Tom Burns Photography: Blog en-us (C) Tom Burns Photography [email protected] (Tom Burns Photography) Wed, 19 Apr 2023 19:05:00 GMT Wed, 19 Apr 2023 19:05:00 GMT Tom Burns Photography: Blog 120 80 Tax Day Four Years Later - Random thoughts on sunsets, photography and tomorrow

“What’s your favorite photo?”
“Which one do you like best?”
“Do you have a favorite photo?”

These are some of the questions I get asked when doing art shows or other events. Each time my answer is similar, “that’s like picking your favorite child – you can’t do it – they are each special in their own way.”

And that is a true statement, I don’t know that I have a favorite image. There are some that I like more than others, but a favorite – too hard to pick – or maybe it’s not.

On April 15, 2015 I left my house to mail my taxes – yes, I waited until the last minute.

As I began driving I noticed interesting cloud formations and thought to myself it could be a good sunset. So I detoured from my original destination, and headed to the Gallagher Pier along Buffalo’s outer harbor.

For about an hour I watched and photographed as the sun moved below the horizon and the clouds continued to flow through the deepening blue sky. When I finally packed up my gear, and headed to the post office for my original errand, it was nearly 9 p.m. Some of the images from that evening are posted below.

Just this past weekend I lamented about missing last Friday’s sunset, which looked to be incredible. A friend of mine questioned my disappointment, noting that I probably have dozens, if not hundreds, of images that could be comparable to what I missed on Friday.

While I respect her sentiment, I will say this, I continue to look for sunsets to photograph, and four years later I’m not sure that I have captured one quite like the one from April 15, 2015. There have been very good sunsets (and some not so good), but none quite like tax day, and that’s why I go back. Each one is different – some more red, yellow, or orange, some more dramatic or peaceful, and some just plain beautiful.

I have often said that I love taking photos, and I do it primarily for my enjoyment. I know that may sound selfish, but isn’t that what a hobby is truly for?

Now, that being said, it is incredibly rewarding that people enjoy my work, which has allowed me to turn my hobby into a small business, and for that I am extremely grateful.

And with any business, you need business cards. I decided to order cards with a photo on one side. For my first set of cards I chose the photo “Tax Day Sunset 2”, which appears above this story.

Again, it would be much too hard to pick a “favorite” image from my portfolio, but four years after capturing this one it still holds a special place in my heart.

But as noted photographer Imogen Cunningham said, “Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow.”

We’ll see what tomorrow brings.


Tax Day Sunset 2015


[email protected] (Tom Burns Photography) buffalo photography buffalo sunsets sunsets Mon, 15 Apr 2019 15:37:34 GMT
Welcome Home - Fifty Four Seconds     As we all know, there are many different types of photography…which is why there are many different types of pictures.

    I was recently asked to do a family portrait session for a former colleague and friend. So, Sunday morning my assistant (my daughter Brigid) and I met with the family and did shots at three different locations in the city. It was great fun; cold but fun. We probably spent almost 90 minutes taking pics, traveling to the next spot and taking more pics, etc. And we chatted briefly afterwards to catch-up.  As I said…90 minutes of great fun.

    The night before was also great fun, but a much different shoot. In a “salute to families of members of the military” the family of a member of the Air Force was invited for a ceremonial puck drop at the Niagara University hockey game. What the family didn’t know was that the puck was being delivered to them by their husband/father who was returning from Afghanistan.

    I was fortunate enough to be on the ice for the surprise event…camera in hand.

    As the family was walking out on the carpet purple carpet, I heard the public address announcer introducing them. I was taking a couple pics as they got into position, and then I heard the slashing of skates on the ice and I knew the airman was coming.

    Snap away.

    He joined his family. They hugged, smiled, laughed, and cried, and he had the chance to see and hold his 7-week old baby daughter for the first time.

    After a brief moment, he handed his wife the puck he carried out with him. She wasn’t sure what she was supposed to do with it, but it became clearer as the captains from Niagara and Holy Cross skated out for the ceremonial puck drop. Everyone lined up and the puck hit the ice.

    There were some more celebrations as both captains acknowledged each member of the family and thanked the soldier for his service.  We then exited the ice so the game could start.






     Arena lighting can be difficult, leading to camera adjustments that can affect the quality of the photos, but after loading the photos on my computer I was pleased to see that I had a few memorable shots. I did some post processing and started to share the images to great response.

    The emotion in the wife’s face as she realizes who is skating toward her, and the utter look of shock of the older daughter as she makes the same conclusion are priceless. And I’ve come to love the moving shot of them in one large, loving embrace.

    People commented on the emotion in the images, and the emotions they felt, even as strangers, in viewing them.  I’ve watched my share of these types of reunion videos and they almost always choke me up. There is so much joy in that moment that it is a very moving experience. However, I didn’t feel that when taking these pics, and here’s why: it was a whirlwind.

    The time of the first “aha” shot, to the pic of the puck being dropped was just fifty four seconds.  A lifetime of memories captured in less than a minute.

    In looking back it was a busy weekend. I took nearly a thousand photos at a few different events, including the Sunday morning family portrait session. It was all fun and added to my experience as a photographer.

    But those fifty four seconds…that may be a memory I never forget.  

    Thank you to the Torcasio family for the sacrifices you make, and thank you to Frank Torcasio for your service to our great country. 



[email protected] (Tom Burns Photography) Mon, 08 Dec 2014 20:42:15 GMT
"She was disappointed she missed it" When I was growing up, if there was a camera nearby, my mother would often say, “don’t take my picture.” I’m not sure why, but she claimed that she didn’t like to have her picture taken. 
I’ve heard that refrain from others too, but I don’t always buy it. I think most people like to have their picture taken, even if that emotion is kept secretly. 
After spending a full day at Canalside on Saturday, I returned there with my wife last night to try to capture a specific image. I grabbed my camera, but left my bag in the car. After taking a few shots, I decided to go back to my car to grab a different lens. While on that mission, I passed a couple seated in a couple Adirondack chairs. The gentleman smiled at me with a big grin. I must have had a puzzled look on my face, and he said he was smiling for the camera. I laughed, and then stopped and snapped a quick picture of him. 
When I got to the car I changed lenses and returned to my original task. 
I was just about done, when the gentleman I encountered earlier was walking by. He asked about the picture, and then said “she was very disappointed that she missed it,” referring to the lady he was with. 
So I said alright, let me get another one. They posed quickly and I snapped two pictures. I gave them one of my cards and said if they’d like they could send me their email address and I would be happy to send them the picture.
Now, I like taking pictures, and I was glad the guy stopped me. And I was even pleased when he said his friend was disappointed that she missed the original opportunity; that in some way it was special for her to have a photo taken. 
I’m not sure my mother would have had the same reaction. 
Coincidentally, while my wife and I were driving down to Canalside, we discussed Brandon Stanton’s “Humans of New York” (HONY) photo project. If you’re not familiar, he has embarked on a project to “create an exhaustive catalogue of New York City’s inhabitants.” His initial goal was to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers, and the project, and related web presence, has become quite the internet phenomenon with huge followings on social media. 
My wife said she loved HONY. I said it was interesting, but thought that it could be somewhat awkward to continuously encounter strangers and make photos of them. I do enjoy photographing people. There is energy to it, and every individual we encounter has a story to tell. That is one of the reasons I enjoy being a finish line photographer for Eclipse Multi-Sport. I have also thought of variations of Stanton’s HONY, but I don’t know that I could personally build a project based on photographing strangers. 
And yet, there I was Sunday night, meeting briefly with a couple on the waterfront, and making a photo of them. I haven’t heard from them yet, and don’t know anything about them. It was a chance encounter, but as a photography enthusiast, I was energized by the encounter.  
So, if you see me, and I have my camera with me, go ahead and ask; I’d be happy to take your picture. 
[email protected] (Tom Burns Photography) Buffalo Canalside Humans of New York Photographer Photography Tue, 08 Jul 2014 02:20:04 GMT
Saturday Artisans Market: I'll be back      I haven’t posted in a while. Well, ok, quite a while.

     For that reason, today’s post will ramble a bit.

     Last summer I wrote an entry about visiting the Canalside area of Buffalo, NY, a newly developed recreation space along part of Buffalo’s inner harbor. The space hosts any number of events during the summer season, including concerts, group exercise events, races, etc. The space is adorned with Adirondack chairs and it is quite active and picturesque.

     The area opened a few of years ago, and one night, while out taking pictures, I stopped by to capture some of Canalside. I made subsequent trips over the next couple of weeks that year to capture some more of this area. I think I captured photos on three separate nights.

     This really can be a picturesque area, and I like many of the photos I made while down there, but two in particular, stand out to me.

     The first one, which I call Flags of the Future (I don’t usually name my photos), I liked from the minute I saw it in my camera and on my computer. It captures the boardwalk area of the Canalside, along with the iconic flags that fly along the water’s edge. From a “photographic rules” standpoint, there are one or two things that may not be correct, but the strong content of the image outweighs these rules.

     This image was hanging on a wall, along with a few more of my prints, in a local restaurant, that is until someone bought it right off the wall. Thank you very much. At the time, one of the waitresses told me they had only sold two prints off the walls at the restaurant, and one was mine. (I recently sold another one there too…so that’s good).

     The second Canalside image that stands out is more like a fine wine for me. This photo has gotten better with age. When I reviewed all the images I made on those evenings, I don’t know that I really noticed this one. However, in reviewing my archive recently, something about it jumped out at me. The one thing I like about it is that I keep seeing new things in the photo...bikes, people, City Hall, etc.

     Flash forward…a few friends have encouraged me to participate in some of the local art fairs and to sell my photos. I have participated in some very small events like this, but nothing mid-size or major. This encouragement did prompt me to apply for entry to the local Saturday Artisans Market (SAM), to which I was accepted. These are a series of events, and I am only participating in three during this summer, and the first one was last Saturday.

     There is a lot of work that goes into preparing for these events. You have to have a tent, weights/anchors for the tent, a way to display your work, tables, signs, etc. I did plenty of research in preparing for the event, and I still have a lot to learn, but it is a growing process.

     Now one of the great things about SAM is that it is held at Canalside. And maybe it’s fate, but my tent was probably within 50 feet of the two spots that I made the two Canalside photos I spoke of earlier. I had fun talking to the people about all of my prints. Most of my work is from the Buffalo area, but many people still ask where certain photos were taken. When they would pick up one of the Canalside photos, I would ask them, “do you know where that was taken?” They would look up and around with a smile, just to confirm that is was almost in the exact spot they were standing.    

     It was pretty busy throughout the day. Hundreds of people had come to Canalside, whether they knew the art event was happening or not. I saw some good friends, and a couple of other friends walked by my booth 3-4 times without even seeing me. I enjoyed talking with everyone who stopped in, and I occasionally reminded them that the photos were for sale. I also had a nice conversation with Tom Dee, who oversees the group that manages the Canalside area. He was very complimentary of the photos, and I think they are going to use the images in some of their promotional presentations.

     So, I told you this one would ramble a little bit.

     It’s a long way to tell you that I will be at SAM again on July 5 and August 9.

     The other remaining dates are June 21, July 19, August 9, September 6 & 20, and October 4 & 18. 

[email protected] (Tom Burns Photography) Buffalo Canalside Photographer Western New York Wed, 11 Jun 2014 20:39:41 GMT
Opportunity strikes again      The annual WKSE Kissmas Bash was held on Thursday night (12/12). I was there for a couple reasons, and as part of the event the host radio station also gave me an all access pass.

     I didn’t think much about the pass initially. The bands scheduled to perform were very popular, but I wasn’t in the target demographic, and wasn’t really thinking about it as a photo opportunity.

     At the start of the night I was talking with Paul Maurer, one of my friends from the radio station (Kiss 98.5), who is also a photographer, and I asked about taking some pictures. He said “go ahead, you’ve got the all access pass” and another rep and longtime friend, Don Tomasulo, said “yeah, go ahead until someone tells you to stop.”

     So later in the night I found myself alongside the stage, and then in the photo pit right in front of the stage. I took some pictures of the band Icona Pop while they were on stage. These two young ladies have a couple of hits to their name, and sang along to backing tracks for their performance. After the performance, my daughters got to get pictures with them as part of a meet-n-greet.

     Once I got my daughters back to their seats, I wandered around the arena little longer before making my way back down to the stage area for the evening’s headliner: The Jonas Brothers.

     Of course I have heard of The Jonas Brothers, and although I’m not familiar with their music, I was pleased to see a full set-up for their performance including drums, keyboard, guitars, etc.

     While I have taken pictures of some local bands before, and some music festivals, and I even won a photography contest at a local music festival, I had never been in this type of environment: right against the stage, thousands of screaming (mostly young girls) fans, with music thumping through your body while you shoot. The environment was pretty electrifying.

     The brothers took the stage, one on guitar, the other vocals, alongside a backing band, and launched into what I can only assume was a string of hits. 422U0281422U0281

     And I started snapping away.

     While I was shooting I realized I had taken another step on my photography journey. I wasn’t just taking pictures; I was looking for cool effects with the stage lights, trying to frame Nick Jonas with the Kissmas Bash sign behind him, and looking for other effects. I even adjusted my settings once or twice to try to get some other looks from behind the lens.

     Again I was right alongside professional photographers doing their thing, and fitting in with the group (I hope).

     I think I got some good shots, and that was confirmed when my older daughter said “Dad, we have to get a lot of these developed.” I've put together a gallery of some of the images from the show.

     Always nice to get a good review from a 15-year old critic.

     So again, I am glad to have heard, and heeded my own advice to always bring the camera along, because there’s a picture out there somewhere. Sometimes you just have to look at every opportunity. 

[email protected] (Tom Burns Photography) Buffalo Icona Pop Jonas Brothers Kiss 98.5 Kissmas Bash Photographer Photography Western New York WKSE Sat, 14 Dec 2013 17:31:20 GMT
Thank you...I'm welcome.      In my recent blog post “Failure is not an option” I wrote the following line. “My equipment is nice, but not professional. I have stood at events next to real, professional photographers, with my consumer level equipment, and tried to look the part. And my pictures have been nice, but part of me wonders ‘should I even be there?’”

     Last night I was "there" again, standing on the sideline of a high school football game. It was a playoff game between Bishop Timon and St. Mary’s. I got there with just a couple of minutes left in the third quarter. I made my way to the field, and found myself standing next to Robert Kirkham from The Buffalo News. Robert is an excellent photographer, and I’ve known him for a few years as he has covered a few events I have been a part of as a public relations professional.

     I pulled my camera out and adjusted my settings to be able sufficiently capture the nighttime action of the game. I mentioned this to Robert and he offered a couple of quick pieces of advice. He asked what kind of camera I had, and when I told him, he said that’s nice camera.  

     We bounced around the field taking pictures of the action, talked about shots we caught, and missed, and talked about photography as a hobby and profession. I was comforted at being welcomed alongside a real professional.

     In going through my pictures after the game, I saw a few I liked. One was of a friend’s son running the ball through a hole the offensive line had established. It’s a nice shot, and I posted it to that friend’s Facebook wall.

     I also saw a picture on Twitter that Robert took at last night’s game. I retweeted it and sent him the shot I mentioned. While it wasn’t as good as his, I was very pleased when he responded “Nice shot. I could have used it. My stuff was lame since I got there so late.”

     Now he was very kind to me, and maybe a bit too harsh on himself, but I was flattered nonetheless.

     Rewind to two weeks earlier. We had an event at Niagara University (my full time job), and Joe Cascio was on hand to serve as the photographer for one of our honorees. We had met a few times previously, and it didn’t take long for us to begin talking about photography (prompted by me I’m sure).

     During the event I made an off-hand comment about my camera, and he said “that’s an excellent camera.” I continued with a comment about how it didn’t compare to the one in his hand, and he quickly downplayed my remark, and made a comment as to suggest that his was too bulky, and that he would rather carry around one like mine.

     And rewind to 4 years earlier, when I bought my first dSLR. Since the first day of my venture into photography, my longtime colleague and friend Jim McCoy, a professional sports photographer with The Buffalo News, has offered advice and guidance whenever I’ve asked...and even when I haven’t asked, but that’s Jim.

     The photography fraternity I have come across has been kind, gracious and helpful. And while I have wondered if I belonged next to any of these individuals, they have never once questioned it, and have welcomed me every step of the way.

     So in no particular order, thank you to Jim McCoy, Joe Cascio, Robert Kirkham, Mark Mulville, John Hickey, Tom Wolf, Harry Scull, Bill Wippert, John McKeith, Dave Marino, and anyone else I may have missed. You should be proud of your work, and your professionalism. It is greatly appreciated by me.  

[email protected] (Tom Burns Photography) Fri, 08 Nov 2013 17:52:26 GMT
Marry Me?      My phone rang and it was my wife. I was at work just a little bit late last Friday afternoon, and I thought she was wondering what time I would be home.

     “Are you ready for this?” she started.

     I don’t know if I responded, but she continued.

     “Katie just called and she wants to know if you can come over at 6:15…”

     Katie is a friend of ours. Her son and our son have been close friends since kindergarten, and I’ve actually known her and her husband Jim since college, when Jim and I worked together at the local Kmart.

     “…come over at 6:15 because Amy is getting engaged, and it’s a surprise and she wants you to take pictures.”

     Ok. Sounds like it could be fun. As I was driving home I thought of a bunch of photography type things, like how will the light be, flash or no flash, where will this happen, inside or out, where can I hide so as to not spoil a surprise.

     Then I thought about this…have I ever seen someone get engaged? I don’t mean on the video board at a Bisons game, or anything like that. I mean live, up close, someone I know, and to see their honest reaction. Other than seeing my girlfriend (now wife), I don’t know that I have seen anyone get engaged. Now I was thinking about that.

     I got home, changed my clothes, grabbed my camera bag, and was ready to go, and my wife asked me to wait a minute. She wanted to come along.

     Here’s where it got a little tricky. When we pulled up, Amy was already on the front porch. I felt a lump in my throat, and thought one of two things. One, we’re late. Two, it’s not happening. As it turns out, my wife had gotten the message wrong. The plan wasn’t for Amy, but rather her sister Meghan. Phew.

     As we walked up, Amy, Kate and friends were arranging a line of pumpkins on the railing of the front porch. Each of the pumpkins had a letter carved in it to spell out M-A-R-R-Y  M-E? Cute idea.

     Now I started to think about where I would stand to get her reaction as she read the pumpkins. Which way would they be coming? And about the light, or darkness as the sun was quickly setting.  I made the adjustments on my camera to be able to use the available light.

     To fast forward ahead a bit, I was hiding behind a car when they pulled up and parked. I really couldn’t see where they were in the process of nearing the porch, or what was happening, and could only hear them speaking faintly. I switched positions as he was still asking her. And this I know is true from the original phone conversation with my wife, yes it was a surprise.  

     He was now standing with the ring (he had already knelt), and she had a bewildered look of surprise and joy on her face. I was able to capture a few pictures of her as she finally got past the shock of it all and said yes. And the celebration began.

     Once the surprise was over I was able to turn on my flash and not spoil the moment. I continued to take candid photos before the couple moved in front of the pumpkins for some posed shots.

     Jim brought out some champagne and toasted the newly engaged couple. I took a few more pictures, some candid’s, some of the ring, etc.

     It was fun to see that joy and excitement in the faces of Meghan and Clark and their families, who were all there. It’s such an exciting time for them, and I hope they savor every minute. And it was great to be able to capture that moment for our friends.

     And then I thought of this. Twenty one years ago I knelt down and asked my girlfriend to marry me. No pumpkins, no one else around. And honestly, she didn’t even want to go to the spot where I wanted to propose. It was a cold and rainy July day and she didn’t want to get out of the car. But she did, and she said yes.

     Tomorrow my wife I will celebrate our twentieth wedding anniversary.  It has been a wonderful journey with more ups than downs, more laughs than frowns, and more joy than I could ever imagine.

Congratulations Clark and Meghan! May you have at least half of the happiness I have had.  

[email protected] (Tom Burns Photography) Marry me Photographer Photography Mon, 21 Oct 2013 17:06:15 GMT
The Finish Line      Last year I became the race photographer for Eclipse Multi Sport. There were a number of convergent steps leading to this partnership, and my foray into the world of professional photography. I will share that story another time. Today’s just a quick look back at the finish line, and the fun little adventure this has been.

     I’ve shot about ten races in the past two years, including triathlons, mud runs, 5Ks and half-marathons, which means I’ve taken close to 50,000 race and finish line photos.

     I like being at the finish line of races. As a runner myself, I know there are an infinite number of stories inside each race, and many times those stories are evident when the participants approach the finish line. It can be a very inspiring experience to watch a person cross a finish line. The race course is always measured, but you never know the personal distance any individual has traveled to get to that finish line.

     Race photography is not like some of the other photos I make. When I go to shoot a building, a landscape, or even a portrait, there is set-up time, adjustments, composition and other details in the shoot. I might take twenty variations of a picture in an hour or so.

     When I shoot a race it is much more of a frantic pace. It is not uncommon for me to come home with 4-5,000 photos, which I process (slightly) and upload to my web site in hopes for sales from the participants.

     As an aside, people wonder if I make a lot of money shooting races, and sadly the answer is no. While some of the races are better than others, there are some races that I make very little. In fact, for one race, I drove over 90 miles (round trip) total, took pictures for four hours, processed the files for another six hours, and uploaded the files to my web site. From all of that, I’ve made $28 in sales, of which I will split with another photographer, and donate a portion back to the race charity. So, no, it’s not about the money.

      Now… the photography. It’s not always easy to get a great photo, a piece of art, at a finish line. In fact, many, many times I take pictures that I really don’t even see in the viewfinder. I shot a race in the fall of 2012 in which a number of friends told me they were running. I only saw about half of them at the finish line, but I did see the other half when I processed the pictures. So they were there, but in the pace of the finish, I was focused (no pun intended) on capturing the masses of people crossing the line, and didn’t really see many “individuals.”

     Now, even with the crazy pace of shooting, there are photos that do stick with me. There are moments with expressions of emotion at the finish line, joy on the faces of the participants, the uniqueness of an image, strange behavior, photos that capture the experience of the day, and yes, sometimes the photo has an artistic quality to it.

     Last week I shot the Muddy Viking near Lake Chautauqua, and there were at least two unique moments that stuck with me. One is of a gentleman climbing out of the mud pit, completely, and I mean completely, covered in mud. I knew as I was taking this picture that it would be an interesting shot.

     The other moment is actually a series of shots. As part of the race there was a kids run, complete with the mud pit.

     Many people, young and old, take different approaches to the mud pit at these races. Some avoid the mud, and try to get as little on them as possible. Others embrace the mud, jump in, roll around, and maybe even tackle others in the pit.

     Well two girls, about five years old each, embraced the mud. They climbed in with their dirty blond locks, and crawled through the pit, savoring each movement. And then one of the young ladies looked quizzically at the mud, and then dipped her chin in, only to make the moment more memorable.



















     Jim Croce lamented about saving time in a bottle, and I’m sure many of us have had similar thoughts throughout our lives. And while you cannot save time, you can capture moments. Not quite the same, but worthwhile none the less. I make photos, you know…take pictures. Capture moments.

    I do not always know the people I am photographing at each race, but I am glad to capture the moments, and sometimes even a nice photograph.

    And I know that some of the participants appreciate the work too. In fact, one of the participants, Sandy Lloyd, recently posted to my message board, “Thanks for doing such a great job photographing the Muddy Viking 2013! I could spend hours going through these and laughing! What great memories!”

    Thanks, Sandy. My pleasure!


[email protected] (Tom Burns Photography) Eclipse Multi Sport mud races Muddy Viking Photographer Photography running triathlon Sat, 12 Oct 2013 20:16:17 GMT
When one door closes, another shutter opens      A few weeks back, my older daughter and I traveled to Niagara Falls.

     My son was at a music event, and my wife and younger daughter had gone to see a concert.

     Now I like many types of photography, but there is something special about night time and low light photography. I believe there is something magical about capturing a night photo. Your set-up is different. You have to steady the camera (tripod), slow the shutter, and make other adjustments as needed.

     I wanted to make a picture of the falls flowing with a slow shutter, which blurs the water into a creamy exposure, while keeping all other details sharp an in focus.

     So we parked the car, and I grabbed my camera bag and tripod and away we went. Everything should work out nicely, right? Wrong!

     Apparently the one thing I hadn’t counted on; I wasn’t the only person who scheduled a visit to this natural wonder of the world on this Saturday night. And, to make matters worse, there was a fair amount of construction taking place at the park, which limited the viewing areas. This meant that the hundreds and hundreds of people were funneled into a smaller area. This left me with absolutely no chance to set-up my tripod, and very little chance to even get close enough to get a handheld picture of the majesty of the Falls.

     My daughter and I stood 3-4 people back from the rail for about 20 minutes, and watched what we could, before making our way back up the park walkway along the rapids.

     At first I was a bit disappointed. We don’t live too far from the Falls, and I work even closer, but trying to schedule a trip there to get the photo always seems to take some work. This was a beautiful night, and the sadly the photo wasn’t possible.

     As my daughter and I were walking, we stopped to look at the rapids, which are actually a site to see in its own right. There is a sheer power to Niagara Falls which takes root in the rapids a few hundred feet before the final drop into the Niagara Gorge.

     As I looked up the river, I saw the bridge that crosses over to Goat Island. This brick structure is an understated piece of architecture, standing strong over the rapids below.

     “Time to get the camera out,” I thought to myself.

     I set-up, fiddled with the settings and took a few night shots of the Goat Island bridge. In the group of photos there are some nice shots. I was able to capture the bridge structure, while still getting the powerful movement of the water.

     After reviewing the pictures there are a couple of things I will try the next time I head to the Falls, because I will try to reshoot the rapids shot again.

     Despite that, I did also learn that although my planned photo couldn’t really happen that night, there was another opportunity right in front of my eyes.

     I learned that when shooting a country road when I found “Peak-a-Moo,” and I learned it again with the rapids.

     Just goes to show you, there’s a picture out there somewhere. You just have to look around to find it.


[email protected] (Tom Burns Photography) Goat Island Niagara Falls Photographer Photography rapids Sunset Western New York Wed, 02 Oct 2013 22:33:44 GMT
Never Forget I was working as the director of public relations and marketing for the Buffalo Bisons in the spring of 2002. For our Opening Day festivities we felt it would be appropriate to have a ceremony honoring the victims of the 9/11 tragedy from the previous fall. 
We knew of one Western New Yorker who lost his life during the attack. Leonard Castrianno, Jr. was working in the north tower of the World Trade Center that morning. We contacted Leonard’s father and invited the Castrianno family to the game. I said we would be honored to have him throw out a ceremonial first pitch in honor of his son. He accepted the invitation. 
In a somewhat thankful sense, that is my only personal connection to the tragedy of September 11, 2001. 
I was in New York in January of 2012. On my last day there I had a little extra time before my flight, so I jumped on the subway to go to Ground Zero. As I exited the subway I wound my way around the fenced area towards the entrance of the 9/11 Memorial. 
I entered the memorial area and walked up to the reflecting pool where the south tower once stood. The perimeter of each pool features bronze panels with the names of the individuals who lost their lives that day. As I looked at the names in front of me I thought of Mr. Castrianno, my only connection to 9/11. I didn’t have much time, so I knew I wouldn’t be able to look for his son’s name. 
Of course I had my camera with me, so I snapped some quick pictures of the south pool and walked towards the north pool. I took pictures of the buildings being built and of the park area around the pools.
It was January, but it was beautiful day in the city. The sun was shining and the temperature was approaching 50 degrees. 
It’s hard to describe the memorial site. Even with the sound of construction close by, and the din of the New York City, there is a calm reverence within the area. The word beautiful doesn’t seem appropriate, but it is a place for deep reflection. 
After I took a few more quick pictures at the north pool, I looked down at the names in front of me to see “Leonard Castrianno." Of the thousands of names at the site, I just happened to walk up to that spot. I took a quick picture of his name and moved slightly to get a different angle. As I crouched to get my next picture, a gust of wind blew up and sprayed water over the wall in my direction just as I snapped the shutter. I quickly moved out of the spray and wiped the camera off. 
When I looked at the picture I had just taken I was awestruck to see that the spraying water had caused a rainbow effect right over Leonard’s name. 
When I got home I called both Leonard’s mother and father and reintroduced myself. I told them my story and asked if they would each like a copy of the picture. Their responses were very positive, and I sent pictures to each of his parents. They each sent me very touching thank you notes. They told me they that they will be traveling as a family to NYC in July (2012), and would love to have pictures made for the whole family. I sent them a package of photos. 
It was a day of random coincidences for me – thinking of Mr. Castriano as I walked in, walking right up to his son’s name, and the weather enhanced photo. I will never forget that one-of-a-kind photo, and will always remember the events of 9/11. We should never forget.
P.S. - We took a family vacation to New York City in 2013, and we went to Ground Zero. It remains a reverent tribute to the many lives affected that day. As a family we paused and looked at many of the names of the people who left us that day, including Mr. Castrianno. 
[email protected] (Tom Burns Photography) Photographer Photography Wed, 11 Sep 2013 13:13:45 GMT
Man, that's a good looking cow!       What do you do with a picture of a cow staring at you through the brush?
     That’s an odd question, and frankly one I never thought I would ever ask myself, or you for that matter. But now that question looms for me. 
     I have been commissioned to take a photo for a book of short stories, and the author has a vision of a country road. There are other particulars, but I won’t get into those here.
     Last weekend my wife and I got up bright and early…actually it was so early it was still dark, so we got up dark and early, and headed to Ellicottville to get a picture of a country road. I had a certain road in mind, and it turns out that it was probably the right location. 
     I was getting dozens of different shots for the author to review from different spots on this three mile stretch of road. I shot from on top of a ladder, down along the road, from the middle of the street, off to the side, etc. Plenty to choose from. 
     I paused for a bit, and was putting the ladder back into the car to head to a different location when I looked up. Off in the distance I saw something walking into the road. “What was that,” I thought to myself. It was too big to be a dog. Knowing I need to get new glasses I needed to get closer to find out what it was. Just then a second all-black creature walked into the road, followed by a nearly all-black creature with a white head. They were cows. Cows just strolling into the road. 
     Now on the opposite side of the road from where the cows came, there was a herd of cows in a large, fenced in area. A couple had been mooing at me while I was taking pictures, but I didn’t pay any attention to the farm animals. 
     The loose cows walked over to the farm fence, and were met there by a couple of cows from inside the area. I wondered if the fenced in cows were thinking, “hey, how’d you get out there?”
     While the vagrants were walking along the outside of the fence, we pulled the car up to the area. Camera in hand I snapped a few quick shots. The cows continued to make their way down the road, even jogging at times. It was a strange site to see. 
     After shooting some more road shots, I took some wild flower pictures, and captured a few other pics as well. When I was reviewing my portfolio from the day I was struck by the close-up of the one cow, which has now become known as “Peek-a-Moo” because of the way the cow is peeking out from behind some tall grass. 
     Technically I like the photo because of the strong back light that illuminates the cow and grass, as the “look” coming from the giant creature through the grass. So I took my own advice from last week and ordered “Peek-a-Moo.” And I ordered enlargements. I even talked about ordering it as a large canvas wrap piece of artwork. My wife thoroughly enjoyed the experience that morning, but I don’t think she took too kindly to the idea of having a two or three foot cow head on one of our walls. 
     So in a few days “Peek-a-Moo” will be here, along with a few dozen other prints I ordered from this summer’s activities. I will mat and frame the 11x14 print (I ordered an 8x10 too if anyone is interested), and then I will have to find a spot for it. 
     And this print will forever remind me of one of my photography credos, and that is that there is a picture happening somewhere, even when you’re taking a picture of something else. 
[email protected] (Tom Burns Photography) Cow Ellicottville Morning Western New York Tue, 27 Aug 2013 21:50:15 GMT
Simple photo advice for you If you’ve been following along (and you probably haven’t) you might know that I enjoy taking photos. And an extension of that is that I like photographs…period. 
When I was growing up my dad took bunches of family pictures, developed them, and put them in photo albums. It wasn’t a frequent occurrence, but on occasion my brothers and sisters and I would dig out those albums and go through them. Christmas pictures, backyard pool pictures, pictures from graduations, First Communions, and other assorted events. 
And in the first house my wife and I owned, we had a wall that had dozens of photos on it. Some were in collages, some individual: all different sizes. Whenever we had guests they would look at that wall. Not just glance, but they would stop and go through each of the photos. 
And nowadays when someone passes away, at the funeral home people always stop and look at the photos. Again, not just glance, they stop and look at the visual history. 
Photos bring out emotions. 
On Saturday night my youngest daughter had a chance to see a concert of a young pop duo made up of 20-year old twins Megan & Liz. My daughter is a big fan of these two stars, and her emotions were on display. My wife sent me a text that my daughter was standing about 10 feet from the stage, singing, dancing, pumping her fist and crying from her excitement. 
I picked them up after the concert, and just happened to drive around to the back of the club. We stopped and saw the tour bus, with Megan & Liz standing there chatting with a small group of fans. I told my daughter and her friend to get out of the car and go see them.
My wife and I followed, with camera in tow. 
As my daughter approached Megan (I think it was Megan, but I’m not sure) she again started to cry from happiness/excitement. The performer quickly said “honey, don’t cry,” and gave her a big hug. The two young ladies could not have been sweeter. They talked with the girls, signed autographs and…wait for it…posed for a number of pictures. 
After we got back in the car my daughter and her friend were so excited; both exclaiming that this was one of the best things to ever happen to them.
I said to my wife that we would have to print the pictures out, and send a set to my daughter’s friend. 
“Print the pictures out.”
When I was growing up, getting pictures printed was great fun. Picking up the envelope and flipping through the prints, finding a record of the past to be kept well into the future. 
Despite how easy it is now, we don’t print pictures enough. We can review them and find only the best images, but instead we “choose” to leave thousands of pictures on computers, tablets and phones…rarely to be seen again. 
It’s time to put them on display. 
“Print the pictures out.”
Not only is it easy now, it’s also cheap. As little as ten cents for a 4x6 photo. And it’s just as easy to print out enlargements…5x7, 8x10, 11x14 or larger.  Just Google “photo coupon” and you’ll find a number of offers to save you money at Walgreens, WalMart, Kmart, or at online stores like Snapfish and Photoshelter.
So it’s time to print the pictures out. Go through your phone and computer, collect the good files and print them out. Then go get some frames…collage frames, 5x7 frames, 8x10 frames, etc. and put those photos on display in your house and your office. Go buy some photo albums and load them up too. Some night in the future when you’re watching Big Bang reruns you can pull the albums out and laugh or cry at the old pictures.
“Print the pictures out.”
So this week I will print out the Megan & Liz pictures for my daughter and her friend. I may even order some nice big enlargements. They were so excited to see that show and to meet the two young stars; they should have a great way to remember the night. 
And thanks to the photos they will. 
I did win the contest I wrote about last week. I am very honored and excited about the win, and today I ordered an 8x10 and an 11x14 print of the winning entry. 
[email protected] (Tom Burns Photography) Wed, 21 Aug 2013 02:21:38 GMT
Show the work      Last week, at the suggestion of a friend, I entered a photo contest. The theme, or subject of the contest, was a Lake Erie sunset. Now, since I live about 3 miles from Lake Erie, I have plenty of pictures of the lake, and the sunsets that grace the surface of the water.
     I waffled a bit on whether I should enter for a couple of reasons. First, from a pure vanity standpoint, I have entered two contests before, and have won a grand prize and second place, so my record is pretty good. A loss, any loss, would tarnish that record. Secondly, many of the contests call for you to give up your rights to the entries. I don’t do much with my pictures, but I do not like the idea of signing my rights over to any of them.
     The rules, which were minimal, did not mention giving up any rights, so I decided to look through my files to find a picture that I thought would stand a chance in the contest. I found one I liked, and uploaded it for entry. 
     After entering though, I noticed that the winner would be decided by Facebook “likes” for the photo. This became some sort of an inner struggle for me. 
     I think we all like receiving compliments. I know I do, but here’s the thing: I don’t accept compliments very well. I never know what to say. I usually say “thank you,” but that never seems like enough. Many times I just make a joke, like if someone says “that shirt looks good on you,” I say, “yeah, it does, doesn’t it?” and laugh it off. 
     And entering a photo contest that is being judged by Facebook “likes” is like asking for compliments. Why would I want to do that to myself?!?
     Initially my friend Kathy took the ball and shared the picture on her page, and asked friends to vote. I was very comfortable with that. 
     I sent a few personal messages to my friends, asking them to “like” the photo - if they in fact actually liked it. My votes started to climb, but I still didn’t want to go into a full-court Facebook press. Part of me believed that by doing so would prove the contest to be more of a popularity contest than an actual photography contest. 
     Then I thought about my photography and photography in general. I take pictures because I like taking pictures, but also because I like showing my photographs. Scott Bourne is a nationally-known and recognized photographer. Through social media sites he shares his years of insight on photography, and photography marketing.  One of his mantras is “Show the work. Show the work. Show the work.”
     This contest has given me a built-in excuse to show my work, albeit just one photo. So I decided to share the contest to many more Facebook friends through personal messages. Then I made the leap and just posted it to my wall. 
     I’m currently in the lead and nearing 300 votes with a few days left in the voting. One interesting point of which I am proud: of my votes, more than a third are from people who are not my Facebook friends. So either my friends are influential in coercing their friends to vote for the picture, or it’s a pretty good picture. My guess is hopefully a little of both.
     As I said in my last post, I don’t believe that any of the so-called inspirational quotes actually inspire us to act. I do believe they drop little hints in our mind, and promotion of my picture reminded me of a quote from Neale Donald Walsch that states “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” 
At the end of that comfort zone is where I will be showing my work. 
If you would like to vote, click here and "like" the photo. You probably need a Facebook account to do so.
About the photo – I took the picture of this sunset at the Erie Basin Marina in Buffalo, NY at the mouth of Lake Erie on Nov. 6, 2009 (6:03 p.m.). My first DSLR camera (Nikon D40), and thus my photography hobby, were both less than a month old. 
[email protected] (Tom Burns Photography) Buffalo Photographer Photography Sunset Western New York Fri, 16 Aug 2013 12:27:33 GMT
Failure is not an option      As a photographer I like to look through photos from other photographers and particularly at photos similar in theme to mine. So I generally like to look at sports/event photos and photos of buildings, landmarks and landscapes.

     Seeing these pictures I generally have one of three reactions.

1- There’s nothing great about that. Mine are better than that.

2- That’s good, and I have pictures that look just like that.

3- Wow! Why am I even taking pictures? Mine will never look like that.

      I have these feelings probably equally, but number three tends to have a stronger effect on me than the others.

     This past weekend I went out both Saturday and Sunday and took some pictures.

     On Saturday the Buffalo Lighthouse was open to the public for tours, and my daughter and I went to see it. We waited in line for two hours, and while it was neat to go inside, and I had my camera, it wasn’t a real opportune time to get photos. I took a couple of pictures, but not much more than that. Then we traveled to Orchard Park to see the Eternal Flame in Chestnut Ridge Park. This flame, which is fed by natural gas seeping through the earth’s surface, sits behind a waterfall. A friend had told me she had never seen it, so her kids and my daughters hiked down to see the natural wonder. A good number of people came and went, so again, it was not an opportune time to get photos, but I got a couple and moved on for the day.

     At each of these places there were photographers. Photographers with thousands of dollars in equipment. One photographer with published books. Real photographers.

     Sunday morning was beautiful in Western New York, and I left the house fairly early to look for a couple of photo opportunities. The first one was a no-go (I’ll explain later). The next couple were ok, and then I went to the Canalside area of Buffalo. I have been down there a number of times, but Sunday was just about perfect. I was there for about 30 minutes, and I for the most part I was the only one there. There was one worker cleaning, and another person passed through, but that was it. I walked around and looked for photo opportunities. I found a few, and traveled back home.

     And on Sunday afternoon my son’s new band was playing at a music fest in West Seneca. We went to see him play, and I brought along my camera to document the “concert”.

     Before I continue on about that event, I will go back to the third reaction I stated above. When I see absolutely beautiful photos I get a bit intimidated. I think who am I to think I can take beautiful photos? My equipment is nice, but not professional. I have stood at events next to real, professional photographers, with my consumer level equipment, and tried to look the part. And my pictures have been nice, but part of me wonders ‘should I even be there?’

     I saw a quote on Facebook on Sunday from Robert Schuller that said, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you wouldn’t fail.” I don’t think “inspirational” quotes ever really inspire people to action, but they do tend to be thought provoking, and this one stuck with me.

     So we picked my son up from work. We had his guitar and a change of clothes. He jumped in the car and said “There’s been a change of plans.”

     Apparently they had a drummer who was going to play with them that day, but he backed out and my son said that he was going to play the drums.

     I was a bit frustrated for him, and a bit upset. I reminded him that he’s not a drummer, and that they had to take this stuff seriously. They needed a better plan.

     Now my son really isn’t a drummer. He doesn’t have a drum kit. He’s never taken lessons. He’s not a drummer.

     Because it was a music fest, they had a kit set-up for all the bands to ease the changeover between sets. So with other bands there, and other drummers, he climbed up behind the kit. They did a brief sound check, and he counted out the first song by banging the drumsticks together, and the song began.

     And to my surprise he was good.  Now, I’m not a drummer. There may have been some technical mistakes, and things he missed, but not that I could hear. He was good. They were good. He was a drummer.

     “What would you attempt to do if you knew you wouldn’t fail.”

     So when I have my camera and I’m standing next to “real” photographers with my cheap lens and my consumer camera, and I take a bad picture, guess what happens. Nothing. I take a bad picture. That’s all.

     And honestly, I don’t often take too many bad pictures. I just need to celebrate my points #1 and #2 more often.

     So, in the words of the rhymin' Paul Simon, "I got a Nikon camera. I love to take a photograph..."

     Or better yet, from CSN, "Teach your parents well..."


[email protected] (Tom Burns Photography) Buffalo Canalside Drummer Failure Photographer Photography Prosumer Western New York Mon, 12 Aug 2013 21:37:49 GMT
I hope you like my photos...maybe I still have a hard time calling myself a photographer, and an even harder time trying to classify myself as any type of artist. I am more apt to say I do some photography work. And when someone compliments some part of my work, whether it’s the composition, lighting or the subject, I usually say my grandfather was an artist, and that I must have gotten some of his talent.

Now, that being said, there are a number of pictures I have taken, and periodically displayed, of which I am very proud. I know they are good…some very good.

And sometimes I take pictures of things because I liked the way they looked at a certain moment, like the fire escapes I photographed in NYC. I really wasn’t looking at these as great pieces of photography, but rather something that was interesting to me in that moment.

Photography for me is a hobby. Yes, I photograph races (triathlons, mud runs, etc.) and make some money doing it, but I also enjoy doing that because being at the finish line of these races is very inspiring...and I get to be there to capture some great moments. I often look back through these race photos and find a number that I like mostly because of the emotion of the moment. It’s not my moment, but it is my photo and I love capturing the story.

So again, I take pictures because I like taking pictures, and I usually take pictures of people, places and things that I enjoy. I have photographed some family portraits for friends and some other group events for people close to me as well. These have been low-key shoots, and I enjoy these as well.

However, three different people have asked me if I shoot weddings, and my quick response was, "no." While the money may be good, I still view photography as a hobby, and shooting a wedding would certainly take that hobby to a different level.

I often say, I take pictures for me. If you like it: great. If you want a copy of it: that can be arranged. If you don’t like it: it’s no skin off my teeth.

A couple of weeks ago our church had its annual SummerFest, which included an arts and crafts show. So I bought a table and had about 30 of my prints on display for sale. I was pleased to sell a few prints, and take some orders for a couple of others. I also received a great number of compliments which is always very nice…and humbling.

However, one person I know was flipping through the prints and saying how much she liked this one, or that one, and then she got to a print of bikes that I have and she said. “Oh, I don’t like this one.”

I was taken back a bit by the statement. I wasn’t really offended, just surprised that she would make the statement so frankly. I was almost amused by it. Knowing my photographic philosophy, and that I shoot pictures for me, I simply smiled and responded by saying, “So don’t buy it.”

She then stated again, “I just don’t like it.”

I responded with a smile, “you don’t have to buy it.”

It was a friendly exchange, and I am pleased to say I was very comforted in my response. I certainly could have taken offense, but the fact that I didn’t proved to me that I am still shooting for myself.

If you like it: great. If you want a copy of it: that can be arranged. If you don’t like it: don’t buy it. 

P.S. - Now there was one other lady who was looking through my photos, and complimented me on so many of them. I did say to her, "You know, if you really like them, you can take them all home with you. We can make that happen." She and her husband both laughed, and took one of my cards. 

[email protected] (Tom Burns Photography) Bikes Hobbyist Photographer Photography Prosumer Mon, 05 Aug 2013 15:15:28 GMT
Three days in the Big Apple Last week my family and I spent three days in New York city. While it was mostly a family vacation, I did bring along my camera with the hopes of capturing a few new pictures. 

It was a whirlwind trip. Even though we used the subways a number of times, we walked about 10 miles in the three days we were there. I did think about getting up early one of the days and heading out alone to Central Park (or some other location) on my own personal photo walk, but my body was a little too tired each morning for any extra adventures. 

So, without any real personal assignments, I just brought my camera to shoot whatever tickled my fancy. I did get pictures of the key things like Ground Zero, the Statue of Liberty, Central Park/Strawberry Fields, Grand Central Station, the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings, and other things along the way.

Even with those classic pics, I was struck by two other things. First the people. I found it interesting to shoot the people of NYC. Now, I'm not what some would call a "street photographer" but I did try to discretely photograph some of the people of NY. I shot many without looking in the viewfinder, so I missed a bunch, but some turned out ok. 

I was also very drawn to the fire escapes. For some reason I was captivated to these structures, and found myself photographing many of them as my family shopped along Canal Street in Chinatown. 

And that's the thing with photography, and my photography in particular... I don't know that I would ever choose to go out to shoot people or fire escapes, but now I have a small collection of these photos. While I like some of them, I don't know that I will ever print or publish them beyond a simple Facebook gallery. 

But, as I am so apt to say, just grab your camera and head outside because there is a photo happening somewhere. 

[email protected] (Tom Burns Photography) Fire Escape New York City photography Tue, 30 Jul 2013 20:45:14 GMT
My venture into photography  

I have always been drawn to photographs.
My father was a picture taker and had a fondness for photography.
There is so much around us in our world that we may not see unless it is stopped and captured in a photograph. I love the way the early morning, or late afternoon, light accentuates the colors of a building, a flower or landscape. I also enjoy changing the angle of a common viewpoint, or focusing on one detail of a larger image. It’s these things that we may not always notice in our day-to-day lives.
Over the past two years, with the help of a nice camera, I have come to love taking pictures. I have taken thousands of pictures, and while I am still in the early stages of a “photography career,” I am very proud of a few of the moments I have captured.
I don’t always think of a building, or the photographic capture of it, as “art." Thus I find it difficult to think of myself as an artist. However, I do tend to see real life as pictures. I see moments and wonder how to best way to capture it? What angle? What specific part?
There are moments I have captured that bring me pleasure. Either because of a uniqueness, the fact that I may have seen something no one else did, or just because of the light and composition of the photo. I may not always see it as art, but rather as something that’s pretty cool.
Many times I leave my house because, as I say, a picture might be happening. Sometimes you just have to go find it.
Tom Burns
[email protected] (Tom Burns Photography) Air Force Buffalo Niagara Western New York Fri, 29 Jun 2012 01:50:23 GMT