Thursday, February 28, 2013

Inspiration Found

In last Saturday's post I discussed how I am looking for a different approach to photographing Charleston on this year's trip. I had considered that I would focus more on detail shots than the overall views that dominated my attempts on our first trip last April. After making that post I found a book at the library that clarified my thinking, Paris, Portrait Of A City, by photographer Matthew Weinreb.

In this book, Weinreb concentrated on the architectural details that make Paris buildings unique. In Weinreb's own words from the Forward, "As in the book on London, I was not concerned with producing a categorical document of the city. I wanted to immerse myself in Paris' grandeur, to spy out details which are so often missed by the passerby."

As I thumbed through the book in the library I knew this was exactly the approach I wanted to take this year's trip. Since Saturday, I have given the book a more studied viewing, and I am getting fired up about making photos again. Not that Charleston can compare with Paris, but the two cities do share a wealth of fascinating architectural details for any who will take the time to look for them.

I did do some detail photography on last year's trip, as in this photo of the balcony railing at the Nathaniel-Russell House, but I was more captivated by the overall views. This year I will spend more time looking for the details that I overlooked before, inspired by Mr. Weinreb's approach.

Balcony Detail, Nathaniel Russell House, Charleston, SC  -  2012
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

For My Aunt Margie

For my Aunt Margie, my Mother's sister, who passed away Sunday afternoon.
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live"  (John 11:25)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

What's next?

I'm a fan of the now defunct TV show, "The West Wing". Although I generally loathe the political agenda the show tried to promote, the writing and story lines were always top notch, the characters well conceived and played, and I never get tired of watching reruns. One of President Bartlet's catch phrases from the show is, "What's next?", a line he uses when he's through with the current topic of discussion and is ready to move on to something else. That's my attitude toward winter right now, "What's next?"

As winter drags on, I'm contemplating a planned return visit to Charleston in April. Last year was our first trip there, and I fell in love with this city. It reminds me quite a bit of New Orleans, only much cleaner and safer. Of course, I spent a great deal of time making photos of all the sights - one could wear out several cameras in Charleston. I don't want to re-photograph what I already shot last year, so I've been contemplating what I will do differently on this year's visit.

Last year I shot mostly "macro" views of the city's architectural features. I've got scores of overall shots of buildings, churches, fountains, etc. Maybe this year I'll focus more on the details that make Charleston's buildings special. I did a little of that last year as seen in the photo below, but I think I'll make that even more of a focus this trip.

Wrought Iron Detail, Charleston, SC  -  2012
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

I think I'd also like to photograph more Charleston people this year, although this is more of a struggle for me. After all, it's the shop owners, waiters, street vendors, and "characters" that give a town its personality. Taking pictures of strangers on the street is hard for me to do, but maybe in the role of a tourist I'll feel less self-conscious about doing it. I've read that dressing like the stereotypical tourist will often buy you some slack with your subject when pointing a camera in their direction. We'll see.

Anyway, winter has worn out its welcome with me. I'm ready for "What's next?"

Friday, February 22, 2013

Pickin' And (not) Grinnin'

Porch Music, Swain County, NC  -  2007
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

I like to listen to bluegrass music, but my wife says so much of it is just too sad sounding for her. I don't remember what song these women were playing back in 2007, but from the looks on their faces, it probably wasn't one that was helping to win my wife as a fan.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Spinning, Swain County, NC  -  2007
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Right For All The Wrong Reasons

Steeple Silhouette, Charleston, SC  -  2012
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

A long time ago I worked as a numerical control programmer at Avondale Shipyard in New Orleans. One of my supervisors sometimes said when reviewing my work, "You are right for all the wrong reasons." In other words, my result was correct, but looking at my process, he couldn't understand how I got there.

I think that accurately describes how this photo came about. It wasn't originally intended to be a silhouette. To be honest, I blew it, I screwed up, I significantly underexposed the shot. The sky was OK, but the church steeple was way too dark. Not dark enough to be a true silhouette, but too dark to see much detail on the steeple. However, being almost a silhouette gave me the idea to make it a true silhouette. So I darkened the building and steeple even more, while retaining enough brightness in the sky to hold detail in the clouds. And I could have kept this all a secret and let you think that I have the silhouette shooting technique nailed down. No, once again I was simply right for all the wrong reasons.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

What's in a name?

Hood Law Firm, Charleston, SC  -  2012
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

I have no reason not to believe that the Hood Law Firm is composed of qualified, honest, and reputable attorneys. I'm sure this firm represents some of Charleston's finest citizens. Still, I can't believe that someone didn't suggest at least considering a different name for the firm when it got started. I'm sure the Hood family is as proud of their name as I am of mine, but why encourage the jokes and puns? On the other hand, it is an attention getting name. After all, I didn't make a photo of any other law firm's sign while I was in Charleston.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

One Of My Favorites

Hot Rod Reflection, Cherokee, NC  -  2006
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Of the thousands of photos I've made over the years, only a minuscule percentage actually get made into prints. As with most homes, ours has a limited amount of wall space. I've never cared for the cluttered, "fill up the wall with photos" look that I've seen in some homes - it's just overwhelming to me. I prefer a few larger examples of my best work instead of hanging up everything I've ever done.

The above photo is one of the ones that made the cut of getting made into a print. Instead of giving you an art critic-style explanation of why I think it's a good photo, I'll limit my comment to, "I just really like this one." And since the main reason I do photography is for my own enjoyment, that's the only reason I really need.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

American Iron

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air, Clyde, NC  -  2009
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

This car is one of the most popular and sought after among vintage car collectors. My parents went on their honeymoon in one of these, except their's was a four-door sedan. I wonder if they knew they were getting rid of a future classic when they later traded their '57 in on a 1962 Bel Air station wagon? I guess a growing family had more of an influence on their car buying decisions in those days.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Memory Lane

Reliving A Memory, Clyde, NC  -  2009
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

As I made this photo at a rod run in Clyde a few years back, I wondered what this man was thinking about as he examined the interior of this restored 1947 Chevrolet. Maybe he learned to drive in a car like this one. It might have been the car he wanted, but couldn't afford at the time.  Maybe he courted his wife in a '47. The car he drives today is no doubt superior in every way, but man, those memories!

Monday, February 11, 2013


Deacon Ordination, Waynesville, NC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Our church ordained a new deacon last night, Matt Jones, and I brought my camera to record the event. I try to be discreet at these kinds of events; flash is a big no-no as far as I am concerned. I made several photographs as each ordained member of our church's leadership prayed with the new deacon and his wife. 

Instead of posting every shot, most of which are very similar, I tried to pick one photo that I think sums up the entire ceremony. I chose this one because the man on his knee praying with Matt is his son-in-law, Shannon Blaylock.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

I Love BBQ!

BARBQUE Sign, Bryson City, NC  -  2011
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

One of the things I love about living in the North Carolina mountains is the experience of four distinct seasons. Growing up in the New Orleans area, winter was but a brief respite between the heat and humidity that characterized spring, summer, and fall. Here, we get a real winter, but nothing severe. It's certainly nothing like the Boston area experienced this weekend!

Although winters here cannot be considered overly harsh, it's often too cold to enjoy cooking outdoors as I do almost every weekend during the warmer months. Thankfully, there's enough BBQ restaurants in the area to keep me satisfied until it warms up enough for me to cook my own.

I've always been a fan of BBQ, and I've been fascinated by how many varieties there are in different regions of the country. Each area of the country has it's own favorite style, meat, or sauce - I love them all! Pork, beef, chicken, lamb - keep it coming! Sweet sauces, spicy sauces, mustard sauces, or just dry rub - I'm not picky. I don't even care how you like to spell it, just let me have some more 'que!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Preserving Memories

One of the biggest reasons people buy a camera is to record the events of their lives such as birthdays, vacation trips, family reunions, etc. In the film camera era, the resultant photos were placed in an album, or just left in their envelopes and tossed in a box. That's not the best way to take care of treasured memories, but we all did it.

Sometimes we carried treasured photos in our wallets - definitely not the most ideal place to store photos. The wallet could fall out of your pocket while you are mowing the lawn. Maybe you wouldn't see it, and then you run over it with the mower on the next pass. Ooooops!

That's what happened to the photo below. Thankfully, the leather wallet kept the photo from being completely shredded, but there was still major damage. Between the mower blade, and years of being kept in a man's wallet, this photo had been seriously abused.

Original photo

A few years ago, the woman in the photo, a friend from church and now a senior citizen, asked me if I could "fix it". Her husband was recently deceased, and it was the only copy she had of this photo which was taken around the time of their engagement. I had once successfully pieced together a photo that had been torn in half, but I didn't know what I could do with a photo that had about a quarter of it missing.

Restored Photo

I was able to clean up the small holes, cracks, and creases, but restoring missing limbs was a little above my pay grade. All I could do was crop it cleanly to a 3/4 length pose - still not bad for a snapshot. My friend was thrilled with how it came out, and ordered a 5x7 print. It resides in her bedroom to this day, this time in a frame, not a wallet. (Click on photos to enlarge.)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Portraits Without Faces

Lost In The 50s, Cherokee, NC  -  2008
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

A portrait should tell the viewer more about the subject than just what he/she looks like. Your driver's license picture does that much, and no one calls that a "portrait". A portrait should tell us something about the person, their personality, interests, what makes them unique.

This photo, made at a car show in Cherokee back in 2008, give us insight into the subject without even showing his face. His car, his hair style, the watch, the dice, and other details give us some clues as to who this man is as a person. It is information a driver's license could never provide.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

One Year

Yellow Rose For Mom
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

It was one year ago today that my mother passed from this life. She died peacefully in her sleep after a long battle with lung disease. It's hard to believe it's been a year already. Several times during the past year I wanted to pick up the phone to call her and tell her about something that was going on in my life, only to quickly remember she's not with us any more. Those are the times I miss her the most.

A yellow rose was her favorite flower. She had a yellow rose bush growing just off the steps of the deck in her back yard. That particular bush started as a cutting from a yellow rose bush that belonged to her mother, so she was especially proud of it. The yellow rose bud above is one I photographed locally, and made into a card for her one Mother 's Day. It was the most fitting photo I could think of to remember her today.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Photography Can Be Good Exercise

Pack Square Park Handrail, Asheville, NC  -  2011
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Going through some older photos brought back a funny memory. On a June afternoon back in 2011, just before a summer thunderstorm, I had to grab just one more shot before the rain came. I remember my daughter urging me to start heading back to the truck, which was parked several blocks away, because of the approaching rain. I also remember us having to sprint to a nearby restaurant as the rain came fast and hard right after making this photo. That's how I get my exercise sometimes.

Friday, February 1, 2013

A slump, or am I just being lazy?

Since about mid-December, my camera hasn't been getting its usual amount of use. I'm not really sure why. Maybe it's been the weather, holiday busyness, too much good football on TV, or a hundred other excuses. Usually I can find plenty of excuses to go out shooting. Lately, it seems to be the other way around.

I forced myself to get out last Sunday (a football-less Sunday afternoon), but even downtown Asheville couldn't get me too excited. I got a few shots in, but it was a "blah" trip overall. A lack of shooting leads to a lack of new photos to post here on my blog, so I had to look into the archives for today's post.

Dancing In The Street, Waynesville, NC  -  2008
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

This photo is one of my favorites from Folkmoot, Waynesville's annual dance and cultural festival. Dance photography is the ultimate hit or miss activity. Because of the constant movement of the dancers, getting everything looking just right in the viewfinder is mostly luck. In this photo everything fell into place. The position of their feet, the eye contact between the dancers, the swirl of her skirt, the expression on her face - none of this could be planned as the dancers twirled and moved across the dance area. Sometimes you just get lucky.