Monday, January 28, 2013

The past is a nice place to visit, but . . .

John Deere Tractor Seat, Asheville, NC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

All through school, history was always one of my favorite subjects. I still love history today, and I enjoy photographing historical sites and artifacts. I have often wished that time travel was a reality so I could go back and visit different periods of history firsthand. I would love to visit the past, but I don't think I would stay very long. I'm too addicted to modern comforts and conveniences.

Take this tractor seat for example. It made me think of how good we have it in the 21st century. Today, it's a decorative seat at the public chess boards at Pritchard Park in Asheville. Even though chess games can be quite lengthy, you could probably endure this seat for at least one game. In the 1800s, however, this was the latest in John Deere seating comfort for farm equipment. Yes, it's ventilated, but could you imagine bouncing around a plowed field with nothing under your keister but this thing? Today's farmers with their air conditioned cabs, stereo systems, and air-ride seats wouldn't last long on this!

I've had the opportunity to visit some historical sites from America's colonial and Civil War eras. I find the equipment, clothing, and lifestyles of our past fascinating to see and read about. Would I want to fight a war with a muzzleloader, or wear a wool uniform in the heat of a southern summer? Not me! I've even read of photographers who enjoy photographing with 19th century cameras, and develop the plates in dark rooms full of toxic, smelly chemicals. Again, I'll pass. My digital camera and an odorless computer is more to my liking. My pick-up with its comfortable seats and air conditioning also suits me better for the ride home than a horse drawn wagon with wooden seats. Yes, I'd love to visit the past, but only for a visit.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Football Withdrawal

It's been a tough weekend, the first one in a long time with no football. Well, there's the Pro Bowl tonight, but that's hardly a game to get me jumping up and down and screaming. I guess it will have to do. The Super Bowl is next Sunday, and then it's cold turkey until next August. (Sigh.)

I had some errands to keep me busy for a little while yesterday, but today there was nothing pressing. So Courtney and I headed for Asheville to look for "interesting" people and scenes. It was overcast and chilly with not much going on downtown. We walked around for an hour or so, but I saw nothing that really got my creative juices flowing today. Here's a few from a slow (i.e. football-less) afternoon in downtown Asheville. (Click on photos to enlarge.)

Knee Jewelry 

One man Band

Looking For Coffee

Door Mural

Used Shoes

Saturday, January 26, 2013


Dentist Office Sign, Waynesville, NC  -  2012
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

While on the way to the library this morning I saw a new sign on a nearby dentist office. I had to stop and add it to my collection!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Importance Of Details

Empty Bird Feeder, Charleston, SC  -  2012
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

While in Charleston last spring, I was impressed by the extent that the present day owners of centuries old houses will go to preserve their historical value. The overwhelming majority seemed to view their homes as not just a private residence, but a public trust. Although only a few were open for tours, or public viewing of the courtyards and exterior, there was still a commitment to preserving the past as much as is practical in a 21st century world.

I was able to peek through an iron gate into the courtyard of this home to see this terracotta wall decoration being used as a bird feeder, albeit only containing a few sunflower seed shells in this photo. A contemporary bird feeder that only needs to be filled once every week or so would be much more convenient for the owner (and the birds), but would have detracted from the period look of the courtyard. I don't know what the original purpose of this wall fixture could have been; it may have been designed to be a feeder all along. Details like this small touch in a seldom seen courtyard are what has kept Charleston such a fascinating place to visit and see.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Have A Drink With Me, Charleston, SC  -  2012
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

I can't pass up an old sign. This one was probably part of an advertisement for Coca-Cola or Pepsi, probably from the early 1900s from the look of her hat and hair style. Now it decorates the courtyard of the Molly Darcy Irish Pub in Charleston.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Inauguration Day 2013

Long May It Wave, Charleston, SC  -  2012
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Today is Inauguration Day in the United States. Well, actually it was yesterday, January 20, but since the 20th fell on a Sunday, the public swearing-in ceremony will be held today. Once again we will peacefully swear in the leader of our country. Even in the 21st century, that's not as common as one might think.

Barack Obama won only 50.6% of the approximately 126 million votes cast. Obama's 62.6 million supporters amount to only 29% of the estimated 219 million eligible voters in this country, proving that those who show up make the decisions. (It's a shame that 93 million Americans decided that voting wasn't worth their time, ignoring a right and privilege that so many gave their lives to secure.) However, as many people don't seem to understand, including many in the national news media, Americans don't elect a President by popular vote, we have the electoral college system. There, President Obama won re-election by a decisive 332 - 206 margin over challenger Mitt Romney.

Many decry the fact that we don't elect our President by popular vote, and miss the genius of the electoral college. If our President was elected solely by a popular vote, candidates would only campaign where the most votes are. They would spend all their time, money, and attention on the big population states like California, New York, and Texas. States like Wyoming, Kansas, and Mississippi would never see or hear from a presidential candidate - there's not enough votes to make campaign stops in the less populous states worthwhile. The concerns of areas like where I live in western North Carolina would be all but ignored. With the electoral college system, however, candidates can't ignore anybody. Even states like Idaho, with a mere 4 electoral votes, can become a potential election turner. It's the electoral college, not the popular vote, that makes every American's vote count.

The peaceful transition of power. The rule of law instead the tyranny of the mob. Even if your preferred candidate fell short in the last election, these are the things we should celebrate every Inauguration Day.

Friday, January 18, 2013

When To Go Soft

Urn With A Fern, Charleston, SC  -  2012
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

For many, if not most photographers, the holy grail is sharpness. We want crisp, clean, sharp photos. No blurriness caused by camera motion or poor focus allowed. Only the most precise lenses with the finest glass that modern technology can produce will do! I, too, often fall prey to this never-ending quest for sharpness.

Then why do some photos seemingly beg me too soften them up a little when I get them up on my computer screen? This photo of an urn in the courtyard of a synagogue in Charleston was one such photo. As a sharp, contrasty B&W it just wasn't working for me. A little softening added in Virtual Photographer, and a little toning - now that's better!
Last month, My Viewfinder was attacked (I don't know a better term to use) by hackers who somehow inserted malware onto my site which could be picked up unknowingly by visitors. Lacking the know-how and time to root it out, I decided to shut down the site rather than expose my visitors to malicious content. So far, My Viewfinder 2 has not experienced any problems, although I'm sure I lost quite a few viewers in the switch-over.

This month, my Facebook page was hacked. Somehow my "Likes" section was invaded by sites I had never visited or heard of, much less "liked". The sites started spamming my entire Friends list. Many contained only gibberish for content, although some appeared to have Russian Cyrillic characters in their text. I spent hours trying everything I could Google to get rid of it with no results. In fact, it only got worse. Giving up, I deactivated my Facebook page. The next day, I created a new Facebook page. Within two hours the same trash was showing up on the new page, leading me to conclude that the criminals had somehow put something on my computer that affected Facebook. I scanned my computer with several different anti-virus and anti-malware products, and they all showed me clean. Again, I had no choice but to deactivate the second site to avoid spreading this mess to my friends on Facebook.

Long story short, I'll be out of the Facebook loop until I can find out how to get this junk off my computer. It doesn't appear to have affected anything but Facebook, but I'm being cautious. I'll miss Facebook. It was a good way to keep up with some family members back in Louisiana, and friends, both old and new. It was also a great way to call attention to new posts on this site. Hopefully, some of my past visitors will find their way here anyway.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Food Without The Gas

Fuel Cafe Patio, Charleston, SC  -  2012
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

My favorite Food Network program is Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, with Guy Fieri. Fieri travels the country looking for the kinds of places I like to eat. We tried one of the places featured on his show while we were in Charleston last spring, the Fuel Cafe.

Located in a former gas station, this restaurant features a marriage of southern and Carribbean dishes. Theresa and I both had the jerk chicken sandwich with sweet potato fries. Good stuff! We ate outdoors on the patio since the weather was mild, and the photo above shows a colorful mural and tropical plants on the back wall of the former gas station.

Monday, January 14, 2013

On The Streets Of Asheville

Woman With Wings, Asheville, NC  -  2012
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

One winter afternoon while roaming the streets of downtown Asheville with my daughter, Courtney, hunting for "interesting" people with my camera -

Me: Oh, look at that woman with the wings! I gotta get a picture of that!
Courtney: Dad, no, she's looking right at you!
Me: So? Dressed like that, don't you think she likes the attention?
Courtney: This is so embarrassing!
Me: Gotta love Asheville!

As in my hometown of New Orleans, there's never a shortage of "interesting" people to photograph in Asheville!

Friday, January 11, 2013

From The Outhouse To The Penthouse

Tradd Street, Charleston, SC  -  2012
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Back when the New Orleans Saints were perennial losers, the late radio broadcaster Wayne Mack often used the expression "from the penthouse to the outhouse" to describe the way a coach's popularity could plummet during another losing season. I've used the reverse of that expression to describe the fortunes of this photo that came close to experiencing the delete key, but now may be made into a print to hang on my wall.

Although I have a 1TB hard drive on my computer, and an additional 2 TB on an external hard drive, I still feel the need to keep the ever-bulging photo files under control by ruthlessly editing out the photos that really aren't that good. I make of bunch of those, you just never see them. One mistake many new photographers make is showing every photo they take. I've seen some aspiring portrait photographers show their customer 8-10 shots of the same pose! Big mistake. Only show the best of the 10, and delete the inferior shots. If you can't decide which one is the best, how can you expect anyone else to stay interested? Only show your best photos.

Anyway, in going through another culling session to clear space on the hard drive, the above photo almost got the ax. It was a little over exposed, and didn't have a strong center of interest. (Why didn't I realize that when I shot it?) Still, there was something interesting about it to me, so I decided to see what I could do in the digital darkroom to save it. I came up with this version. It touched off good memories of an enjoyable trip with my wife last spring. I like it so much that I think I'll have a print made to display in my home, something that happens to only a very small percentage of my photos.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

So many tools . . .

Town Hall, Burnsville, NC  -  2012
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

There are so many tools available to the digital photographer that sometimes they become a hindrance rather than a help. Sorting through filters and effects can eat up so much time on the computer, even if you have a general idea of what you're looking for.

With this photo I thought I wanted an infrared look, sort of. I played around with dozens of filters without finding exactly what I was looking for. The temptation is to keep trying, combining effects, and all the while thinking, "The next one will be what I'm looking for". Meanwhile, the clock continues to spin. Enormous blocks of time can get eaten up this way; while fun, it's often not very productive.

I finally ended up with this version. I'm still not sure if it is really what I wanted when I started, or if the pestering thoughts of "other things I should be doing" forced my hand to stop. Maybe I should go back and try the . . .

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Wall Art

I like photographing murals and signs painted on the side of buildings. I especially like finding an old painted sign, although they are getting harder and harder to find. These three that I found in Burnsville are more recent (the Coca-Cola sign is a reproduction), but maybe they will remain around long enough to be a "find" for some future photographer.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Now I can't stop!

Battery Mansion, Charleston, SC  - 2012
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

A few days ago I decided to go back and look at some photos I had shot in past months, but hadn't done anything with yet. I reached into my bag of tricks and tried emulating the technique of Doug Van de Zande's stylized black and whites on an older photo, liked how it came out, got a few compliments, and now I can't stop! Here's one I shot while visiting the Battery neighborhood in Charleston, SC last April. Going through my Charleston photos has whet my appetite for a return trip this spring.

Saturday, January 5, 2013


Confederate Grave, Waynesville, NC  -  2012
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

This is another "left over" from last October when I took a week off from work to enjoy fall in the mountains.  I wasn't really impressed with the original color version of this one. It was a little soft, probably from camera shake - I was laying on the ground (no tripod) on a rather chilly day to get it. Image stabilization can only do so much. Still, there was something about this photo that kept me from hitting the delete key. (I'm usually a brutal editor right out of the camera.)

Now I'm glad I didn't flush this photo on the original edit. I tried the "Van de Zande technique" (see yesterday's post), and I think that was just what this photo needed. A photo that wasn't the pick of the litter in October just need a little more time to incubate in my computer before it could realize its potential three months later.

Friday, January 4, 2013

I'm A Copy Cat

Yancey Theater, Burnsville, NC  -  2012
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Yeah, sometimes I feed off of the originality and creativity of others. Several years ago I came across the work of Raleigh photographer, Doug Van de Zande. He has produced some stylized B&W photos that use the intaglio method of printmaking, which causes the fibers of the paper to show through. I suppose this look is not to everyone's taste, but I liked it, and began to experiment for a way to reproduce the effect digitally. After much frustration I finally found that using a close-up of one of my wife's pot scrubber pads, overlayed as a texture, produced a very similar look to Van de Zande's prints.

 I haven't done one of these in a while, so I decided to try it on this photo of the Yancey Theater that I made last October. The Yancey has been in operation since 1939, and while thoroughly modern in sight and sound on the inside, retains the look of a 1930s movie house on the outside.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Catching Up

The Accordion Player, Waynesville, NC  -  2012
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Even with all the time I had off from work during the Christmas/New Year holidays, I didn't spend much time out making photos. So it was a good time to play catch up with some photos I had made in previous months, but hadn't done anything with yet.

I captured this accordion player at a street festival in Waynesville last October. The original color photo was not much more than a quick snapshot. There was a crowd of people behind her that made a distracting background, and they had to go. Once on a plain background, I converted the photo to a toned B&W, and added a soft, white vignette for a more aged look.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Down By The Riverside II

Some more murals from the warehouses on Riverside Drive in Asheville. (Click on photos to enlarge,)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Down By The Riverside

Some more artwork I discovered yesterday on Riverside Drive in Asheville. (Click on photos to enlarge.)