Sunday, August 30, 2015

Addition and Subtraction

Front End Detail, Waynesville, NC  -  2015
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

I once read that the difference between painting and photography is that painting is about addition, and photography is about subtraction. With painting, you start with a blank canvas and add whatever content you want included in your composition. When using a camera, you start with everything that is present, and by various means subtract what you do not want included in your photo.

In the photo above I knew I had to subtract the content that I didn't want included in my photo: mainly, other cars and the other people viewing the cars. I chose to focus attention on the exposed components of this car's front end instead of trying to capture the entire car. I thought this was one of the more interesting aspects of this vehicle, and by squatting down for a low viewing angle and framing tight, I could exclude unwanted and distracting elements. By simply learning to subtract, anyone can make better and more interesting photos.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Last Calla

Last Calla, Canton, NC  -  2015
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

The blooming phase of my wife's late planted Calla lilies is over for this year. They are well established now, and I'm looking forward to more and bigger blooms next June.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Tree Stole The Show

Survive and Flourish, Avery County, NC  -  2015
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

I went to see a waterfall.

I wrote about my trip to Crabtree Falls in last Friday's post, but I left out an important detail. As beautiful as that fall was, I found I was even more fascinated by a tree.

At the base of the fall, about 10-12 yards down stream, a tree about 40' tall was growing on top of a boulder. Somehow over the years it had not only survived, but flourished on its seemingly precarious perch. Decades ago, a seed had found a bit of soil in a crack in this boulder, and it sprouted and began to grow. It was able to hang on during countless rain-swelled torrents, while its roots were somehow able to find support and nutrients clinging to its rocky home atop the boulder. It's a survival story to match any in the forest.

As I scrambled among the rocks at the base of the fall, looking for different angles for my photos, I found myself becoming more interested in this tree than the fall. Soon I was relegating the fall to the role of being merely a backdrop for the tree. Because of how the tree was positioned in front of the fall, many photographers have probably thought of it as being in the way. Some may have wished it was gone. To me, however, it became the star of the show.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A Challenging New Camera

Library Stairwell, Boone, NC  -  2015
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Two weeks ago, my oldest daughter dragged me a little further into the 21st century by convincing me to finally trade in my nine year old flip phone for a new smartphone. After a few stumbles (I lost one call by trying to answer the phone with it held upside down), I'm finally getting used to the thing. Of course, one of the first things I had to check out after learning to make calls and to text was the built in camera.

Smartphone photos are made by the billions each day. Most are just typical, boring snapshots, but I have seen some very beautiful and interesting photos made with these cameras. There are websites dedicated to smartphone photography displaying work that is as much "art" as anything made with more sophisticated cameras. So I was anxious to see what my newest camera was capable of.

My initial attempts with the smartphone were in a word, disappointing. Having used DSLRs for several years, I'm used to their level of versatility and quality. The smartphone camera had very little of either when compared to a modern DSLR. Tack sharp photos? Broad dynamic range? Forget about it. I quickly became disenchanted with the thing.

As I went back and looked at some of the better smartphone photography online, I began to notice a common denominator. The smartphone photographers worked within the limitations of their camera, and in many cases enhanced their photos by degrading the technical quality even more with apps like Snapseed. Then it clicked for me - don't ask the camera to do more than it is capable of doing. Work within its limitations, and take advantage of it's strengths. (Its main strength is that it's always handy.) Then use apps, or software on my computer to build on the basic image.

The photo above was a little on the soft side, at least compared to what I'm sued to with my DSLR. So instead of trying to sharpen a soft image (a fools errand, usually), I softened it a little more with software, creating a more pictorialist feel.

One of the things that has kept me interested in photography since I bought my first real camera in 1982 is the never ending challenge of it. There is always something new to try, something new to learn. Now with a smartphone camera, and its inherent limitations, I have a whole new set of challenges to explore and enjoy. And I've learned how to text too!

Friday, August 14, 2015

It Took Years To Get This One

Crabtree Falls, Yancey County, NC  -  2015
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

I made my 7th "Move A Daughter To Boone" trip yesterday as Courtney begins her junior year at Appalachian State. Besides the beginning and end of the year moving trips, I've made countless other trips to Boone over the years for various reasons. To break up the monotony I've tried different routes, including traveling part of the way on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was on one of those trips that I first became aware of Crabtree Falls.

I learned that getting to this fall required a hike of a little less than a mile from the BRP. However, because of time restraints, or not wanting to leave a pick-up truck full of my daughter's belongings sitting in the parking lot, I never got to make the hike. I kept saying to myself, "One day!", but one day hadn't happened since my first journey to Boone in 2008.

Finally, on this trip I decided to spend the night, and leave myself enough time to photograph this fall on the way home the next day. So this morning I left my hotel in Blowing Rock at around 5:30 a.m. to get to the Crabtree Falls trail head around sunrise. Why so early? To avoid the tourists, and to get my photos before direct sunlight hits the falls and blows out the highlights. It took years to finally get my photo, but I thoroughly enjoyed my hike and my time at this beautiful NC mountain location.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Home Time

Courtney and Heather, Canton, NC  -  2015
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

It was one of those too rare weekends when we had both girls home for a visit. Theresa wanted an updated photo of them, so yesterday after church we stopped at the Canton Rec Park for a quick portrait by the Pigeon River.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Arriving Late

Calla Lily, Canton, NC  -  2015
(Click on photo to enlarge,)

Usually, Calla Lilies are through blooming in mid June around here. Of course, if, like my wife, you wait until July to plant the bulbs, you get Callas in August. I don't thing Callas can read a calendar anyway.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Location, Location, Location!

On Waterrrock Knob, Haywood, County, NC  -  2015
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

I received a few questions about the location of the photo I posted Sunday as my new Facebook profile picture. That photo was a crop from the one above which shows more of the location and background.

This photo of me was made by my daughter Courtney on the peak of Waterrock Knob (Elev. 6293'). It is one of the places she wanted to go while she was home from college for a couple of weeks. The peak is reached by a short (1.2 miles round trip) hike from a parking area on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Mile Post 451. If you look closely near my elbow you can see a tiny portion of the Parkway far below. The first half of the trail is paved, but fairly steep. It even had my daughter's heart pounding, and she's an everyday runner. The second half is not quite as steep, but very rocky all the way to the top. The hike is well worth it as the views of the surrounding Pisgah National Forest from the top are magnificent!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Don't Pity The Tree

Dead Tree And Moon, Haywood County, NC  -  2015
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Because trees are such relatively long lived organisms, sometimes living hundreds, or even thousands of years, we sometimes think they should live forever. Not so. Like us, they have a prime of life, then they get old, become weaker and more susceptible to disease and injury, and then they die. It's the natural order of things.

The tree pictured above lived a full life on top of Waterrock Knob near the Blue Ridge Parkway. I don't know how old it was or how it died. I'm sure it observed the construction of the Parkway, and then countless visitors to its home on top of the mountain. Eventually, insects, disease, or maybe lightning ended its life. Now hikers see this tree and think it's such a shame that it's dead. Not really.There is a new generation of younger trees growing up around it to crown this mountain peak. To really enjoy nature, one has to observe and appreciate all its phases - life and death. Even in it's current state, it still has a certain kind of stark beauty, don't you think?

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Just For Me

Windows And Lamp, Asheville, NC  -  2015
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

I made this photo on a Sunday afternoon in June when I was bored and decided just to take a walk around downtown Asheville by myself. I realize that not everybody gets this kind of photo, but I just liked the combination of colors, shapes and textures. Since I shoot mainly for my own enjoyment, I took the shot. And a month later I still like it.