Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Where Men Could Be Men

Acme Barber Shop, Black Mountain, NC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Several years ago I posted a photo of a "family" barber shop in Canton, and lamented the demise of real "men's" barber shops. Now, I think most people go to "stylists" who do both men's and women's hair. That's fine, but I can remember when men went to barber shops, and women went to beauty parlors. I think it's good when each gender has it's own place. I caught some flak for that post, but let's face it, there's times when we men enjoy being with women, and there's times when we enjoy just being with other men. I'm sure women feel the same way. When did that become not OK?

A man's barber shop had a certain smell to it, mainly from the hair products that barbers used that had a distinctly masculine aroma. The magazines were men's magazines: Sports Illustrated, Popular Mechanics, Hot Rod, and Field & Stream were the only offerings in the magazine rack at Wack Brothers Barber Shop where I grew up. (How's that for a name?) The conversations were about the things men like to talk about: sports, fishing, local politics, cars, etc. Even when I was too young to participate in these conversations, I enjoyed hearing my Dad and the other guys talk about "man things". After the hair cut, everyone went back the the world  of moms, wives, and sisters, but for an hour or so it was neat to enjoy the world of "just us guys". I'm glad that there are still a few places like that, and I hope they never go away completely. Acme Barber Shop was closed when I visited Black Mountain, but I like to imagine that it's that kind of place.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

B&W Hot Rod

Car Show Hot Rod, Waynesville, NC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Another Way To Photograph Cars

My church has an annual car show which seems to get a little bigger each year. I wasn't able to stay too long at this one yesterday because I had to pick up my wife at the airport just after lunch, but I wanted to stop by and get a few photos. I went to my first car show with a camera about eight years ago, and I was hooked! Once I got it figured out, that is.

My first car show was the annual Cherokee Rod Run. I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of beautiful cars and hot rods spread out over the huge fair grounds lot. I instantly had visions of making amazing photos like the ones I had seen in car magazines since I was a kid. My excitement was soon quenched, however, as I discovered that no matter what angle I chose to photograph a car, the background would be cluttered with other cars, food and souvenir vendors, and other car show visitors. Who wants "car guy" with his neon yellow Chevy t-shirt in the picture?

Then I spied another photographer taking a close-up shot of a hood ornament. That reminded me of an article I had read of photographing the interesting details of custom cars. Partial views, abstracts, and details can be as interesting as whole vehicle views, more so if the background is filled with distracting elements. Problem solved. I spent the rest of the morning attacking the car show with that philosophy - concentrate on smaller, selected views.

Roof Line, Waynesville, NC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

That's been my approach at car shows ever since. Rarely can you get an uncluttered full view, so don't fight it. Concentrate on interesting details, lines, colors, and shapes as I did on this roof line of a '50s era Ford. It's all in the details!


Friday, August 23, 2013

It's a sign!

I love to find interesting and creative signs when I'm out walking around with my camera. Here's a few that I found In Black Mountain, NC last Sunday. (Click on photos to enlarge.)

Kudzu Printing

Red Radish Catering

The Thrifty Taoist Acupuncture

 Town Pump Tavern

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Those Looks

Truck and Flowers, Black Mountain, NC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

I've written about "those looks" several time before. It's the looks you get when people see you pointing your camera at something, and they can't figure out why. Or they see you with your camera in an unusual position, or in an unusual place, and they can't figure out why. It's the "Has he lost his mind?" kind of look. If you're going to be an avid photographer, you better get used to "those looks".

I found this old truck in a vacant lot in downtown Black Mountain, and being a lover of anything old, especially vehicles, I began to circle it, looking for interesting angles and views with my camera. Almost immediately I saw in my peripheral vision a woman giving me "that look". I turned toward her for a moment and saw the expression of bewilderment on her face. I smiled briefly, and turned back to my truck to continue exploring. Let her wonder.

As I completed my circle of the truck, ending up back closer to the sidewalk and the front end of the truck, I perceived that I was being watched again, this time by an older couple. I didn't look at them this time, but just kept shooting. Then, to my surprise, I heard the man say to his wife, "That's going to be a good picture!" If you keep shooting long enough, occasionally you'll run into someone who gets it.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Something I've Never Done Before

Call Me, Black Mountain, NC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Yeah, I know, this is unexpected. I've never posted a photo of a cat on this site before. Now before you people start getting any strange ideas, let me state for the record that I am not now,  nor ever have been, and never will be a cat person. I am allergic to cats. I mean literally. Put me in a room with a cat, and in minutes my eyes are itching and watering, my nose is running like the Amazon, and I'm sneezing uncontrollably. I'd prefer to be pepper sprayed. I don't do cats.

However, I do think I know a potentially good photo when I see one. This cat sitting in a store front window looked like he had possibilities for a B&W. Since there was a pane of glass between me and this walking tear gas attack, I thought it would be safe to take his picture. Quickly. He kept staring at me with complete confidence, as if he knew he could completely incapacitate me any time he wanted to. As soon as I clicked the shutter, he looked away, no longer interested in me at all. Cats. I just don't get them.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Another Place to Sit

Butterfly Bench, Black Mountain, NC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

After I named this file "Butterfly Bench", I thought it could be a dragon fly. Anyway, it was the bright red paint job that caught my eye. I don't know how comfortable this bench would be for more than a few minutes of sitting, but it's definitely an eye catcher!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Borrowed Information.

On the way back from Black Mountain yesterday, I stopped at my favorite used book store, Mr. K's on Fairview Road in Asheville. Used book stores always have new items coming in, so I try to hit Mr. K's at least once a week. Yesterday, I found a book on digital photographic art that looked promising, but after leafing through it, I only found a couple processes that were of interest to me. It wasn't really worth adding to my already crowded shelves. One thing I wanted to try, a simulated bromoil printing process, was easy enough to memorize the steps. I "borrowed" this information, and put the book back on the shelf.

The bromoil process was popular with pictorialist photographers early in the 20th century. The method for a real bromoil is too complicated to describe here (click here and here if you're really interested), but it produces a softer, grainier photo that the pictorialists loved. I decided to try the much easier digital method on one of my photos from my Black Mountain trip, and I chose this photo of an old Mack truck as a suitable one for experimenting. You'll have to click on the photo to enlarge it to get a better idea of how the grainy effect looks. I think the process I found still needs some tweaking to look more like a real bromoil, but I thought my first attempt was promising. I immediately began to think of other photos I'd like to experiment on with this effect.

Old B-Series Mack Truck, Black Mountain, NC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

As an addendum to yesterday's rant about the weatherman, he turned out to be right yesterday, except he was about 18 hours EARLY on his prediction!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Weatherman Gets Me Again

I had a long-anticipated trip to DuPont State Forest planned for today. Last night I got my mountain bike aired up, lubricated, and ready for photographer hauling duties. The waterfalls were calling my name!

Then I get up this morning, and the rain chances for the Brevard area had jumped from 60% last night to 90% this morning! Now I'm not one to run and hide when the first raindrop falls while I'm hiking or riding, but 90% made the trip seem like a potential waste of time and gas. Besides, with all this rain, the falls would probably be running muddy, not the best situation for photos. So I guess you could say I chickened out, and went back to bed.

When I got up the second time around 8:00 a.m. it still wasn't raining here, only overcast. The urge to go someplace was strong, so I thought about a shorter trip where I could get back to the truck quickly when the predicted monsoon began. I hadn't been to Black Mountain in a long time, so off I went.

Except for running into a few sprinkles around Asheville, I still haven't seen any rain all day! I should have been a meteorologist. Who else can be wrong so often and still keep their job?

Anyway, Black Mountain has a small, but interesting downtown area. The local chamber of commerce has placed specially decorated rocking chairs around downtown to encourage visitors to slow down, relax, sit a spell, and enjoy Black Mountain. Their new slogan is, "The Little Town That Rocks", and the rockers fit in with that theme. There's supposed to be 60 rocking chairs scattered around the downtown area. I didn't see all 60, but I thought the ones I did see were interesting and colorful enough to share with you here. (Click on photos to enlarge.)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Detour Through History

On the way home from Boone Friday, I decided to divert from my normal route and head east through Spruce Pine on U.S. 19E. My objective: the post office in Penland, NC. I had passed it once when I was making a delivery to the Penland School of Crafts, but I couldn't stop then. I had forgotten about it until I saw a picture of it in a recent issue of Our State magazine. It's a long drive from Canton, but Friday's return trip from Boone made a detour for pictures feasible.

Post Office, Penland, NC

I arrived before the post office was open, so I made some photos of the exterior. The windows had protective metal mesh which allowed me to see in, but made photos of the interior impossible from outside. I was just about to leave when the woman who runs this tiny post office showed up. We said hello, and talked about the picture in Our State of which she was very proud. Then she invited me inside to see the lobby and take a peek at the office.

The building was built in 1878, and some of the P. O. boxes date from the original opening in 1879. I made several photos of the interior, and I was glad to get the opportunity to see this living piece of mountain history. (Click on photos to enlarge.)


Original Service Counter

Original Mail Boxes

Office Area

Newer Service Window

Photo from 1930s (?) when a general store occupied the 
larger space next door off and on from 1902 to 1974.

Did mail originally arrive by train? I'm not sure.

National Register of Historic Places Plaque

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

An Oldie

Red, Waynesville, NC  -  2006
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

I was looking for another photo when I came across this one I made in the Frog Level area of Waynesville back in 2006. I'm sure I posted it back then, but I just like it, so I'm posting it again!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Another Kind Of Cheating

Martinique Dancer, Waynesville, NC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Many of the software filter effects that are available to digital photographers have very limited usefulness in my opinion. So many fall into the "gee whiz!" category - interesting, but hard to find an application for. My favorite plug-in, Virtual Photographer by OptikVerve Labs, has over 200 one-click presets! It's amazing what options that gives me, but honestly, there's only about a half dozen that I find really useful.

The Radial Blur filter that comes with Photoshop Elements is one that I can only remember using twice in the nine years I've been using the program. The photo above is the second time. The dancers from Martinique were the most "active" of all the groups I saw perform at Folkmoot. As a result, I ended up with more blurred photos of them than usual, even shooting at ISO 400 in good outdoor light. In this photo, instead of trying to clean up the blur, I added even more to emphasize the sense of motion. On most photos, radial blur seems "gimmicky". On this one, it allowed me to salvage a photo that I would have otherwise deleted, and turned it into an interesting image.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Pants I Wouldn't Wear

Man With Butterfly Pants, Waynesville, NC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Friday, August 9, 2013

Getting Rid Of Undesirables

I'll admit it - I'm prejudiced. I don't like people in my pictures who aren't supposed to be there. When you're taking pictures in a public place, it's sometimes impossible to exclude these "undesirables" from your picture. Very annoying.

At Folkmoot I wanted to get a picture of this young woman from Mexico in her beautiful blue costume. There were several of us taking pictures, and she was doing her best to look at each of us with a nice smile. Then Joe Tourist shows up, obviously thinking our photos would be much better with him standing next to the pretty dancer. Several factors, including a police presence and witnesses, kept Joe Tourist from being eliminated on the spot. I kept my composure, knowing that later, in my digital darkroom, Joe would have no such protection.

After getting the photo on my computer screen, I noticed that I would not only have to eliminate Joe Tourist, but also "Creepy Background Guy" who had also sneaked into my frame unnoticed. I got rid of a good bit of Joe Tourist by simply cropping a little tighter. Then I brought out the big gun, the clone tool. Borrowing pixels from the out of focus tree in the background, I made this undesirable a mere memory. Adios, Joe! Creepy Background Guy got hosed the same way. No witnesses; no evidence left behind. The perfect crime.

Here's our model, now uncrowded by unwanted interlopers. An out of focus tree serves as a background, allowing us to focus our eyes on her pretty face and colorful costume. In my digital world, it's just the way things ought to be!

Dancer In Blue, Waynesville, NC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Some More Cheatin'

Polish Dancer, Waynesville, NC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

For this guy's portrait, I put him back in his native Poland via the magic of the digital darkroom. I hope he didn't mind the trip.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Finding Inspiration

I spend a good bit of time on the interwebs looking at others' photos for inspiration and ideas. I also own several books that I use for the same purpose, and of course, there's always the library. One book from the library that I keep coming back to is Lynn Geesaman's Gardenscapes. I should just go ahead and buy my own copy.

Geesaman uses a technique that I believe was invented, or at least made popular, by photographer Michael Orton. The technique involves sandwiching two slides of the same scene which are overexposed, with one out of focus. When combined, the photo exhibits an interesting mixture of high and low detail areas, and a "dreamy" quality that is somewhat different than soft focus. To see some of Geesaman's work, click here.

Of course, not being a film photographer, I have researched how to reproduce the effect using digital photos and software. I have found two recipes online that I like, plus one that I came up with on my own. Of the three, none works the same on every photo. I usually end up making a version with each recipe, and then choose which one I like best. The photo below from a cemetery in Charleston, SC was done with my recipe, although mine doesn't always win.

Cross and Azaleas, Charleston, SC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Monday, August 5, 2013

A Chance To Relax

God didn't give me any sons, but he did bless me with two daughters who share their Dad's love of the outdoors. Hiking? Camping? Shooting the guns? They're all in! So I've been trying to find a weekend to squeeze in one more camping trip with the youngest daughter before I have to take her up to Boone to start college. We've both been busy, and the weather has been, well, wet for most of the summer. This past weekend we finally were able to get away, and for once, the weather cooperated.

We went to Mt. Pisgah campground, which is on the Blue Ridge Parkway across from Pisgah Inn. We have camped at Cataloochee for years, but they have instituted a reservation system that makes it almost impossible to get a campsite unless you reserve (and pay) months in advance. Our ever changing schedules just don't allow for that. So we gave Mt. Pisgah a try, and we were fairly well pleased with our choice.

This campground is the highest on the entire Parkway at about 5000'. That made for surprisingly mild temperatures, especially for August. What's camping without a campfire? The temperatures in the evening kept the campfire from becoming an uncomfortable extravagance. We were able to grill our pork chops, make coffee, and roast marshmallows in relative comfort.

What did we do on this camping trip? Not much. I spent most of the afternoon relaxing and catching up on some reading. It was overcast most of the afternoon, so we were hesitant to venture too far from the campground in case the rain came. We took a short drive on the Parkway, where the Turk's cap Lilies were in bloom. Of course I brought my camera on this trip, but I barely made a dozen exposures all afternoon. I was content to just relax on this trip.

Turk's Cap Lily, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Festival Food - No Thanks!

Festival Food, Asheville, NC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

I think I'm a bit overdue for a rant, so here goes.

It's always tempting. The aromas wafting from festival food vendors always smell so good! But I've been disappointed so many times by the flavor, or rather, lack of flavor, that I usually just keep on walking. 

Six dollars for a funnel cake? Weren't they four dollars last year? That's another reason I keep walking. Let's see, $8 for a greasy Polish sausage sandwich, $4 for a drink, $6 for a funnel cake - whoa! Getting hosed for mediocre tasting food doesn't add to my fun at fairs and festivals. For the same money I can get a decent meal at a real restaurant like Papas And Beer on the way home. And I won't have to balance my plate on my lap while I eat.