An Interview with Bucks County
Fine Art Photographer Josh Friedman
Josh Friedman is a talented photographer from Bucks County, PA. I first saw his work on a Lower Makefield Facebook page and was in awe seeing our area through his lens. I have gained a new appreciation for all of the beauty that surrounds us not only from Bucks, but Philadelphia, New York, New Jersey, and beyond. He kindly agreed to share with us his thoughts about photography, great tips, and amazing travels! Thank you, Josh!
All photographs on this page are copyrighted by Josh Friedman.
You have a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. How did your second career as a photographer come about? Has your interest in photography been life-long?
Yes, my wife and I are both clinical psychologists. My love of photography started when I was a kid, at about 10. I had a Kodak Instamatic camera that I used on family vacations and school field trips. In fact, I remember eagerly waiting for my rolls of film to be developed, only to find that my thumb was prominently featured in most of my photos. I think I've gotten a bit better since then! In Junior High School, I built and used a pinhole camera and by my teens, I was shooting with an SLR and developing black and white photos in my parents' basement. My work as a psychologist is very rewarding, but my love of photography certainly came first!
How was the transition from film to digital for you?
At first I thought digital would be a passing fad and the quality would never be as good as film. Boy, was I wrong! While I have fond memories and a nostalgic feel regarding my dark room days, I really love digital photography. It's far more convenient and I find you have significantly more control over the creative process.
Lake Afton in Autumn, Yardley, PA, 2015
Recently, one of my photographs of Yardley's Lake Afton received a lot of attention. To create that image, I took five different exposures and used software to blend them into one HDR (high dynamic range) photograph. I also used Photoshop to remove reflective street signs which distracted from the beautiful autumn scene. In the film days, this would not have been possible. Many of my images are actually HDR. When we look at a scene that has contrasting dark and light sections, our eyes can quickly take in the various elements -- those that are fully lit, those in shadows, etc. Cameras are not as sophisticated as our eyes. Any single exposure will not capture both the darkest and brightest parts of the scene. In the digital era, we can take multiple exposures and blend them with HDR software (such as Photomatrix) or use editing software (e.g. Lightroom) to bring out detail in the shadowed section of the image. When I first got into photography, these things were science fiction!
What software programs do you use to edit your photos?
I regularly use Adobe Photoshop as well as software by OnOne and Topaz. To create HDR (high dynamic range) images, I combine multiple exposures with Photomatix Pro.
Do you have any tips for taking better photos, especially when traveling? What makes the difference between a mediocre shot and an outstanding shot? Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, but what are some ways amateurs could take their photography to the next level?
First, I would understand the basics of exposure - ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. This may sound daunting to a beginner, but the concepts are actually not complicated. A basic understanding of the relationships between these things gives you a lot more creative control. Bryan Peterson's book, "Understanding Exposure," is a great starting point for many folks. Second, I would read up on composition. As with any art, I don't like the idea of "rules." That said, keeping certain compositional guidelines in the back of your mind can really help improve your images. For example, it's important to simplify your composition, fill the frame, watch your backgrounds (so they don't draw attention from the primary subject), think less literally, etc. For landscapes, you may want to include leading lines, or a visual anchor, in order to connect the foreground and the background. Remember that nowadays digital memory is relatively cheap and it's very convenient. If you're not sure which angle is most interesting, shoot them both. You may like each of them, or you can get rid of the ones you don't like (without incurring any extra cost). Finally, to the extent that it's possible, when you are taking photos, move around and experiment. This should be a fun, creative process.
For anyone who has not taken photography in college, what are some things someone could do to improve their craft? Are there any specific workshops that you will be leading in the future or any online classes that you recommend?
Well, in college I had a few studio art classes, but I actually didn't have any photography courses. About 7 years ago, I started taking online courses, reading, and going to live workshops. This was squeezed in between my full-time psychology practice, family life, and coaching my boys' sports teams. I had a passion for photography and I loved the process of taking and post-processing my images, so I put a lot of time into it. In the future, I plan to run more workshops in Bucks County, New York City, and Philadelphia. For those who are time-crunched, but eager to learn, you may try some of the online photo schools like BetterPhoto.com or BPSOP (Bryan Peterson School of Photography). Online courses are convenient in that you take the course at home, on your own schedule, and you get feedback about your images from professional photographers.
Do you have a favorite all-time photo that you've taken and can you tell us the story behind it?
I would say that I have a favorite series of photographs, but not one image. I have photographed a Threadleaf Japanese Maple Tree in different seasons and weather conditions: in the middle of a snowstorm, on a sunny spring day, in late autumn, etc. I think the tree is really beautiful, and taken together, the images convey both strength and fragility, as well as a sense of stability through time.
In my work as a psychologist, I have had a growing interest in mindfulness over the past few years. This series of images of this tree reminds me of the "mountain meditation," which emphasizes a feeling of being grounded (much like a mountain) in the midst of life's changing circumstances and challenges.
I am not a lifelong resident of Bucks County. I was born and raised in New York, about 45 minutes from Manhattan. After getting married, my wife and I wanted to live somewhere between her family (near Philadelphia) and my family (in New York). We first moved to Mercer County, New Jersey, and for the past 14 years we've been in Bucks County.
My recent "Autumn in Bucks County" photography workshop was really a lot of fun. During the workshop, we started with the sunrise at the New Hope-Lambertville Bridge. During the day, we photographed historic covered bridges, Tohickon Creek (in Pipersville), the High Rocks Vista section of Ralph Stover State Park, and the Fonthill Castle in Doylestown. Then we ended with the sunset and twilight over the Delaware River from the Lumberville Footbridge. While many of those spots are in the northern parts of Bucks County, I also love some spots closer to our home in Yardley. For instance, Lake Afton and the historic old library are wonderful all year, as is the Delaware Canal and Towpath.
High Rocks Vista, Ralph Stover State Park, Bucks County
New Hope Bridge in Fog with Geese, Bucks County
Tow Path in Autumn, Yardley, PA
What are your favorite subjects to photograph? Your favorite seasons? Are there certain places around our area in PA/NJ/NY that are better at certain times of the year?
I love landscapes and nature as well as cities. Living in Bucks County, we have easy access to Philadelphia, New York City, and the Jersey Shore. I especially love Philly in the Spring, during Cherry Blossom season. Central Park in Manhattan is wonderful in the fall when the trees are changing, but you may want to avoid the Marathons going through Central Park in late October or early November.
Philadelphia Skyline from Loews Hotel
The Mall, Central Park, New York City
During summer trips to the Jersey Shore, I always get up early to photograph the sunrise over the ocean and piers. Also, there are a few sections in Northern New Jersey which offer fantastic views of the Manhattan Skyline. For instance, you get great views of mid-town Manhattan from Hamilton Park in Weehawken, New Jersey. From Liberty State Park or the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway in Jersey City, you get great views of lower Manhattan.
Manhattan Morning from Jersey City
Your photography features many places outside of Bucks County as well. Where are your favorite places to travel and photograph? And where would you still like to visit?
Truthfully, I've only scratched the surface in terms of places where I've traveled. I really love America's National Parks. My wife and I have taken our sons to Acadia National Park in Maine several times. We've enjoyed some wonderful family vacations there, and I usually get up hours before everyone else to take photos. We've taken a few family trips to California - to cities as well as National Parks (Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon). This coming summer we're planning a trip to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. We've also had "fun in the sun" vacations at the Atlantis Resort in The Bahamas. My early mornings are often spent photographing the beach and architecture around the resort. In fact, a few years ago, on my blog, I published "An Unofficial Guide to Photographing Atlantis Resort in Paradise Island, Bahamas: Improving Your Tropical Vacation Photographs." I suggested interesting photographic subjects throughout the resort and I provided general travel photography tips. In the future, I hope to see Alaska, China, and the great cities of Europe and Israel.
Bar Harbor, Maine Lobster Boats
On the left - Yosemite National Park, CA, Tunnel View
On the right - Yosemite Valley with Meadows, Trees, and Half-Dome
Atlantis Resort, Paradise Island, The Bahamas
During my first year of graduate school, I read John Steinbeck's book, "Travels with Charlie," in which he and his dog travel across the country in a souped-up camper. Halfway through the book, I said to myself, "I want to do this." The vision of getting a camper and traveling with my dog turned into my going out west during the summer of 1986 for six or seven weeks in my Honda Civic; staying at youth hostels, camping in my tent, and occasionally staying in a Motel 6. The trip was a real adventure for me. I met really interesting European travelers at the youth hostels and National Parks. Right now my wife and I have one son in college and the other in high school. They are almost always within easy cell phone access. It's hard to believe that I went by myself when I was just 22, long before cell phones. Then again, when my Dad was 22, he was back from serving in the army in World War II. I guess everything is relative.
On our honeymoon, my wife and I spent two weeks in Greece. A few days into our trip, we were at Kissamos, a small fishing village on the western end of the Island of Crete. I was experimenting with all different kinds of foods. Well, about four days into our honeymoon, I developed a nasty case of food poisoning, with a fever of about 104. We very quickly tested the "in sickness and in health" clause in our wedding vows, and Cynthia, my wife, passed with flying colors. She contacted my brother, a physician, who suggested we get an over-the-counter antibiotic, and she walked into town (she wasn't able to drive the stick-shift car we had rented) to get the medicine and Uncle Ben's rice! I suppose smart travelers need to find the sweet spot between adventure and caution.
What equipment is in your camera bag - camera, filters, etc.? What do you recommend for someone just starting out with photography who may be on a limited budget?
My camera is a Canon 7D digital SLR. I have a variety of lenses, including: Canon 18-135 mm "street zoom," Canon Macro 100 mm, Sigma wide angle 10-20 mm, and a Sigma 150-500 mm telephoto zoom. I have an Induro Carbon Fiber Tripod (CLT404L) with an Induro BHL2S Ball Head. For each of my lenses, I have a polarizing filter. I also have a graduated neutral density filter and a variable neutral density filter. Finally, I have an external shutter release, a set of extension tubes (for macro shots), an extra battery, and a few extra memory cards.
I try not to have too many pet peeves in life (they slow you down!). That said, one of my pet peeves is when someone likes one of my photographs and immediately asks, "What kind of camera do you have?" To me, the most important piece of equipment in photography, and any art, is between our ears. I've seen many amazing photographs taken with smartphones. The sense of creativity, vision, and curiosity have to come first. Advanced technique and fancy equipment can come later.
If you are just getting into photography on a limited budget, you may want to start with a moderately priced digital SLR which has the capacity to change lenses. You can start with a "street zoom." Mine goes from 18mm-135mm. If you find you are enjoying the hobby, little by little you can purchase additional lenses, a decent tripod, and other photo-related accessories. Perhaps more important than the equipment is the growing understanding of composition and knowledge regarding how to properly expose an image, etc. I would read photography books, take courses, attend workshops, get photography magazines, with the idea of expanding your creativity. Don't be intimidated by technical stuff. Its REALLY not as hard as it may sound. Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the process!
Who are some photographers that you admire and influence you?
For me, Ansel Adams has to be at the top of the list. I love his subject matter (Yosemite and other National Parks) as well as his style, his sense of composition, and the drama in his work. What casual observers may not understand is the way he used darkroom techniques to bring richness and beauty to his images. He really foreshadowed the digital era, in which we routinely use Photoshop, Lightroom, and other post-processing tools.
Of today's nature and landscape photographers, I really like the work of Michael Frye, Gary Hart, Art Wolfe, and Ian Plant, as well as many others.
Where can our readers become collectors of your fine art photography?
I have shown my work at arts and crafts shows on the east coast. The easiest way to purchase one of my prints is through my online ETSY store:
or by emailing me directly at:
Here are all of Josh's links:
ETSY SHOP: https://www.etsy.com/shop/JoshFriedmanPhoto
Links Of Interest:
Bryan Peterson's Amazon Page - http://www.amazon.com/Bryan-Peterson/e/B000APQPTU/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1449679278&sr=1-2-ent
BetterPhoto.com - http://www.betterphoto.com/home.asp
Bryan Peterson School of Photography - http://bpsop.com/
Bryan F. Peterson Photography - http://www.bryanfpeterson.com/
The Ansel Adams Gallery - http://www.anseladams.com/
Michael Frye Fine Art Landscape Photography - http://www.michaelfrye.com/
Gary Hart Photography - http://www.garyhartphotography.com/
Art Wolfe Nature and Cultural Photography - http://artwolfe.com/
Ian Plant Dreamsacapes Nature Photography - http://www.ianplant.com/
Adobe Photoshop - http://www. adobe.com
ON1 Photo - Photo Editing Made Simple - http://www.on1.com
Photography Software from Topaz - http://www.topazlabs.com/
Photomatix Pro Review - http://www.stuckincustoms.com/photomatix-review/
Lake Afton - http://www.scenicbuckscounty.com/Yardley/LakeAfton.html
Yardley Boro - http://www.yardleyboro.com/
Township of Lower Makefield - http://www.lmt.org/
Bucks County.org - http://www.buckscounty.org/
Bucks County Official Site - http://www.visitbuckscounty.com/
New Hope - http://www.newhopepa.com/
Visit New Hope - http://www.visitnewhope.com/
Visit Doylestown, PA - http://www.visitdoylestownpa.com/
Fonthill Castle - https://www.mercermuseum.org/about/fonthill-castle/
Mercer Museum - https://www.mercermuseum.org/
Ralph Stover State Park - http://www.visitpa.com/pa-bird-wildlife-watching/ralph-stover-state-park
Ralph Stover State Park - http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/findapark/ralphstover/
Delaware Canal State Park - http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/findapark/delawarecanal/index.htm
Traveling Beyond Bucks:
Visit Philadelphia - http://www.visitphilly.com/
NewYork.com Official Site - http://www.newyork.com/
Official Guide to Central Park New York City - http://www.centralparknyc.org/
VisitNJ Official Tourism Site of New Jersey - http://www.visitnj.org/
Yosemite National Park California - http://www.nps.gov/yose/index.htm
Sequioa and Kings Canyon National Parks, California - http://www.nps.gov/seki/index.htm
Yellowstone National Park - ID, MY, WY - http://www.nps.gov/yell/index.htm
Yellowstone National Park - http://www.nationalparks.org/explore-parks/yellowstone-national-park?gclid=CLrV7JOgz8kCFc4XHwodFKEErQ
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming - http://www.nps.gov/grte/index.htm
Official Site of the Bahamas - http://www.bahamas.com/
Official Nassau Paradise Island Vacation Guide - http://www.nassauparadiseisland.com/
Atlantis Paradise Island Resort - http://www.atlantisbahamas.com/
Visit Maine - http://visitmaine.com/?gclid=CNWwr5Chz8kCFYEYHwodR9ABJA
Acadia National Park, Maine - http://www.nps.gov/acad/index.htm
Bar Harbor, Maine - http://www.barharborinfo.com/
Visit Greece The Official Website of the Greek Tourism Organization - http://www.visitgreece.gr/
Island of Crete, Greece - http://www.visitgreece.gr/en/greek_islands/crete