Wednesday, March 26, 2014

One Stop Shopping

As frequent visitors to My Viewfinder 2 already know, I am always on the lookout for a good sign. Anything funny, quirky, odd, or unusual - I want a picture of it. I like old signs, and ones with mis-spellings are a particular treasure. And so I introduce my newest acquisition, the Drug & Gun billboard.

Drug & Gun Billboard, Cherokee County, NC  -  2014
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Is this a slice of life from one of America's inner cities? No, this beauty resides on U.S. 64 West, just a few miles outside Murphy, NC. The combination of the words "Drug & Gun" is an attention getter for sure, along with the bright yellow print, and a photo of a new Ruger SR1911 pistol. Who would have thought of combining a gun store with a pharmacy? I guess in northern Georgia where this store resides, being able to get your prescription and a box of .45 ACP in the same location meets a local need. The store owners are obviously hoping that their neighbors in nearby North Carolina will also see the wisdom in this one stop shopping opportunity!

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Modern Hiker

As with every other activity in today's world, hiking has become high-tech. Yesterday I went hiking with my friend, Shannon Blaylock, who has a GPS made for hikers. In the palm of his hand, he had an unbelievable wealth of information.

I've always been a map and compass man, but I have to admit that my friend's GPS gave us some interesting info. It had a topo map of the area we were hiking in (Shining Rock Wilderness Area), and all the hiking trails. We were scouting potential camping sites for future trips, and never got very far off the established trails, so getting lost was never a real danger. Still, knowing how far we had hiked (a little over 7 miles), our elevation at various points, and being able to bookmark spots that looked like good camp sites was helpful.

Where Are We?, Shinning Rock Wilderness Area, NC  -  2014
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

In the photo above, Shannon is checking his GPS where Shining Creek meets the East Fork of the Pigeon River. There's a hole that looked to be about 5-6 feet deep here that would be a good spot for a summertime swim. With temps in the upper 30s, however, we passed on the swimming.

I don't know if I'm ready to go high tech and invest in a GPS yet, but it was intriguing to see some of what one can do. I've got a Silva Ranger compass that I bought when I was 18, and it has gotten me back to the truck for many years without having to worry if the batteries would run out. So, I think I may remain low tech for the present time.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


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

It's been a typical March in the southern Appalachian mountains so far: some days feel like spring, and others feel like we're still in the full grip of winter. On the warmer days spring fever starts to take hold, and then suddenly, a blast of winter returns. It can be very confusing sometimes. However, the crocus blooms have popped up, and that's a sure sign that spring is indeed on the way. Don't look at the thermometer, look at the crocus. There's hope in those little flowers.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

I'm Drawing A Blank

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

I should really invest in a little notebook to take with me when I'm out with my camera. Sometimes I see something that catches my eye and makes me want to photograph it, and then I move on without finding out what it was. Such is the case here. I have no idea what this is, so I have no idea what to call it, except interesting.

Friday, March 14, 2014

More From The Streets

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

Monday, March 10, 2014

I Never Learned To Play

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

One regret I have is that I never learned to play a musical instrument when I was younger. Yeah, I know, it's never too late to learn something new, but it's more of a time thing now. I saw this young woman playing a washboard as part of a quartet in Asheville last week, and I thought, "That's one instrument I think I could become competent on comparatively quickly." The only drawback is that if I got really good, at some point I'd want the band to let me cut loose with a solo. Can you solo on a washboard? Probably not.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Action Photography In Church

I've posted before about how any kind of action photography is a hit or miss proposition. What may look smooth and natural when viewed at regular speed can look awkward, or even funny, when viewed as a fraction of a second excerpt. While my pastor is not overly animated when he preaches, he does move around a bit, and photographing anyone when they are speaking requires scores of exposures to get something natural looking.

Pastor Alan Davis, Waynesville, NC  -  2014
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Last Sunday I made over 80 exposures to get this one that I really like. This is when a digital camera begins to pay for itself. This would have been prohibitively expensive for a hobbyist like me if I was using a film camera.

I shot this from the back of the church in the little room where the audio people work. No one can see or hear me shooting from there, so I'm not a distraction. Of course, that means shooting with my zoom lens racked out all the way, and ISO set at 3200. That's usually not a formula for the sharpest results, although this one came out OK.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Endless Variety

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

There's a constant rotation of street musicians in downtown Asheville on the weekends. I seldom see the same group twice, which is a shame because many of them are very good. Bluegrass, folk, classical, rock, jazz - you name it, you'll hear somebody playing it eventually if you visit regularly. The street musicians are usually as interesting visually as they are musically - a delight for my ears and my camera!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Nobody Noticed

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

I'm usually a little shy about photographing strangers on the street. If you want to watch an example of how I DON'T do street photography, watch this short video of New York photographer Bruce Gilden. I don't think I could ever get up the nerve to do what he does!

At Mardi Gras in Asheville last Sunday afternoon the pickin's was easy. Everybody had a camera of some sort, everyone was taking pictures, and nobody was objecting to having their picture taken. I wish it was that easy every time I went out to do some street photography!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Other Things Going On

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

There were other forms of entertainment going on in downtown Asheville Sunday afternoon besides the Mardi Gras parade. I always enjoy the variety of street musicians performing in the Battery Park/Haywood Street area.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Too harsh?

Occasionally, maybe twice a year, I get an e-mail from "Anonymous". I'm never real sure if it's the same person each time, but there does seem to be some similarities in tone and writing style. He, she, or they prefer to communicate with me by e-mail instead of the comments section so as "not to embarrass you publicly". Well, thank you, Anonymous!

Yesterday Anonymous took me to task for being too harsh in my appraisal of Asheville's version of Mardi Gras in Monday's post. Anonymous said it was unfair to compare Asheville's Mardi Gras with the real thing in New Orleans. He claimed Asheville's version was much closer to the real thing than I insinuated because many former New Orleanians helped plan it. Then the final dagger: "You're probably not really from New Orleans, and I doubt you've ever been to the real Mardi Gras more than once or twice." Whoa! I was ready to ignore this as just another crank e-mail until my credentials were challenged. Them's fightin' words, partner!

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

So, Anonymous, if you're reading today, I am in fact a native New Orleanian. I was born on Napoleon Avenue in what was then Baptist Hospital. Except for my college years, I lived in the New Orleans area for the first 41 years of my life. While I'm no Arthur Hardy, I've been to Mardi Gras more than "once or twice". I've experienced Mardi Gras as a child sitting on my Dad's shoulders, as a teenager, as a young adult, and as a married adult with my own children sitting on my shoulders. I've done Mardi Gras uptown, downtown, in the French Quarter, in the suburbs, and even in Fat City. I know what a Mardi Gras parade is supposed to be like, and what I saw Sunday in Asheville wasn't it.

I didn't criticize the organizers and participants. The spirit and enthusiasm was obviously there, but they just bit off more than they could chew as far as execution. Is it unfair to compare Mardi Gras in Asheville with the real thing in New Orleans? Probably, but fair or not, Mardi Gras in New Orleans is the standard of comparison. Understandably, it's a lot to live up to. Asheville's Mardi Gras organizers don't have to be ashamed of their efforts, but we have to be real about comparisons. Was I too harsh? I don't think so; I certainly didn't mean to be. But let's be honest, once you've eaten steak at Ruth's Chris, it's hard to be impressed with Ryan's.

So, Anonymous, if you're reading today, have a Happy Mardi Gras!

Monday, March 3, 2014

An Asheville Mardi Gras

We've been transplants in western North Carolina for almost 15 years now. We've enjoyed many new and different experiences over the years, many of them unique to this area. And there's probably just as many we haven't tried yet. Until yesterday, Mardi Gras in Asheville was one of them. When you have grown up where Mardi Gras got started, it's difficult to imagine that a reproduction anywhere else could be near as interesting. I've been disappointed by too many "Cajun" restaurants in various parts of the country, and I figured Mardi Gras in Asheville would be another waste of time. (I was half right.) I really hadn't been tempted to even check it out. The event is hardly promoted, so it was almost by accident that I stumbled into the festivities while in Asheville yesterday afternoon.

The parade itself was totally lame. I know, it's not fair to compare it to the parades I am used to in New Orleans, but that is my frame of reference. Only one marching band? You call that a float? Wait, it's over already? Yeah, Ashevillians have much to learn about putting on a parade. And by the way, Asheville, when you go to a parade, leave the #*@! dog at home. But it wasn't all bad.

As I roamed the crowd with my camera, I discovered quite a few interesting costumes. In fact, I was impressed with the number of people who had dressed in costume for the occasion. While Asheville still has much to learn about parading, their imagination, enthusiasm, and the spirit of Mardi Gras were apparent almost everywhere. Also, the crowds were amazingly well behaved and friendly. Unbelievably, in the two hours or so that I spent in the parade area, I only saw two cops! Try a police presence like that in New Orleans and watch how quickly things unravel!

After surveying the parade situation at its assembly point on Wall St., I decided it would be best to leave the overall parade shots to the camera phone crowd. The most interesting sights were obviously the individual costumers, so I decided to work that angle and focus on portraits of the revelers. Here are some of my favorites from yesterday afternoon. (Click on photos to enlarge.)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Charleston At Night

In my visits to Chareleston, SC, I discovered several similarities to my hometown of New Orleans. One big difference I found was that I felt much safer in Charleston, both during the day, and at night. Sure, there's crime in Charleston, but overall, I found the city to be a much safer (and cleaner) environment.

Like most cities, Charleston takes on a completely different look at night. Most of the important buildings are lit up at night, and of course, I wanted to capture that nighttime look with my camera.  It was just me and my daughter Courtney that night. Theresa was exhausted from a day of walking, shopping, and sightseeing, so she decided to rest up at the hotel. Walking around with an expensive camera, and only an 18 year old girl to watch my back is something I would never do in the New Orleans French Quarter at night. In downtown Charelston, however, we felt safe enough to continue exploring well after dark.

I made several photos that night, some I have posted previously. This is the Dock Street Theatre, which is actually on Church Street.

Dock Street Theatre, Charleston, SC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

The original building, opened in 1736, was the first building in America intended exclusively for theatrical performances. That building was destroyed in a fire in 1740. In 1809, Planter's Hotel (where "Planter's Punch" originated) was built on the sight, and in 1835 the wrought iron balcony was added. After the Civil War, the hotel fell on hard times, and the building deteriorated to the point where it was scheduled for demolition. In 1935, the building was offered for sale to the city of Charleston, and became a WPA project. The present theatre was built within the shell of the Planter's Hotel, and today it is on the National Register of Historic Places.