspiration? Brooks Jensen will inspire your work. Pick up one of his books to elevate your photography mind!

Carlin Felder Author Biography

Tenets of Macro Expressionism

macro expressionism

Macro Expressionism

When I was writing a Manifesto of Macro Expressionism, I identified 7 core elements for my approach to the style of macro photography I focus on.

The tenets may seem redundant on the surface so I am working towards grounding and defining each concept so it can stand on its own merit and have a unique context. This post and the rest to follow are drafts which may be edited as I work through them.


The 7 Tenets of Macro Expressionism are:

  1. Emphasize non-representational subject matter
  2. Subjective views of minute details
  3. Expose the unseen
  4. Action and movement toward or away from a subject while photographing
  5. Use of tools to create mood – such as blur, bokeh, and post production manipulation
  6. Lack of emphasis on technical perfection
  7. Abstract imagery from objects in the environment


This post will define roughly the first tenet – Emphasize non-representational subject matter – and try to give it some historical reference by discussing how photography influenced fine art painting and then tying that back into how fine art has conversely influenced my photography.


The influence of photography on subject matter in fine art from the mid to late 1800’s can be seen in the way painters changed their style of painting beginning with Impressionism and then moving forward until the present day. The camera’s ability to record and document movement in blur was a new way to see people or objects in action in the world.


The naked eye sees movement as a fluid act and doesn’t slow down movement in the same way a slow shutter speed freezes action as blur. Blurred movement captured by a slow shutter speed gave artists a new way to see their world in a way the human eye couldn’t interpret it. Legs in movement were blurred. Ghost like images of a horse or carriage moving were painted the same as the photograph interpreted them. Fine artists used photographs as static references for their art work, and they took the element of blur from photographs and depicted their subjects with the same visual effect.


Aaron Scharf in his book Art and Photography, 1968, describes in detail how photography influenced the perspective of fine artists starting with Impressionism through Cubism to the era of Abstract Expressionism. Monet, for example, in the Boulevard de Capucines 1873, painted the street scene as a photo might have captured it. Bodies were blurred, legs painted in movement instead of standing still. The human eye doesn’t have the ability to see or capture the blurred movements as a camera with a slow shutter speed can. So photos making their way to fine art affected directly the depiction of action and figures in fine art.


How does this relate to Macro Expressionism’s idea of emphasizing non-representational subject matter? Because photography influenced painting and drawing to move toward more abstract subject matter over the decades following the 1800’s. Abstract painting, which evolved from Impressionism, Cubism and other forms of painting and conceptual art, was influenced by photography. For me the evolution of my style of photography is a result of my preference of abstract art over realistic subject matter.


Artists such as Rothko and the Color Field painters moved away from somewhat realistic imagery to pure color and form as the subject. Anatomy, street scenes, pastoral images and so forth disappeared from their work. In the same way my aim is to make my photos abstractions and depict non-representational subject matter (above).


Macro Expressionism presents the world from a subjective, abstract point of view.  One way to achieve this is by creating opportunities for calculated accidents which transform the subject matter.  The goal is to represent with the camera a point of view which conveys feeling, atmosphere, mood, or a point of view which expresses action, movement or intangible qualities which representational artwork or photography does not.


When one learns to use the camera it’s mostly with the intent to take snapshots of the known. As my work evolved and I began to hone in on what was relevant to me, a style of imagery began to emerge. As I enjoyed the result of what looked accidents of focus, f-stop, or shutter speed I began to let the camera become a new paint brush with which to create images. Subtle abstractions began to creep into my photos, but over time I taught myself manipulate and experiment with imagery to create color fields, movement and to really affect what traditional photographers would consider accidents.


The purpose of my photography is to capture the micro world from a subjective approach and not a representational approach but emphasize color, form and the other elements of design. I compare macro expressionism to fine art because the goal of my work is to create a work of fine art – to create a visual experience and not just a representation of a scene.


I use my camera as a paint brush to re-present an object. I don’t just replicate static details in tack sharp focus or increase their size to a 1:1 perspective. I try to create color fields or abstractions in which color, shape, form, line, depth of field, negative and positive spaces are emphasized artistically. The role of art on photography can be seen not only in my work but in the work of other artist photographers who choose to depict shape, form, color and line creatively and not just “photo-realistically”.


Accepting that I prefer to shoot non-representational subject matter has become my focus. My goal is to make visually appealing what other photographers would normally delete from their memory card. And with that, I came up with the concept of Macro Expressionism and have worked to define it so that it has a place in the world of photography.

Need more inspiration? Brooks Jensen will inspire your work. Pick up one of his books to elevate your photography mind!

Carlin Felder Author Biography