Trillums are one of my favorite wild flowers, and they are only around for a relatively short period each spring. There are many varieties, ranging in several shades of white, pink, yellow, and even maroon. I found this Catesby's trillium (also known as rose trillium) at the UNCA botanical gardens last Saturday. The Catesby's is named after British naturalist Mark Catesby (1683-1749) who made two trips to North America to collect and document the plants of our area. He is the author of The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands.
I subscribe to several photography blogs through the Feedly news reader to keep up with all the latest news and information. As with much of the internet, the content of these sites varies widely in quality, but the news reader allows me to skim through and quickly cull out most of the weak or uninteresting articles. It's a real time saver.
Last week I read an article about ten things good photographers should never do. One of the ten "no-nos" was doing partial color black and whites (like the photo above). According to this writer, because they are relatively easy to do with modern software, they have become cliche', and so should be avoided at all cost. I had to agree that some people do them too often, and also that many are poorly done.
However, I still find them fun to do, and some photos seem to benefit from the effect. The stones in the wall in this photo had a somewhat yellowish tone, and I couldn't make the colors of the plant "pop" like I envisioned in my mind. I considered that a partial color version might give me what I was looking for, but I hesitated for two reasons. First, because that article was still fresh in my mind. Secondly, I worry about doing this effect too often already, and the article exacerbated my worries about my own photos becoming too cliche'.
My commitment to keeping my photography fun won out, and I did the conversion. And I found I liked this one better than the full color original. So, risking the wrath of the "experts", I'm posting the partial color version. I hope my viewers can forgive me.
It's dogwood time in the western North Carolina mountains! The earliest blooms appeared a couple of weeks ago, but now the slopes of the local mountains are sprinkled with white. Since most of the larger trees haven't completely leafed out yet, the dogwoods steal the show for a few short weeks in April.
The above photo came from a dogwood that used to reside in my backyard. It got attacked by some kind of fungus, and I was unable to save it, so it contributed to my fireplace the following winter. Like pictures of an old friend, I still have this photo to remember its beauty.
I really wanted to get out today to do some dogwood photography while the trees are at their peak, but the honey-do list is reaching an epic length. I have to go to the Sherwin-Williams commercial store on Riverside Drive in Asheville to buy some pressure washer chemical this morning to do my annual battle with the gunk that grows on the shady side of my house. Hey, wait a minute! That's just a stone's throw away from the UNCA botanical gardens. I may be able to squeeze in a little flower photography after all. Just don't tell Theresa why my "errands" took so long!
Since we moved to North Carolina in 1999, I have always taken one of my vacation weeks when the girls were out of school for spring break, which usually occurs around the third week of April. Sometimes we'd take a vacation trip, other times we'd just explore locally. The timing worked out well because spring is in full bloom by this time. It's a good time to combine spring photography with other activities.
However, both girls are finished with the Haywood County school schedule now, and that left me with a dilemma concerning when to take my spring break. As an experiment, I took a week off when Courtney had her spring break from Appalachian State back in early March. That proved to be a mis-guided decision on several fronts. The second week of March was hardly spring-like, and I ended up spending most of my week putting a new roof on the back porch.
This would be the week I would normally take off, and the weather has been mostly beautiful. As I've been out and about, all I've been able to think about is "I wish I was off this week." I think next year I'll go back to my old routine of taking my spring break in mid April. You can't get pictures like the one below in early March around here!
Springtime In The Smokies, (Location Unrecorded) - 2004
This is one of my all-time favorite waterfall photos, and one one of the first black and white conversions that came out as I originally envisioned. I made it on a day trip with my family back in 2005.
Elk Falls is easy to find and easy to get to. You can park your car within yards of this fall. As a result, there will almost always be other people present. On the day of our visit, there were several teenage boys foolishly climbing on the water slicked rocks that surround the fall. I'm not anti-social, but I prefer not to have an inebriated teenager trying to prove his manhood cluttering up my waterfall photo. To avoid this problem, I chose a very tight composition. I generally like to show a little of the surrounding area to give sense of scale to a fall, and I remember being a little frustrated not being able to do that here. However, when I got back home and got it up on my computer screen, I really liked the tight composition which focused only on the rocks and water.
The idea of simplifying the photo even more by making it a black and white occurred to me, so I pursued that route. At the time, I was having a hard time getting software to give me the results I saw in my mind when making black and white conversions. I was still very much in a learning phase with black and white, but everything just seemed to fall into place on this photo. As I said, it remains one of my favorites to this day.
Yesterday afternoon we took on the Boogerman Trail in Smoky Mountains National Park. This trail is a loop of 7.4 miles, and has an elevation gain of 1040' over about 5 miles of it. Counting the .8 miles each way along the Caldwell Fork Trail to get to the Boogerman trailhead from the parking lot came to 9 miles total. Because of the number of footbridges that were out, we had to do some bushwhacking to find a safe place to ford the creeks, and then find our way back to the original trail, which added to the total. I have spent considerable time on the treadmill since January 1 trying to get in shape for spring hiking, but I wasn't quite ready for the Boogerman. I was a sore, stiff wreck when we finally got back to the parking lot about dark.
The first difficulty we encountered was a footbridge with no bridge! This was right at the main road, so we had to decide whether to wade the creek or abort the mission. We forded, not knowing this would not be the last time we would have to do this. (Click on photos to enlarge.)
A bridge with no planks
Take off your boots and wade!
The water obstacle we had to overcome meant we had the trail mostly to ourselves. Most people bailed when they saw the bridge was out. The first hiker we encountered on the trail was this black snake enjoying the spring sunshine. He was a nice size one - probably about 5' stretched out.
We had heard that there were some huge, old growth trees along the Boogerman. We found this yellow poplar that was the biggest we saw along the trail.
A national champ poplar? Maybe.
We also found this poplar with a burned out trunk. It had enough room inside for all three of us, but somebody had to take the picture.
A natural shelter
Shannon was still trying to figure out his new GPS on this trip. There are several trails that spur off of the Boogerman, so getting confused was a possibility, but Shannon kept us on the right trail and got us back to the car safely.
Where are we?
The two guys I hiked with went at a much faster pace than I'm used to. Since I usually travel with photography in mind, I move a little slower, taking time to look around as I hike. Trying to keep up with these two meant I didn't get as many pictures along the way as I might normally get, but I did stop to photograph this trillium.
There were several mountain communities on the land that Smoky Mountain National Park now occupies. Occasionally, you can find remnants of old homesteads like this one.
Old stone wall from an old farm
Left behind tool - We had no idea what it is
All that's left of an old farm cabin
After taking much longer than we planned, we finally made it back to the car. We were all exhausted (me more than my younger companions), and just a bit scraped up. I was the only one wearing shorts which was a bonus on the stream crossings, but not so good for the bushwhacking parts of the hike.
My leg after doing battle with a laurel thicket
A hot shower and a good night's sleep helped immensely, but I'm still a little stiff this morning. Time on the treadmill this winter certainly helped, but the Boogerman still proved to be a formidable adversary for me. The steep, uphill sections of the trail really took their toll. I survived, but just barely. I guess it's back to the treadmill for me!
I posted another photo of this street musician playing the blues in Asheville a few weeks back (see 3/15/14 post). I thought he was such a good subject (and a good bluesman) that I had to do one more of him.
I've always been impressed with what a professional car detailer can do to make a vehicle look show room new. The skill and patience involved is way beyond my ability. Sometimes, however, I have to do some detailing on a photo. With today's image editing software it can still be a little tedious, but I find I enjoy the results when I get finished.
The photo below was made at the Bush's Bean plant in Chestnut Hill, TN. We were passing through, taking the back roads to Sevierville when I saw this old Ford pick-up outside the Bush's Visitor Center and Museum. Being a lover of old trucks, I had to stop to get a picture. As often happens when photographing vehicles, the background was terrible from any angle. Cars, busses, tourists, and unsightly buildings would compete for attention with my subject from any angle I tried. I finally compromised on this view, hoping I could successfully get rid of the offending background clutter later.
Original, out-of-the-camera version
To isolate the viewer's attention on the truck, all the crapola in the background had to go. Using the clone tool, I replaced the bus, cars, and tourists with less distracting grass and trees. Just to make sure, I then added just a bit of blur to the background. I don't think my photo will be leaking any oil or rolling away, so I also got rid of the tire chock and oil drip pan that was under the truck. Now, that's better!
Bush's Beans Pick-up Truck, Chestnut Hill, TN - 2014