Magenta Skies and Morning Dew

Carl Reader’s photographs capture the essence of Bucks County’s beauty.

By: Amy Brummer


   The bluebells in Tyler State Park were particularly glorious this past spring.
   For photographer Carl Reader, they were an inspiration. Mr. Reader captured them from a distance, spread out in all of their glory, and up close, focusing on their delicate features and pastel hues. He framed them singly and in triptych, giving a voice to the rhythm of the images.
   The bluebells, along with other gems of the regional countryside, are on view at the Bucks County Convention and Visitors Bureau in Bensalem, Pa. The show, Images of Bucks County, is on view through January.
   Mr. Reader is the editor of The Area GuideBook: the Original and Only Guide to Historic Bucks and Hunterdon Counties (En and Em Graphics Inc., 2003-2004, $4.75). In addition to writing essays on historic subjects such as William Penn and John Reading for the guide, he also is its chief photographer. All of the images in the show are gleaned from the most recent edition.


   In fact, Mr. Reader dedicates a whole page of the book to those dazzling bluebells, as he does with several images of a snowy white swan, preening itself on the beach. His photographs illustrate an article, "Collectors on Collecting," by Victoria Memminger — which showcases several galleries and auction houses in the region — as well as a piece he wrote on the Audubon Society’s bird count.
   The Ivyland, Pa., resident took the job with the GuideBook two years ago, after returning from Montana, where he was an editor for a newspaper, the Ravalli Republic. While in Montana, he began photographing Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons, taking advantage of the spectacular scenery and abundant wildlife. He already had an interest in photography from his work as a sports editor and photographer for The Beacon in Lambertville, and the vistas of the West gave him an opportunity to explore it further.


   "Sports photography is great training for something like animal photography," Mr. Reader says. "It uses the same reflexes and you have to be quick and accurate."
   During this time, Mr. Reader made the switch to a digital format, which he believes will be the future of the medium, as it provides users with greater control.
   "Digital cameras don’t necessarily have all the features that a film camera has," he says, "but with PhotoShop, you can do things quickly and easily that take a long time in the darkroom."

"Knecht Bridge."

   Even with the safety net of digital editing, Mr. Reader relies on his skill with the camera first and foremost, using his understanding of photographic principles to get the shot he wants.
   In "Buckingham Sunrise," a magenta sky is framed with dark, backlit foliage to a stunning effect. "Morning Dew" captures a meadow at dawn, tiny droplets of water clinging to each individual stalk of grass.
   Both were taken early on a summer morning, and shot directly into the sun, so he adjusted the aperture of the camera to modify the light and keep the images from being too washed out.
   While these two photos are moody and atmospheric, overall the exhibit

"Playhouse 10."

showcases the range of Mr. Reader’s talent in capturing the personality of the region. Photographs of Knecht’s Bridge, Fonthill, the Bucks County Playhouse and the Roebling Bridge are solid, recognizable images of county landmarks.
   "Summer Idyll," showing a couple enjoying a lazy afternoon by a lake, and the intense orange and red foliage streaming against a bright blue horizon in "Fall Sky" give a taste of our shifting seasons.
   "Gossiping Mules" pays tribute to the fiberglass sculptures that charmed the Delaware and Lehigh canal this summer, and "Christmas Gazebo" is a reminder of the warm Americana that pervades this colonial homeland.
   Mr. Reader also makes some interesting forays into abstraction in two winter photos, "Ice Tree" and "Artistry in Ice."
   "Ice Tree" is a grainy shadow of pixilated monotones that appears as an inky blotch. "Artistry in Ice," a triptych of translucent ice formations in the Neshaminy Creek, mimics the strata of a river bed flowing in organic waves against the sienna tones of clay.
   "I looked down, and it occurred to me that there were these incredible forms in the ice," he says. "When I isolated them in the photograph, it had an abstract effect with the swirls and colors, although that is what was really there."
   Sometimes it is easy to overlook the beauty in the world right outside our door. But Mr. Reader’s photographs are a reminder that we can see things from a new perspective if we are willing to adjust to a new angle.
   "People tend to think of photography as representing things the way they are," Mr. Reader says. "But you can really give your own ideas about what you think something is or what it represents. Hopefully people will look at (my photographs) and realize they are seeing a different interpretation."
Images of Bucks County by Carl Reader is on view at the Bucks County Convention and Visitors Bureau, 3207 Street Road, Bensalem, Pa., through January. Hours: Daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Free admission. For information, call (215) 639-0300. On the Web: