Thursday, March 28, 2013

From the Archives

Mona Lisa Smile, New Orleans, LA  -  1983
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Something from my early days with a camera:

I just happened to be strolling around the French Quarter in New Orleans one summer day in 1983 when I came across a movie crew who was working in Jackson Square. I never did find out what movie it was, but everyone was dressed in very early 1900s costume. The crew was taking a break, and this young woman had just sat down on a bench in front of St. Louis Cathedral. She looked up just as I raised my camera and gave me a big smile. In my nervousness I pressed the shutter release a little too soon, just before she smiled, but catching one of those Mona Lisa-type expressions instead. I also got the picture just before she pulled a cigarette out of her purse, which would have ruined the period look that I wanted. I still love this picture and her expression, even if I caught it mostly by accident.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Typical March

Battle Of The Seasons, Canton, NC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

It's been a typical March for the western North Carolina mountains this year. A little sun, a little snow, a little rain; sometimes all in the same day. Here's a close-up of the contest as currently being played out in my wife's flower bed.

Saturday, March 23, 2013


The best photos are usually the simplest photos. If a photo has too much content, too many things going on, your eye doesn't know what to concentrate on. Your mind gets bored and is soon ready to move on to something else. Simple compositions, with as much extraneous material as possible removed, are usually more pleasing and interesting to the eye.

Green Shutter, Charleston, SC  -  2012
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

At first glance, a single shuttered window on a blank wall of the slave quarters at the Aiken-Rhett house didn't look like much of a photo op. As part of a larger composition containing the entire side of the house, this single shutter would be lost and insignificant. As the subject of its own composition, I think it becomes much more interesting. We can examine it's brilliant green color, the texture of the wood, the obviously home-made hinges. Since this building pre-dates the Civil War, we can wonder how many times this shutter has been painted in the last century and a half. What did the slaves who lived behind this window see and think as they looked out? Simplicity - there is usually more where there is less.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Sometimes Rough Is Good

Texture Study, Shining Rock Wilderness Area  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

An old, dead tree whose bark had long ago disappeared caught my eye as I was scrambling along the rocks on the river bank. The hard part of this photo was trying to find a steady way to set up my tripod among the rocks. After much trial and error in adjusting leg lengths and angles, I finally got the tripod into a position that was both steady and safe for my camera. This was one that I imagined as a B&W before I snapped the shutter.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Finally, a hike!

In Between, Shining Rock Wilderness Area  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Two and a half months into 2013, and Sunday afternoon I finally found time to do a little hiking. The weather was better on Saturday, but Saturday is usually my "catch up on chores day". There was a slight chance of showers predicted for late Sunday afternoon, but I decided to take a chance since I had a pretty good case of cabin fever. Theresa wanted to stay home and work on a PowerPoint presentation for work, so with hopes of cooperative weather, Courtney and I headed off to the Shining Rock Wilderness Area.

At the lower elevations in our area, the first faint signs of spring are beginning to appear. Not so higher up. The portion of the trail we were on was mainly around 3800', about 1200' higher than where my house sits. Winter is still in control up there. Except for a few tufts of green grass sprouting up in the wet areas, brown and grey are still the dominant colors. No budding trees, no early wildflowers, just bare trees in every direction. I made a few photos of the river, but my search for early spring photos was a bust.

Despite spring still being weeks away at that elevation, we had an enjoyable afternoon. The rain held out, the temperatures were mild, and it was good just to get out, stretch our legs, and breathe that mountain air. Courtney and I still believe that a day out on the trail beats sitting around the house any day, even if it still looks like winter.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

An Inside Look

Inner Crocus, Canton, NC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Macro photography seems easy if you have the right equipment. I have a very fine Zuiko macro lens, but believe me, it's anything but a slam dunk. Especially outdoors. Depth of field is so slight. The least little puff of breeze can move your subject out of focus. It's so frustrating because I get so many misses. But it's so satisfying when I get one right!

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Sign Of Hope

Crocus, Canton, NC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

On Saturday, our front yard was nothing but brown grass. By Sunday morning, Crocuses had sprouted up in various places across the yard. My wife planted Crocus bulbs randomly across the front yard a few years ago. These flowers, along  with daffodils, give us some hope that winter will end soon, and spring is on the way!

Yeah, I know that this weekend's mild weather was only a tease, and we'll get some more cold weather before spring is here for good, but those little purple flowers always give me some hope!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

A Little Too Big For Me

Mansions At Sunset, Chareleston, SC  -  2012
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

There are many large old homes to see in Charleston, especially in the Battery area. They are beautiful to look at, and their history is fascinating to me. Most pre-date the Civil War, and some go back as far as colonial days. We got to tour a couple of these old homes, and the interiors are as amazing as the exterior architecture.

I guess we've all thought about what it would be like to live in a mansion like these. Having lived in smaller homes all my life, I wonder if I could really get used to living in a house that large and opulent. Would it really feel like home? Given the choice, I think I would prefer something somewhat smaller and cozier. The large porches can stay, however, so I can enjoy those ocean breezes!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Never Ending Supply

West Asheville Mural, Asheville, NC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Every time I go looking for new murals or interesting graffiti in Asheville, I find some. There seems to be a never ending supply of new artists and new works. Sometimes an old work get painted over with a new mural before I get a chance to photograph it. You have to keep your camera ready or you may miss something. Street art is Asheville's renewable resource!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Mountain Craftsmanship

Mountain Dulcimer, Waynesville, NC  -  2011
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

I regret not learning to play some kind of musical instrument when I was a youngster. I've heard that the mountain dulcimer is one of the easier stringed instruments to learn how to play. This sample that I photographed at a craft show is almost too pretty to play. I'd hate to risk scratching that beautiful workmanship! Maybe one day I'll get a good used one to learn on.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Welcome To My Nightmare

Of the five Polaroids I was given to restore, I saved the worst for last. I was dreading getting started on this one because this photo looked like it had been run over by a truck. All the white flecks across the photo are where the dried emulsion has chipped away, exposing the white backing paper underneath. All that missing information would have to be reconstructed.

Original Photo

Fortunately, most of the damage was showing in the grassy area of the photo. That made it a little easier to clone in pixels from similar areas. There was relatively little damage to the little boy's face and clothing, which is always harder to repair. I overlaid a grid on the photo dividing it into 16 sections, and at high magnification, repaired one grid section at a time.

Restored Photo

After the repair work to the damaged emulsion was done, I fiddled with the contrast to counteract the fading. All the tedious work is rewarded by the satisfaction of seeing the finished restoration, and another memory preserved.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Restore This

A friend from church occasionally brings me old pictures to restore. I enjoy the challenge and the process of restoring the clarity to old memories. This week she brought me some old Polaroids, probably dating from the mid 1960s. Polaroid photos were an amazing product in their day, but they are not exactly archival. They fade, have color shifts, and fingerprints don't stay just on the surface, but actually get into the photo.

Here is one I was given to work on. It's not the worst of the group (I'm saving the real nightmare for a future post), but it's in rough shape. As you can see, part of the emulsion has actually stripped away on parts of the photo.

Original photo

Here is the restored version, all cleaned up and ready to be put back into the family album. (Click on photos to enlarge.)

Restored photo