Who are you, and where in New Jersey are you from?
My name is Dave Norton (@drnorton) and I live in Flemington (oh yeah also @historicflemington). I am originally from northern Virginia. Down there we would actually capitalize the N in northern as if it were a proper geographic region unto itself, but it’s not. It’s just south of DC and not near the mountains or the farms or the shore.
What are the three best spots for photography in New Jersey, and why?
1. The Red Mill, Clinton, NJ: Iconic western Jersey location situated literally downtown so you can grab a coffee beforehand or a bite to eat after shooting it. Bring waders, a sturdy tripod and some neutral density filters if you want to get a little wet and make a long exposure from the water. Or bring your drone if you want to do the exact freaking opposite.
Want to visit Clinton? Check out our guide.
2. Back roads of Hunterdon County: Since this makes up approximately 81% of my feed from the last two years, I have to give a very vague shout out to the asphalt that guides me to mostly unplanned, spur of the moment, “oh snap look at that” type photos, which is my absolute favorite type of photography subgenre to engage in. It’s almost like a sport at that point.
The rules: don’t go somewhere specific to set up a shot of a specific thing. It’s like a rural version of street photography — the kind where you’re looking for strange synchronicities or abnormal scenes in a setting that is otherwise just, like, the side of the road.
3. New Jersey Festival of Ballooning, Readington, NJ: I really hope this goes off this year as it’s my absolute favorite event to photograph and it’s only eight miles up the road from my home. You can go “backstage” if you have a camera on the morning the festival opens up. You don’t even have to sign up! Just show up at the right time (6:30am) and park in the right spot (I’ll let you go to the website to figure that one out on your own). I would highly recommend it to anyone who can make it work. It’s a gas! I’m not blowing hot air!
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I get a lot of my favorite photos by being open to what I’m seeing as opposed to finding what I’m looking for. In this specific instance I was looking to line up for a very different shot in a very different spot, but the reflections of the launching balloons caught my peripheral vision like a Venus flytrap. The thoughts of the previously mentally-imaged shot blew away into the ether like a dandelion. A damned silly dandelion wearing mismatched socks and a tank top in the winter. We are talking like social pariah level dandelion action here.
What's your camera setup?
Godox AD200 flash
Paul C Buff DigiBee 400 studio flash
Sirui ball head
What's your dream piece of gear? Think big!
A whole Broncolor lighting system: flashes, continuous lighting, and a para 222 reflector kit.
What's one bucket list photo of New Jersey you haven't gotten yet?
One tip for aspiring photographers?
Look at photos. Consciously determine why you like them. Try to figure out what that photographer did to create those types of photos. Get out there and try it yourself. Repeat. Endlessly. Your own sense of photographic style/identity will emerge with enough hard work and relentless practice. No one is good with a camera right out of the gates.