Monday, January 27, 2014

A Winter Past

Dogwood In Snow, Canton, NC  -  2010
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Another blast of Arctic cold is supposed to be headed our way. I'm hoping it doesn't bring any more snow with it; I've had quite enough winter weather for this year. This photo was taken after a big dump of snow in December, 2010. My neighbor's dogwood tree looked like it was sprouting cotton balls as the wet snow clumped up in the previous year's buds.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Photography is more than just cameras

When I first got interested in the digital side of photography back in 2003 I had much learning to do. At that time I was a fairly knowledgeable film photographer, but knew nothing about digital. I purchased several of the readily available "how to" photography magazines in an attempt to try to get up to speed before purchasing my first digital camera. I still have some of those now 11 year old magazines, and while browsing through them recently, I was reminded of something about photography.

Those magazines from 2003 were filled with gorgeous photographs. The cameras that made those photos were no doubt state of the art at the time, but we would find their specs almost laughable now. Compared to today's offerings, those '03 models are true dinosaurs! Still, those "dinosaurs" were capable of making some excellent photos. What gives?

It has always been true that good photos are made by people, not machines. People that have taken the time to learn a little about such things as composition, lighting, and exposure can produce quality work with even the simplest cameras. Reading the user guide and actually learning how to operate your camera helps too. On the other hand, the owner of the latest whizz-bang model from Japan who just opens the box and starts firing away, depending completely on the camera's automation, is likely to produce crap with every click.

Below is a photo from my first day with my first digital camera, a Canon Powershot G3. I spent a few hours on a Saturday morning just walking around my yard trying to see what this little camera could do. I admit that I was then a film snob, and still a little skeptical about what kind of quality a digital camera could produce. Those first photos sold me completely on digital, and I haven't shot one frame of film since. (Click on photos to enlarge.)

I thought the detail and sharpness was really impressive, even compared to film. As you can see in the crop below, the tiny strands on the ends of the stamens were clear and sharp, on a flower that was about the diameter of a quarter. Not bad for a 4 MP camera with a sensor about the size of my pinky fingernail. That's right, I said 4 MP! Cell phones have that spec smoked nowadays.

On the second crop below, note the tiny hairs on the edge of these buds! I knew that first day that digital was fully capable of giving me the quality I was looking for. That was back in 2003. Even the most basic digital cameras today are capable of amazing quality. The difference maker is you!

What make and model of camera do you own? How old is it? I'll bet it's newer and more sophisticated than my 2003 era Canon G3. In other words, your camera is good enough. If you're not satisfied with how your photos are coming out, a newer camera is likely not the answer; taking the time to learn some basics about photography is. Visit some sites like Digital Photography School, learn a few things about your camera, and you'll be amazed of what that old camera, and you, can do!

Friday, January 24, 2014

More Examples Of Why I Always Carry A Camera

"A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour." (Unknown)

I didn't have to take a detour last Tuesday, but I did get the opportunity to enjoy the scenery while stuck in traffic behind a wreck in the Nantahala gorge.

The view ahead through my windshield

The snow had turned the gorge into Christmas card-like views, so while I sat, I decided to shoot! Of course, you have to have your camera with you to get happenstance photos like these. Like they say, f8 and be there! (Click on photos to enlarge.)

Roadside Creek


Everything looks prettier in the snow

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Going, going, gone!

Photographer Walker Evans seemed to have a knack for knowing what mundane, everyday scenes would be interesting to viewers 50-75 years in the future. I can imagine that his photos of depression-era America might have seemed ho-hum at the time, but they are so fascinating to look at now because they show us a world that no longer exists. 

I have sometimes tried to take the same approach, photographing what may soon be only a memory from my times. It's not easy. What's common now, but will soon disappear? Video stores come to mind, and so many are already gone as we now live in a downloadable world. Sometimes things disappear before I realize they are on the way out.

Riverside Barber Shop, Bryson City, NC  -  2008
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Those who know me might find it hard to believe that at one time I actually had regular need for a barber shop, but I did. And the old style barber shop was the kind I preferred. Wack Brothers in Metairie, LA, and Thompson's in Ruston, LA are two I remember with particular fondness. They were so different in atmosphere from the "Style Salons" and chain haircutters that seem to be prevalent today. One chain, Sport Clips, has tried to recapture the feel of a real men's barber shop with its sports centered theme, but it's just not the same. I'm afraid the independently owned, 1-3 chair barber shop is going the way of the video store, so I better get moving on capturing images of these places before they are all gone.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

27° is too cold!

27°. That's the forecast high for today. And tomorrow. Is it any wonder I haven't been out with my camera lately? I did take a few snaps while I was stuck behind a wreck in the Nantahala gorge yesterday, but I was too exhausted when I got home to even download them from my camera. Maybe tomorrow.

We Three Springs, Canton, NC  -  2005
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

This is from December, 2005 while exploring the rail yard at the local paper mill. I don't know if I was supposed to be wandering around in there, but nobody chased me out, and I got a few interesting photos on another cold winter day. I guess I had Christmas on my mind when I named this one.

Friday, January 17, 2014

His Steadfast Love

Psalm 94:18 
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

As I have already shared with my Facebook friends, I had a terrifying experience on my way home from work Wednesday night. On I-40, which appeared to be clear and dry, I suddenly found myself careening sideways after hitting an unseen patch of icy road. I slid from the right lane across the left lane, hit inside guardrail with the left front corner of my truck, spun around backwards, slid back across both lanes again, and finally came to rest on the right shoulder facing the wrong way. I felt like I was watching a NASCAR wreck from the in-car camera. I was unhurt, but my poor little pickup will be in the shop for a while with its injuries.

The miracle was that in sliding completely across the highway twice, I hit no one, and no one hit me. I was blessed that there were no other vehicles close to me at the time I lost control because an emergency stop would have been impossible for anybody. I shudder to think what might have happened if there had been any big trucks coming up behind me. Instead, I came to rest, unhurt, on the shoulder, out of the way of oncoming traffic. I truly feel that my life had been spared.

A couple of my Facebook friends commented that His angels were watching over me that night. Who knows what means God used to preserve me Wednesday night, but I'm thankful that His steadfast love did hold me up!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Little Winter Time Clean-up

Yesterday's post and today's are photos I made way back in August of 2013. The Winter months are a good time to catch up on work from the previous months since it's often too cold (for me) to get out much. So here are two more signs from my walk-about in Black Mountain. This finishes up the leftovers from August (finally!), and adds two more to my sign collection. (Click on photos to enlarge.)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Please Don't Take The Signs

One thing I share in common with one of my photographic heroes, Walker Evans, is a love for signs. I enjoy seeing the creativity employed in trying to make a sign eye-catching and memorable. Sometimes the designer succeeds, sometimes not. Crisp, simple graphics seem to work best as in the example below.

Ale House Sign, Black Mountain, NC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Walker Evans apparently liked signs so much that he was known to occasionally remove a sign (if no one was around) and take it home with him. I guess all heroes have their flaws. A ladder, screwdriver, and wrench are not usually part of my camera bag, so I was happy just to take home a digital copy of this one.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Down By The Frozen Creek

While stopped to make the photo on yesterday's post, I saw a creek down below where I was parked. The creek was still mostly frozen even though temperatures had crept up into the low 40s that day. It looked like some promising photo opportunities were down there, but it was way down there - about 150' down a very steep bank. Another problem was that I had neglected to put my shoulder strap back on my camera. With one hand holding the camera, that left me with only one hand to climb with.

I debated and hesitated before finally attempting the climb down. My third step was onto a flat rock that broke loose when I put my weight on it. I completely lost my footing for a second, but I had a good grip on a small tree, so disaster was averted. I could feel that cool sweat that breaks out on your forehead when you get a good scare, but I decided to continue down. I think sometimes men have to do things that scare them a little. I don't know why that is, but we've all done it, and keep doing it. I guess it's just the way God wired us - the lust for adventure.

I managed to find a safe path the rest of the way down with no damage to me or my camera. I was rewarded with a winter wonderland of a frozen creek with water flowing underneath the ice. These were the best shots of the bunch. Because of the cold by the river, and the exertion of the climb down, my hands weren't their steadiest. I tried bracing myself against trees, but a tripod would have made for sharper photos. But then I wouldn't have had any hands free for climbing! (Click on the photos to enlarge.)

I purposefully left out a shot of the creek from the road. I'll be in enough trouble when my daughters find out that their old Dad attempted something like this solo without letting them see exactly where I was climbing. We'll just keep that part of the story to ourselves.

Friday, January 10, 2014

A Day On Work Release

Frozen Drips, Avery County, NC  -  2014
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

In the freight business, January is usually one of the slowest months of the year. However, because of gross under-staffing (part of the trendy "Lean" business philosophy), we've been busier than a one armed wall paper hanger. For the past three weeks I haven't had much time for anything but work and getting ready to go back to work. There certainly hasn't been any time for photography.

I was able to take a personal day yesterday to drive Courtney back to Boone for the start of the new semester at Appalachian State. I used time on the drive back to do a little exploring with my camera, and I found these ice formations from the water that constantly seeps from the cliff face on 221 in Avery County. The combination of the ice on the dark, rough stone seemed to demand a B&W rendition. I also got to spend some time scrambling down to a frozen creek about 150' below the highway. I'll post some of those photos later. It was a day away from the chaos at work that I sorely needed!

Saturday, January 4, 2014


One O Four, Charleston, SC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

I've either been too busy, or the weather has been to cold to go out and make pictures lately. So, like a bear living off the fat he put on on the warmer months, I've gone back to re-visit photos made in the warmer months of 2013. While sipping coffee and listening to some classic Rory Gallagher music, I looked over some photos I made on a trip to Charleston last April. Ones like this brought back memories of an enjoyable trip and warmer weather.