Is (was) Bele Chere a family friendly festival? Well, there were certainly things going on that I wouldn't have wanted my daughters to see or hear when they were young children. There was one morbidly obese woman walking around topless and obviously intoxicated in the Pritchard Park area. Police, who had to have seen her, couldn't have been less interested. Nonetheless, there was no shortage of families with children at the festival on Saturday, like this little girl getting her face painted on Patton Avenue.
I went to the Bele Chere festival for a couple of hours yesterday afternoon. It's not really my crowd, but I was bored, and most festivals can be interesting if you like to people watch. Bele Chere was no exception.
Any kind of action photography, be it athletics, dancing, or muscians, I find to be a "hit or miss" activity. Mostly misses. It seems when you photograph people in any kind of motion, more often than not you'll catch them in uninteresting, awkward, or sometimes funny positions. Occasionally, however, you'll catch your subject at "peak action" which makes for an interesting photo. I made about a dozen photos of this guitarist, and most were fairly boring shots - just some guy playing a guitar. This was the only one out of the bunch that I thought captured this guy's energy and attitude. I found this also to be true while photographing dancers last week at Folkmoot. There's really now way to anticipate or plan for a good shot. You just have to be patient, shoot a ton of photos, and then be prepared to wear out the delete key when you get home. Hopefully, one or two good ones are in there somewhere.
About six years ago I started to experiment with listening to classical music, and I actually began to enjoy it. In the last year or so I've also begun to listen to jazz, but that's a taste I haven't completely acquired yet. In short, I'm beginning to admit that there is other worthwhile music to enjoy besides '70s classic rock.
Last weekend at the Folkmoot International Festival Day, I had my musical horizons expanded a bit further - Celtic rock by Uncle Hamish and the Hooligans. I'd heard of it, but never experienced a live performance. Hey, I like it! Rock music with the addition of bag pipes sounded like a weird combination at first, but it works. This is another genre I'll have to delve into a little more. Here's a few shots of the Hooligans from last Saturday. (Click on photos to enlarge.) BTW, as hot as it was, a kilt seemed like a good thing to be a wearin'!
I enjoy viewing a well crafted black and white photograph, and I also enjoy the challenge of trying to make one. However, there are times when only a color photograph can even come close to disclosing the beauty of a scene. The dresses worn by these dancers from Mexico could only be done in color, don't you agree? (Click on photos to enlarge.)
BTW, I rarely get comments via e-mail, but I got an interesting one yesterday. The comment, from "anonymous" of course, stated that "I notice that you only seem to focus your attention on pretty female dancers at Folkmoot". I'm not sure if this was meant to be a criticism, or just an observation, but I'll address it anyway by making three points. (1) While all of the dance groups at Folkmoot that I've seen are co-ed, women still are in the majority among the dancers. (2) The majority of my Folkmoot photos have been of female dancers, but not all of them. (3) I guess the secret is out now on me being a life-long heterosexual. The pretty male dancers just don't do anything for me; my camera and I prefer the girls. I hope I've cleared that one up!
Here's three more from last Saturday's Folkmoot festival. All the dancers were so cooperative about posing for photographers. Walking down the street, they could hardly move ten feet without someone stopping them to pose. And every time they graciously complied with a smile! (Click on photos to enlarge.)
(Yeah, I cheated and added in a background on this one.)
An ongoing controversy since the dawn of digital photography has been "How much manipulation is allowable?" Journalists have lost their jobs over the slightest bit of photo manipulation, while others make a career of rearranging pixels. I'm somewhere in the middle. I still like a photograph to look like a photograph, not like a cartoon or a wild, fantasy painting. On the other hand, while I hesitate to call myself an artist, I'm certainly not a journalist. As a hobbyist, I'm not ethically compelled to stick to the facts. In short, yes, I manipulate.
Below is a photo I made at the Folkmoot festival on Saturday. This man played a drum as part of a group of dancers from Japan. I was struck by his stern expression during the performance in contrast to the big smiles of all the ladies in the group. He looks great, but you can easily see the problem with shooting at a street festival: garbage backgrounds. Signs, food tents, poles, Joe Tourist - everything you don't want in your photo.
Original, "out of the camera" photo
(Click on photo to enlarge.)
"Back in the day", when I was shooting with a film camera and had no means to create a digital file, I would just have to settle for a result like this. Not any more! Now I can create something more visually pleasing. A painter can paint in whatever background he wants for a portrait. Why shouldn't I be able to put in a more suitable background for my portrait?
A quick search on the interwebs found a suitable photo to use as a replacement background. (Yes, there are sites that offer royalty free, no charge, stock photos. I do not condone "borrowing" other photographer's work without their permission.) Once I found a photo that I thought would work with mine as a background, it was just a matter of extracting my subject from the original photo and pasting him onto his new home. There are numerous on-line tutorials available to show you how to do this, so I won't detail the process here. What I ended up with is the photo below. Real? No. Realistic? I think so. Again, I'm not a photo journalist, so I'm allowed to create what suits my eye.
The conversation must have gone something like this: "I've got a great idea! Let's invite dance groups from around the world to come perform in Waynesville. They could wear their native costumes and perform traditional dances that showcase their country's culture. We could have it in mid July, when it's miserably hot and humid. The dancers in their long, heavy costumes will just love our sub-tropical summer climate, and so will the tourists! We could have a street festival right there on Main Street, and the dancers could perform right on the hot, asphalt street. Just think of the drink sales!"
Well, maybe that wasn't exactly how Folkmoot got started, but the results are the same. It's a melt-down experience for dancers and spectators alike, and I keep going back every year. Why? My camera and I can't seem to resist the colors and the beauty of the dancers and their costumes, so back to the furnace that is Main Street in July I go. Where else can I get pictures like these without leaving Haywood county? (Click on photos to enlarge.)
My computer started displaying some weird behavior this past weekend that a Google search determined was due to one or both of my RAM sticks going bad. Fortunately, this is a relatively inexpensive (< $40) fix, and one I can do myself. I've replaced RAM sticks before to upgrade, and it is a simple "plug and play" operation. The only problem is, until the new RAM arrives, any task on my computer that eats up large amounts of RAM, like photo editing, cause it spaz out. Very frustrating. I'm hoping I'm back up to full computing strength by this weekend because Folkmoot Festival Day is Saturday, and I plan on having many photos to work on in the digital darkroom when I get back.
Tomatoes On The Vine, Canton, NC - 2010
(Click on photo to enlarge.)
Like TV stations, when I have nothing new to show, I can always do re-runs. These are some tomatoes from my garden in 2010. Fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes are one of my favorite things about summer. You can't beat a good 'maters and mayonnaise sandwich! Because we had cool weather so far into May this year, I never did get around to putting any tomato plants out. I figured it would be mid to late August before I got any tomatoes after planting so late in May, and I'm not that patient. So this summer I've had to hit the local roadside produce stands when I need to get my tomato fix. Needless to say, I'm looking forward to September.
Much of this summer is being spent getting my youngest daughter, Courtney, ready to leave for ASU next month. There's some final details with financial aid to take care of, supplies to purchase, packing, and a host of other tasks. There's so much to do, and the summer is racing by!
In the above photo, I caught Courtney in a moment of thought on the night of her high school graduation this past May. She's experiencing that heady combination of excitement that is mixed with just a touch of trepidation as she prepares to step into the unknown. In a way, I envy her.
While looking for another photo, I came across this one from back in 2004. It was one of my earliest attempts at photo manipulation. If I remember correctly, it was for a competition or challenge for an online photo group I once belonged to. I was very proud of my effort at the time, although now I can see things I could have done better. I've learned quite a bit since those days, and I've had a good time learning. With all I've learned how to do with a photo on a computer, I know I've barely scratched the surface of what is possible. The challenge is what keeps me interested, I suppose.
This is my friend Jonathan. He's got one of the toughest jobs in town. He leads the music ministry at my church.
Sound like a cush position to you? Think about it. Everybody has an opinion about music. Folks who couldn't carry a tune in a bucket are experts on what they like and don't like. The older folks like traditional hymns and southern Gospel. The younger ones like more contemporary tunes. There's a big group in the middle who like different ratios of both. And all can be quite vocal when they feel that their preferences are being ignored. How do you keep everybody happy? You can't, not all the time. See what I mean? Leading music at a church just might be the toughest job in town.
What I appreciate about Jonathan is that he pays attention to the lyrics. Traditional or contemporary, not all "Gospel" music is Biblically sound. Some of the songs in the Baptist Hymnal are a theological dumpster fire. A good bit of contemporary music is even worse. Jonathan does a good job of sorting out the confusion, most of the time anyway. Jesus loves me "like a hurricane"? As someone who grew up in hurricane plagued Louisiana, I have no idea what that lyric could possibly mean. See what I'm saying? I think Jonathan does a great job, and even I have a gripe now and then. Toughest job in town, no doubt about it.
Although this photo made at the Shelton House in Waynesville last month may looked posed, I assure you it's not. This Civil War re-enactor was just beginning a demonstration of how to load and fire his rifle for some young children. He was kneeling down so they could better see what he was doing. I chose a camera angle that excluded the children, and made the exposure as he was reaching into his pouch. By letting this soldier "pose himself", I got a much more relaxed position than if I had tried to pose him.
I used an overlayed texture that I found online to give the photo a more aged look. Working with textures can be frustrating because the results are seldom repeatable. There is no formula that gives the same result every time. Each photo is an exercise in trial and error, but when you finally hit on a combination that gives you the effect you want, it is very rewarding.
I haven't done one of these in a while, but sometimes a scene brings to mind a treasured verse of Scripture. Sometimes it works the other way - while reading from the Bible, I'll be reminded of a view, or a photo I've made. Either way, the combination of text and image seems to merge in my mind, and my computer helps me make it something I can share with you.
A common sight along the roadsides in Haywood County, and other western NC counties, are groups of pink flowers, the Forever Pea. They start appearing in June, and usually last into early September. They are just one of many colorful wildflowers that grace our area in the summer months, but this may be my favorite.
We have a very large yellow poplar (also known as a tulip poplar) on the side of our house. With its large, broad leaves it makes an excellent shade tree, and it helps protect our house from some of the summer sun. It also makes these beautiful flowers, but I never saw them because they were so high up. (OK, that's not a cue for you people to get started with the shorty jokes.)
Tulip Poplar, Canton, NC - 2005
(Click on photo to enlarge.)
Some of the branches from this tree were getting near my power lines, so I did some pruning. Only after the branches were on the ground was I able to get a good look at this tree's flowers. And of course, I had to immediately put down the pruning saw and go get my camera!
Recently, I've been doing some photography for my church as part of an effort to update and enhance the church's website. Yesterday's assignment was to photograph our pastor greeting visitors after the morning worship service. The photo below was the best one I got yesterday, and I think it illustrates an important skill good pastors must have, listening.
Listening, Waynesville, NC - 2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)
Since the most visible thing that pastors do is preaching, many people just naturally think of speaking as the most important talent a pastor must have. They must not only be skilled at public speaking, but must also have "the gift of gab" for individual conversations. While most pastors are skilled speakers (those who are not usually don't last long), there is an old adage that says God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. Listening is an undervalued skill, and one a good pastor must have. You can't help anyone until you understand what their struggles are, and you will never understand their struggles unless you learn how to really listen. I'm proud to say I have a pastor who knows how to listen.