Wednesday, December 31, 2014

So long, 2014!

Sunset, Canton, NC  -  2011
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

It's the last day of 2014, and many people will take time today to reflect on the past year, and make resolutions for 2015. It's a regular work day for me, so I'll have to put off any reflecting until I get home tonight. After taking a shower, I may indulge in a Strongbow Honey and Apple Cider on the rocks while I sit by the fire in my basement office and consider the events of 2014. The reminiscing won't last too late, however, as I plan to be in bed at my usual time of 10:30 or so. I'll leave the heavy partying to others. 2015 will be there when I wake up tomorrow morning.

I am optimistic about the coming year, especially because of some very positive changes that have happened at my job. My family is all in generally good health, and both our daughters appear to have bright futures. No, it's not all perfect, but when I consider the kind of lives most of the people in the world have to endure, I can't help but be thankful for how gracious God has been to me. Maybe that's what we all should think about as 2014 draws to a close.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Different Quest

Mary, Waynesville, NC  -  2014
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Like many churches across the country, ours puts on a Christmas play featuring the children each year. Proud parents, relatives, and friends come to watch, many toting cameras of various kinds. Our daughters are grown now, but I used to be one of those parents with camera in hand, trying to get a record snapshot of our little star. Now I bring my camera in pursuit of a different quest, to get a single photo that captures the beauty of the performance and the event it depicts. Here is this year's attempt.

Friday, December 12, 2014

More signs, more signs!

Luella's Signs, Asheville, NC  -  2014
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

As regular visitors to My Viewfinder 2 already know, I love old signs. I love discovering old signs, and I love photographing them. I especially love when someone else has done the discovering and collecting for me, and all I have to do is shoot. Such was the case at Luella's Bar-B-Que in Asheville. Although the one leaning against the wall is a more modern Corn Hole board, the rest appear to be well done reproductions of older originals. Unfortunately, Luella's was closed when I stopped by to make this photo. Now that I've sampled their signs, I'll have to return to sample their 'que!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Asheville Landmark

Basilica of St. Lawrence, Asheville, NC  -  2014
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Bookstore Window

Asheville, NC  -  2014
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

I thought this was an interesting combination of titles chosen for display at the Battery Park Book Exchange And Champagne Bar in Asheville. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Week Late

While both girls were home for Thanksgiving, I thought it would be generous of me to peel myself away from the football games for a while and do a holiday-ish activity with the family. I saw that the Grove Arcade in Asheville was having a lighting ceremony on Friday with several fun activities including a performance by the Asheville Symphony Chorus. Perfect!

The festivities weres supposed to begin at 5 pm, and we arrived about 4:45. I was a little surprised to find a parking spot right across the street, but attributed it to being a blessing for being a great Dad. When we went inside the Grove Arcade, we found it beautifully lit and decorated for the Christmas season. I began to wonder what other displays of lighting the coming ceremony would reveal. The crowds inside were light to moderate, but I'll never complain about that.

Five o'clock came and went with no indication of anything about to begin. There were a couple of balcony locations that I thought would be likely for the chorus performance, but no sign of any singers yet. As 5:30 approached with nothing exciting going on, I spied a table with some brochures displayed. One was a card announcing the event we had come to see. I looked over the card to see if there was a schedule of events. That's when I saw the date. November 21. The previous Friday. As in "one week earlier". Oooops!

My mind began to scheme as to how to announce my blunder while still saving face with my family. Nothing came to mind, so I decided to just fess up, and hope that dinner at Papa's And Beer would smooth things over. It did. I know my family. Mexican food can solve many problems.

Well, we missed the event we went to see, but I did get this nice photo of the Vanderbilt Apartments at sunset. So along with the Enchiladas Marias, the evening wasn't a total loss!

Vanderbilt Apartments At Sunset, Asheville, NC  -  2014
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Bigger Is Not Always Better

Thompson's Store, Saluda, NC  -  2014
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Thompson's is the oldest continuously operating grocery store in the state of North Carolina. In business since 1890, the store has operated at its current location since 1940. Take that, Food Lion!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Last Month

Lakeshore Tree, Buncombe County, NC  -  2014
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

One from last month before the colors left us.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Sharp Is Good; Soft Is Sometimes Better

Winter Dock, Asheville, NC  -  2014
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Lens makers always tout the purity of their glass, the precision of their grinding, and the resultant sharpness of their lenses. The clarity and sharpness of modern lenses is amazing, but is sharp always better?

Sharpness is good. If it's not there to begin with, there is really nothing you can do to put sharpness back in to an image after exposure. The various sharpening tools and filters contained in image editing software merely modify the pixels already present. These tools can give the appearance of sharpness, but if it ain't there, it ain't there.

I'm glad for the quality built in to the Zuiko lenses on my Olympus cameras. However, I find myself often softening images in post production, especially in portraits. The "show every pore and wrinkle" clarity my lenses are capable of does not usually flatter adult subjects, especially women. Even with younger adults and teens, a lens that reveals every skin blemish is not the positive that the camera ads make it out to be. Softening, or outright obliteration in post production is often called for.

Landscapes and other nature shots are where I most appreciate the fruit of the lens makers craft, but even there I'm sometimes tempted to soften the image a bit. I like the look of many of the pictorialist photographers of the early 20th century. Sometimes I try to replicate that softer look as in the photo above. The sharpness of today's lenses actually makes it even harder to duplicate the look of soft focus lenses of a hundred years ago. Softening a sharp photo is not as easy as just clicking on a softening or blur filter. Still, getting the softer look right is easier than trying to make a soft photo sharp. My hat's off to you Mr. Zuiko!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Early Bird Photography

Morning Cattails, Buncombe County, NC  -  2014
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Getting up, and getting out early offers many advantages for the photographer. The most interesting light occurs both very early and very late in the day, but you're less likely to run into other people in the early morning hours. I'm not anti-social. I just prefer not to have people in my nature shots, or have to compete with others for that perfect spot to set my tripod. Early on a Saturday morning when most people are sleeping in is a great time to get out alone with your camera.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Sometimes it's just too easy.

I got the opportunity to do portraits for some newlyweds Sunday afternoon, Yam and Brent Burke. I am used to having to work, sometimes very hard, to get the best from people for their portraits. Sometimes with young children it can be a real battle; some adults aren't much easier. Then sometimes you get a couple in their early twenties, still enjoying the bliss of a recent marriage, and man, you're photographing on Easy Street!

Mr. and Mrs. Burke (I'm sure they're not quite used to that designation yet) arrived on time to our outdoor location, full of enthusiasm and ideas. I love it when my subjects have some ideas and poses they want to try. Yam even had some example photos on her phone to show me. This couple was very willing to experiment with my ideas and theirs, and we had a good time trying several "action" type shots. Not all of them worked exactly as we envisioned, but all three of us had fun experimenting. The only trouble I had from these two is when they both started laughing during a kissing shot. Sometimes it's necessary for a photographer to be tough and demanding, so I made them do it over and over until they got it right!

Brent and Yam, Canton, NC  -  2014
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

I chose one of the more traditional poses we did to show here. Altogether, we got about 15 keepers, including some they want to use for their first Christmas card. Sometimes portrait photography can be a lot of work. Sunday, it was just a lot of fun.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Fall Is Fading Fast

Inglorious Ending, Asheville, NC  -  2014
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Friday, November 7, 2014

Switching Gears

Somewhere Along The Virginia Creeper Trail  -  2014
(Click on photo to enlarge,)

I've been mostly posting portraits this week, but I'm out of victims, er, I mean subjects, for the moment. So I decided to go back a couple of weeks to a shot I made along the Virginia Creeper Trail for today's post.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Monday, November 3, 2014

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Seasonal Transitions 2

The Pigeon River, Haywood County, NC  -  2014
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Fall met winter in the western North Carolina Mountains Saturday.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Seasonal Transitions

Canton, NC  -  2014
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

In the western North Carolina mountains, we sometimes get to enjoy two seasons at the same time!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Depot For Sale

Saluda Depot Detail

If anyone is looking for a train depot to buy, I found a nicely restored and renovated one for sale in Saluda, NC. The trains don't run through Saluda anymore, but it's a cool building that should be good for some retail shops. If I were rich, I might make a home out of it! (Click on photos to enlarge.)

Saluda Train Depot

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Sunday, October 26, 2014

More Rural Scenery

Along The Virginia Creeper Trail  -  2014
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Creepin' In Virginia

I spent yesterday bike riding on the Virginia Creeper Trail which runs 34 miles from Whitetop Station to Abington. It's possible to do the whole trail by bike in one day, unless you're making frequent stops for pictures. We took all day to get to the half way point at Damascus, VA. One of our party, Jimmy Wilson, did the second half from Damascus to Abington in 1 hour 41 minutes, which gives you an idea of what a leisurely pace we were maintaining.

The trail follows the route of an old railroad spur through the mountains. The train got the nickname "Virginia Creeper" from it's slow pace over the mountainous terrain. The Creeper carried freight and passengers from the 1880s to 1977. The route is now a popular trail for bikers and hikers, although bikers definitely outnumber the hikers by a huge margin. It's especially popular at this time of year among leaf lookers like me. Here's some of yesterday's photo take (click on photos to enlarge):

We used one of several shuttle services in Damascus to take us and our bikes up to Whitetop Station, the eastern end, and highest point of the trail.

My biking companions for the day, Jimmy and Glenda Wilson, and my neighbor, Ken Johnson.

Glenda took this photo of me and the guys: Ken, me, and Jimmy. These photos were made in a pumpkin patch that was filled with harvested, but yet to be collected pumpkins.

A view of the trail near Whitetop Station. We found the trail to be very well maintained in spite of heavy traffic and recent wet weather.

Some of the pretty rural scenery along the trail

Green Cove Station, a railroad station about a quarter of the way to Damascus. Inside were artifacts and pictures from the railroad's heyday.

One of the many trestles along the route viewed from below

Having another photo bug with me allowed me to get into some of the pictures for a change. Ken took this one near one of the original mile markers - 23 miles from Abington.

Another trestle - Number 18 - with some fall foliage

An "action" shot Ken wanted to try. Actually, I was trying to maintain balance on a stationary bike. I think it came out good, so maybe I shouldn't have given away how we really did it.

Many of the trestles looked like footbridges to me. This was my favorite one because it looks like what I think train trestle should look like.

One more of me, at a pretty spot along a mountain stream.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Friday, October 17, 2014

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Monday, October 13, 2014

Friday, October 10, 2014

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Don't Dis My Point and Shoot

Maggie Valley, NC - October, 2014
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

"I can't use a point and shoot because ____________ ." You'll hear variations of that statement from avid amateurs and wannabe pros all the time. And I agree that there are times when I appreciate the versatility and capability of my DSLR. However, the little point and shoot that we often sneer at is capable of admirable quality if we do our part. The photo above was made with a Canon A2000, a tyro's camera with six year old technology. Just as the stove doesn't make the chef, the camera doesn't make the photographer.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The First Ones

October is here, the days are getting cooler, and the annual Fall color show is in its first stages. The overall color of the mountains is still green right now, but there is an increasing yellowish cast beginning to emerge. Here and there one can even find some red and orange on individual trees.

On my way into Waynesville Saturday morning, I decided to explore some back roads to see how things were progressing. I was looking for those first few examples of the emerging Fall show. I found this lone tree in a pasture, side lit by the morning sun. It appeared to glow against the wooded hill behind it which was still in shadow at this early hour. The grass, shrubs, and most of the other trees in the area are still green, but this lone tree is showing off its Fall glory already. Soon it will be joined by thousands upon thousands of others as the mountains erupt in color in a few short weeks. And I'll be watching.

Lone Tree, Waynesville, NC  -  2014
(Click on photo to enlarge,)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A Little Off Topic Fun: Ugly Unis

None of the photos on today's post were made by me. I "borrowed" them to illustrate one of my pet peeves: ugly football uniforms. In recent years, many college football teams have tried to outdo each other with the most outlandish designs and color combinations. In my opinion, they are usually complete disasters when compared to the more traditional uniforms. Do you want to look good at the next big game? Then just follow my few simple rules:

1. Uniforms should incorporate only your school colors. This rule sounds basic enough, but we see it violated every week. If your school colors are scarlet and white, then don't wear unis with pink, black, burnt orange, etc. Stick to scarlet and white.



If black is one of your school colors, wear it. If black is not a school color, forget about it.

Colorado's colors are black and gold. Black looks good!

TCU's school colors are purple and white. Black looks terrible!

Some teams have gone to adding pink to their color scheme to support breast cancer awareness. Bad move. If you want to help a cause or charity, write a check. Wearing ugly gear is not helping anybody.


So wrong

2. Helmet logos should be simple, and easy to discern from the stands. If the first response to your helmet logo is, "What in the world is that?", it's a fail. Football helmets are a team's primary identifier on the field. They should be distinctive, but easily recognizable by friend and foe alike. Again, simple and traditional usually works best. 

Last year, TCU tried to get cute with putting a red slash on their helmet to represent the blood that comes from a horned toad's eyes. The problem was, nobody got it. If you have to explain your helmet logo, it's a fail.


Unbelievably Wrong

School colors are important with helmets too. Yesterday, Texas A&M lost their minds and thought chrome was one of their school colors. In the bright October sun, it may as well have been white on white. Maybe that's why they got housed by Mississippi State.

Uh, that would be  a "no".

3. Pants and jerseys should be contrasting colors. Some may argue with this one, but, hey this is my blog. I can't think of one example of a team who wears matching pants and jerseys that doesn't make me want to hurl. Even my NFL Saints look like a high school team with a small uniform budget when they wear all black. Contrast always looks better.

Looking Good

Pass the sickbag, please.

4. Don't try a new uniform every week. There's a reason why some uniforms have stood the test of time. Did you ever notice that the traditional football powers don't have a new uniform every week? Alabama (9 national championships in football) may have rather dull uniforms, but they are distinctive and recognizable because they've worn them for years. As soon as you see that crimson helmet adorned only with a number, you know it's Alabama. Likewise, schools like Ohio State, LSU, Oklahoma, USC, and other winners all stick with traditional uniforms with very few exceptions. On the other hand, Oregon (0 national championships in football) has a new (and ugly) uniform every week. Do we see a pattern forming here?


Identity Crisis

Looking good on Saturday is not hard. In fact, you have to work hard to look bad. Nike, UnderArmour, Adidas, etc. spend countless dollars and design hours making teams look awful. Just stick to a few simple rules as I've outlined here, and your team can look like a champion!