A place for me to share my recent work, random musings on photography and reflect on my thoughts, experiences, ideas and revelations.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Productive Year

Considering that I started out the year planning to take it easy on picture taking in order to get something done other than add to my ever-increasing backlog of image processing, I still managed to burn almost 10,000 images this year! For people who spend a lot more time pressing the button than I do that's a busy week, but for me that's a BUNCH!

For the last couple of years I have been keeping a list of goals that I wanted to accomplish. My goals for 2008 set a pretty high bar for someone who does this part-time and for fun while trying to have a somewhat normal life and pay sufficient attention to my lovely companion, assistant and steadying influence (that would be Kathy). Despite all the distractions of Real Life I managed to get some things done:

(1) I created and distributed to potential clients a list of my existing stock inventory.
(2) I started and regularly updated my photo blog,
(3) I totally revamped my website and kept it updated with my best and most recent work. MAJOR BIGGIE and thanks Neon Sky!
(4) I finally put together a group of my Greenway images for a public show. Yeah, it was just a show at a local art-in-the-park show but it was a START.
(5) I prepared and presented a talk on Digital Workflow with Lightroom to our local CNPA chapter.
(6) I had two images published in one new publication (Blue Ridge Country)

The two unfinished biggies from 2008 that I had just moved to the top of the list for 2009 were (1) to finally get around to sending some of my images into a local stock agency and to (2) develop a process for registering my copyrights. Welllll, just this weekend and just under the wire, I started working on that stock agency project. I now have on my desk a stack of 10 DVDs, containing about 2600 of my images from 2004 to today. They'll go to the agency on Monday, and that will cross one more thing off my list for 2008. I now have a process in place using Smart Collections in Lightroom to automatically put new images into a folder for future submissions.

According to my calculations I've processed about 1000 of those 10000 images and have another 1500 or so "picks" to process or toss, so I still have my work cut out for me. But there's still a lot of winter to go!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

It's nice to have a few days away from the office from my Day Job, although I am technically Working From Home on Friday and do need to get some work done while I am here. The commute is certainly better than usual!

One of a number of door images taken on our walk around Old San Juan (Puerto Rico) on our recent cruise. I thought the wreath on this door made it appropriate for a Christmas Day post.

I hope to do some more posting over the weekend, depending on what other responsibilities crop up.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Vacation Photos!

I just posted a gallery of images from our recent cruise aboard Celebrity Solstice. Click on this link for the gallery, and enjoy. It's not a comprehensive travelogue, and will disappoint anyone looking for complete coverage of the ship or the islands, but I was On Vacation and trying to act like it! I do think I came back with a number of nice shots.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Angles and Clouds

We just returned from our annual cruise, this year aboard the almost-brand-new Celebrity Solstice. What a beautiful ship and what a wonderful vacation! It's Kathy's reward for following me around the mountains in October and November chasing fall color.

One afternoon while lounging by the pool I happened to notice these glass panels that serve as a wind break between sections of the deck. From certain angles they reflected the clouds, but I just liked the way the shapes interacted with the clouds, without reflection. I didn't even have to get out of my chair for this shot - proof that if you look around you'll be amazed at what you can find.

I'll be posting some more of these artsy shots as well as some vacation snaps soon!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Snow Job!

Our latest magazine assignment was to shoot photos for an article about Banner Elk, NC for the January/February issue of WNC magazine. Since the article is to feature activities in the winter months, and since Banner Elk is known for being a ski destination, we kinda needed to get some snow to make it look like someplace you'd actually go and ski, right?

I was sweating this one, because I needed to have the photos turned in around the beginning of December, I really wanted to get some snow shots, and most importantly, it doesn't usually snow very much there in November, and when it does it doesn't always stick around very long. I also don't have any more unscheduled vacation days from my day job, so it would be really convenient for me if it would snow on, say, a Friday so I could go there on a Saturday.

Needless to say, luck was a-shinin' on me, because this past Thursday night and Friday morning Banner Elk got about 6 inches of the beautious white stuff. Add that up with a really helpful marketing director at Sugar Mountain Resort and Kathy & I copped a trip on the chair lift to the top of 5300' Sugar Mountain! Lots of ski and snowboard shots, and everything just looked so nice and winterly with a good coat of snow.

This view is from the top of Sugar Mountain looking down over Banner Elk and the Elk River Valley. Those tracks in the foreground? The ones that look like they lead off a cliff? They lead to an actual ski trail called Boulder Dash, which is a not-for-sissies black diamond trail. I didn't think I would try to look over the edge!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

2009 Calendar Available!

My primary goal for this weekend was to complete my 2009 calendar, which I offer for sale to friends and co-workers each year. The price is a mere $20, which essentially covers my cost to print them. If I order enough I do get a quantity discount, but it doesn't even cover the cost of the few that I give away as gifts and promotional items.

This year's theme is "A Year of Color" and consists of 12 images from 2008. A complete sample of the images can be found at my website. Click on the "2009 Calendar" link. Contact me by 11/30/08 at the link on my website to order a copy.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Snow Geese!

I am now hopelessly behind. I made the mistake last night of adding up the number of images I have taken since and including our trip to the coast in September. With the exception of a few images I have processed and those done and turned in for magazine assignments I now have approximately 5000 images to edit and process. Yikes and thank goodness for Lightroom!

A number of people have asked about the Snow Geese we shot at Chincoteague this past weekend. What an amazing trip and a wonderful place to photograph! More to come on that.

This was a quick one to answer some questions I had gotten about what Snow Geese look like. Here are a bunch of them!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Even More Fall

Starting to wade back through the images from the last several weeks. This was one of those "stop-the-car-I've-got-to-shoot-this" moments. Found along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, just south of Fancy Gap.

For anyone interested the tractor is a McCormick-Deering Farmall F-14, probably 1939-ish.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Small Scenes and Abstracts

Kathy and I spent what will officially be our last fall weekend of the year in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is just about our favorite place in the world. One of my favorite spots for fall color in the Smokies is the Tremont area, on the Tennessee side but away from the mayhem of Cades Cove and Gatlinburg. Tremont is an out of the way gem with plenty of places for exploring, from literally steps to miles from the road.

I love capturing small scenes that give the impression of huge color, especially reflections of sunlit trees in shaded water. This particular rock was in an area of stream that was simultaneously reflecting yellow leaves and deep blue sky. I juiced the colors just a little for contrast but this is really what it looked like.

More to come as I get caught up on processing!

More Fall

I came across this gem from last week's trip to Brevard and had to share. This was shot from Cherry Cove Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. See the previous post for the story about how this stop turned out to be the three hour shooting extravaganza of the weekend. This is one of my favorites and I am dying for time to see how it looks when printed!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Looking Vs. Seeing

We had an interesting experience this past weekend that has gotten me to thinking. Usually when we head to a location I have a general idea of the places I am going to go, and I come up with some ideas of the types of things we are going to try to shoot based on what my notes or my research tell me about a place, with lots of flexibility built in for serendipity and opportunity. Certain locations lend themselves to specific subjects, such as colors reflected in pools of water along a river or stream, agricultural vistas, layers of mountain ridges, etc. There's often a dilemma about sunrise or sunset, because often the good locations for sunrise and sunset are mutually exclusive of places that might have other characteristics, such as waterfalls and places with easy access to water, etc.

Such was the case this past weekend. Pounding Mill Overlook is unsurpassed for a sunrise location near Brevard, and Cowee Mountains Overlook is the absolute tops for sunset this time of the year. Pounding Mill is a 30-minute drive from Brevard, not bad, but it is also 30-minutes or more back down to the good spots for water. That section of the Parkway has a high potential for dramatic atmospherics under certain conditions. This past Saturday was a typically excellent Pounding Mill morning, with clouds and fog in the valley and a clear sky above, enough wind to move the clouds around the ridges, over some of the lower ones and just generally keeping things interesting. Sun comes up, shoot the contours and textures, wait to see what happens, clouds roll in and that's it. Socked in. Now what? Stay and see what happens? Head down to the valley and see if the fog is thin enough to get some dreamy color but not so thick that you can't see? Drive up and down the Parkway looking for that perfect scene? Tough choice.

I was with a group, which is not usually the case, but it was only four cars and individuals that I have come to know as flexible and easy going, instead of the manic-panic-gotta-drive-until-I-find-the-perfect-place-even-if-it-means-racing-around-like-a-maniac-until-dark-and-never-getting-any-pictures types. These are probably the same people who drive 10 minutes out of their way to avoid a 5 minute traffic jam (topic for another essay - people who are always in a hurry but never get anywhere and still are always late). Oops, digression! We decided that our best bet would be to head to either a lower elevation or a higher elevation, knowing that lower would maybe get us soft, diffused light but that higher would maybe get us dramatic clouds in the valleys. A just-right elevation would maybe get us the best of both, with clouds rolling in and out, creating a soft light then revealing a dramatic valley.

As happens way too often on the Parkway, we headed south and in the first mile passed a number of beautiful scenes that were nowhere close to an overlook and had no possible safe parking for a group of 4 cars. We passed from lovely views of the valley to shafts of sunlight blasting through the fog. We ended up stopping at Cherry Cove Overlook, which was socked in at the time, to discuss our options. While we were standing around talking about what to do next, the clouds rolled out to reveal a stunning view of the valley below. Once in a while the fog would be the perfect thickness for beams and sunbursts. A few minutes later the clouds rolled out again. Hmm, interesting. Finally someone (it might have been me) pulled out a camera, which of course caused the clouds to roll back in, creating a soft fog that muted the contrast and made for a dreamy fall scene. More cameras come out, one of our group spotted a chipmunk and started stalking it. I spotted a place where the sunbeams blasted through pinholes in the trees and created some amazing starbursts. A couple of us headed up a trail to see if we could find a better view and ended up with some nice isolation scenics. We ended up there for over three hours! All from a place we "just stopped" to regroup.

The lesson for me is one that I continue to learn and that bears repeating and reinforcement. The best way to see is with a camera in hand, contemplating a scene, the light, the conditions. While it's possible to stumble across a scene while driving down the road, it's a lot easier to see when you stop and take the time to look. Otherwise you're just trophy-hunting. That works fine for a lot of people and I'll admit to doing my share. But for me, the best way to approach a scene creatively is to stop, let it speak to you and listen to what it has to say. It doesn't work for everyone, but for me landscape photography is about engaging with a scene, seeing what's there and responding to it. I'm ultimately a lot happier working with what is in front of me that worrying about where else I might be and what else I might be missing. I've accepted the fact that I can't be everywhere, I'm always missing something, that I don't always make the best guess. I'm ok with that. And I think I am a lot better off for it. I certainly seem to come away from those days happier with me, and am in most cases happier with my results.

The photo is a shot of Looking Glass Rock and was taken pre-sunrise from Pounding Mill Overlook.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fall Wears Me Out!

Just returned from an amazing weekend in the Brevard, NC area chasing more fall color. Wow! The problem is knowing when to stop. I have already accepted the fact that I can't get everything, I'm always going to miss something and that it's not the end of the world, but geez! Color, color everywhere and no possible way to get all of it, no way to stay focused on a theme or project or any kind of plan. Just shoot what you see and figure it out later! Not exactly, but this is "going with the flow" at it's finest.

"Only" 452 images this weekend, as compared to last week's 628, but it rained Friday. Really, really rained, to the point that I only shot a few photos in the Grove Arcade in Asheville where we stopped to visit our friends at WNC Magazine.

Off to Cherokee this coming weekend, here's hoping for some more amazing color and great weather. Whew!

This image is actually my last one of the day today. Playing around with motion blur and decided to try zooming the lens while pointed way up at some really tall trees with great color and a Carolina Blue sky. The location is the woods near Slickrock Falls in Pisgah National Forest.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

And This Is Why We Go

Kathy & I spent the weekend in the Mount Airy, NC area, celebrating our 28th anniversary with more of a photography-oriented weekend than most people might do, but we were treated to a spectacular show of color. We slept in this morning after a great meal and wine last night at Chateau Morrisette, and almost wrote today off when we awoke to a severe-clear blue sky day. We were of a mindset to check out some locations for a future trip and head home early, but kept coming across these scenes that were irresistible. The light was so beautiful this afternoon that we stayed on the Parkway until sunset, which we never do on a Sunday!

This photo was one of a number from this afternoon. This was taken from the Blue Ridge Parkway near MP 236 and overlooks a pastoral valley near Sparta, NC. The late afternoon sun was really bringing out the textures in the land and the colors in the trees.

I have over 600 new images from this weekend, and I will try to post more as I process them in the days to come. But we're off to Brevard, NC this coming weekend to chase more color and hopefully visit some waterfalls.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

A Taste of Fall!

Kathy & I spent the weekend in West Jefferson, NC shooting an assignment for WNC Magazine.  We took the long way home and spent some time at New River State Park, where I took a little time to try out some motion blur on a stand of trees that had a little color in them.  It's a little early for fall color here, at least in all but the higher elevations.  We're expecting things to peek in about 2 weeks. 

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Making Progress

I've spent most of this weekend at the computer and am starting to make a dent. I added a bunch of images to my website, including a section called "Experiments" with a couple of new galleries. I got the idea of doing some "mini-projects" and did a couple of them on our NC Coast trip. These two galleries are images of sand patterns and wave motion blurs. I think they'll make nice prints but need to figure out a way to present them. That's another item on the to-do list!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Hurrier I Go

The hurrier I go the behinder I get, my grandma used to say. Just this weekend I was able to start digging into the 1400+ images from our trip to the NC coast. I haven't found any "portfolio" images yet but I feel they will appear as I go back and listen to some of them.

This image is one of a number of shots I took of this drift fence, what we used to call snow fences up north, along Highway 12 on Ocracoke Island. The late afternoon sun was casting some nice shadows and the sky was nice and blue with some nice wispy clouds.

Some may suggest that I need to take out the power lines in the upper left, and I suppose if I make this into a print I would do that. For now we'll stick with reality.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Ocracoke Island!

We had been anxiously awaiting our return to Ocracoke Island, having only been there for part of a day back in 2005. Our memory of the place as being a photo-rich environment was quite accurate, as I filled a couple of 4 Gig cards during our stay. I had been hoping to get a different-than-the-picture-postcard shot of the Ocracoke Island Lighthouse, and I think I have it with this one. I shot this just after sunset from the 4th floor balcony of our motel, The Anchorage Inn.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

A Little "Work"

We spent Sunday afternoon with our friends and innkeepers Andy & Karen Fisher touring the waters of the Pungo River and Pantego Creek aboard their boat, a 32 foot Nordic Tug. Andy sells real estate in the area, while Karen manages the inn. Andy happened to mention that he needed a water view photo of one of his listings, and I just happened to know a photographer. I'd say it was probably fair trade for a couple of hours on the boat!

Crab Pots

I don't know a lot about crabbing, but I do know that crab pots make pretty interesting photo subjects. We happened upon a place that sells crab pots along the road near Engelhard, North Carolina. This place actually had a bunch of used ones, which seem to have a bit more character than the new ones

Shrimp Boats

We've had a great trip so far. We spent Saturday touring the backroads around the Pocosin Lakes area and Lake Mattamuskeet. We just happened to be near Engelhard, on the east side of Lake Mattamuskeet late in the afternoon. I spotted this scene along the way and got a couple shots before the great light went away.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Looking Ahead

Friday we depart on our much-anticipated adventure to the North Carolina coast. Three nights in Belhaven, three nights on Ocracoke Island then three nights in Beaufort. Got some good advice on photo spots from our good buddy Kevin Adams and are looking forward to a great trip.

I spent some time this weekend going through some images from last year's trip. This was one of a number of images I made of sunset over the Pantego Creek in Belhaven.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Grandfather Mountain

We visited Grandfather Mountain this weekend for their annual Camera Clinic. Founded by Hugh Morton in 1952, this annual event is focused on photojournalism. After Saturday evening's presentations we had a chance to head out on the mountain for sunset. While I was waiting to see what kind of show we might have I made this image of a rock formation I found interesting. Kathy says it looks like a Bison head. I agree! I think this image may have possibilities in Black & White. I may have to give it a try.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Better Than The Old Management?

Kathy and I spent this past weekend in Hendersonville, North Carolina shooting an assignment for WNC Magazine. I am always on the lookout for interesting signs, and we came across this one that we found amusing.

Monday, August 04, 2008

High Point Train Station

As we travel Kathy & like to hunt down old train stations. I've always liked them for the architecture, and since they are usually found in an older section of town, they sometimes anchor a redevelopment effort and are often restored. I've been going through my collection of train station images for an upcoming magazine submission and came across some old favorites.

One of my all-time favorite train stations is the one in High Point, North Carolina. This also happens to be one of my all-time favorite photos.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Website Update

I just finished adding a "Train Stations" gallery and updated my "North Carolina Towns" gallery on my website. Check it out!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Shooting in a Series

A photography group I belong to was having a discussion about whether an image should be evaluated as an individual image or part of a series based on a theme or common thread of artistic intent. The following is an essay I wrote on the subject after evaluating my own thoughts and feelings. Enjoy!

As one of Joe’s Disciples I have struggled with what I have found to be one of the fundamental traits of an artist, which is that of “vision” or “artistic intent.” I deeply sympathize with those who have weighed in on the subject in this group, having myself looked long and hard for the clues that would lead me down the path of creativity. I still don’t think I am on the path, but I’ve found the trailhead, and even though my car’s in the parking lot and I’m just gathering my gear, the trail lies long and uncertain ahead of me in the woods. My understanding of the subject is very basic and not nearly as developed as I’d like, but I would like to try to share part of my experience.

As a landscape and nature photographer, I’ve looked at a lot of work, trying to discover the photographers’ vision. I’ve read a lot of artist’s statements, sometimes marveled at the lack of clarity and wondered if the statement represented vision or an excuse. I’ve looked at a lot of work that was presented as “artistic” and thought “how can this group of out-of-focus-no-subject-grainy-no-color images be called “art?”” Coming from a person with no art background who has managed to cobble together some basic photographic technique and generally regards a successful photograph as one that is properly focused, exhibits balanced composition and has good exposure, I struggle with abstracts and have traditionally dismissed them as “I don’t get it.”

A poignant example of this is a series of images on Photoeye by Kevin O’Connell titled Chords. It is an edition of 15 gelatin-silver prints of a single light pole in eastern Colorado. O’Connell’s statement says that “The series evolved out of the landscape work I’ve been doing on the eastern plains of Colorado since the mid-90's, and was at least partially inspired by Barnett Newman. While my landscapes have been a study of the horizontal, occasionally influenced or marked by the vertical, the Chord series explores the vertical, human, element.” My reaction when I first saw these images a year or so ago was “WHAT, how can they call !@#$% pictures of a lamp post ART?” The fact that the prints are offered for sale for prices ranging from $750 - $2000 only fueled my consternation. That they are still offered for sale a year or so later gives me some consolation.

My conclusion from the O’Connell example is that, while they are not pictures I would ever take myself, and would not have an interest in hanging on my wall, I can look at them now in context of the photographer’s intent and evaluate them on that basis. Yes, I can see where a light pole represents a departure from a “study of the horizontal” and perhaps even how it represents “the vertical, human element” although I confess I struggle to see the “human” except perhaps as the light pole is a manmade object. O’Connell has a landscape gallery on Photoeye as well. It is easy to look at his landscape work and see how Chords departs from that, but Chords represents a “Body of Work.”

If Kevin O’Connell came to Second Tuesday and brought in just one picture of a light pole, and presented it as “isn’t this a cool light pole?” we’d politely stand around and look at it until someone asked “so what does this represent?” or “why a picture of a light pole?” If we were able to see the whole group and understand the background and intent we might still ask “why pictures of a light pole?” but we could evaluate it for what it is. O’Connell, by the way, is far more than just some dude with a camera. He is a respected artist, has had a number of books and exhibitions, and had some of his work published in Lenswork in 2002.

My own “Aha Moment” came at a meeting where I showed a group of my images and someone (thank you, Kate) used the term Magic Moment to describe a number of them. I was able to look back through my work and found a number of images that seemed to fit that theme. While it was not necessarily what I had in mind when I made the pictures, it was clearly a common thread in a lot of my work and I was able to group some of them together for a personal project and used them to make a calendar. For anyone interested you can see them here: http://tomdills.com/2007_calendar/ . Some of them work better than others, but in the context of trying to stay seasonal with a calendar and limited to landscape orientation, I think it works. It’s an admittedly elementary interpretation of the concept, but I am proud of the result and see it in some respects as my first Portfolio. It works for me and accomplishes what I set out to achieve. I’m currently on a “reflections” kick and that theme has been recurring lately in my work. I look forward to seeing where that leads me.

About a year ago I participated in a workshop where several well-known and respected nature photographers offered critiques of participants’ work. Each participant was allowed to submit two images, and the presenters took turns offering their opinions on the work. Because they were shown out of context and with no opportunity for narration or background, the comments consisted almost exclusively of how the respective images conformed or didn’t conform to the “rules” of photography. My conclusion was that I had no further interest in participating in such sessions because the comments had little relevance to me, since they did not take into account the reasons I or any of the other participants had made the pictures.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last year or so examining the concepts of artistic intent and creative vision and trying to place my own work within that environment. While it might be easy to conclude that nature photographers in general have no artistic intent, that they are content taking documentary pictures of pretty places, interesting animals and dramatic scenery, I think the themes are there and you just have to find them. For many photographers I think it may be simply a matter of examining your images to determine what made you do what you did. The reason you chose a particular composition, exposure or shutter speed may seem purely intuitive, but once you latch on to a theme or thread, other common elements will begin to reveal themselves.

I now find myself looking at a scene in the context of many themes and have determined that the things that draw me to a subject are often as simple as the patterns, textures, reflections and color. Knowing that, I try to approach every subject with the thought of which of those things are present and how I can show the scene in that context. I am also open, although somewhat less successfully, to what other elements may exist that are not on my “list,” and how I might work them into an image. Rather than limiting my vision and the resulting images to a predetermined set of rules, I feel that my vision has been expanded because once I have determined which elements tend to speak to me, I look for them in a scene and use them to guide me. While it may be a place I’ve never visited, or a subject I’ve never encountered, I can look for the elements that I know appeal to me and attempt to figure out how best to capture them in camera.

In conclusion, let me say that I consider myself to be an Enlightened Disciple of our Grand Poobah, and the advice and guidance of the group as a whole has allowed me to move from someone who takes albums full of vacation snapshots to someone who takes albums of vacation snapshots with vision. Seriously though, I have found it to be a challenging experience but well worth the effort. I look forward to continuing the journey, just as soon as I make sure I haven’t left my car keys in the trunk. Come along, it will be fun!

Thanks for listening.

Brother Tom D.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Buried Treasure

I've been going back into the archives - two whole years ago! - to dig out fall images for an upcoming magazine submission. I came across a series of images I shot back in November 2006 that I had marked for further processing but had not gotten back to.

This was one of a number of images I shot just after sunrise at Mountain Island Lake, about 5 miles from my house. The sunbeams shining through the fog and the warm sunlight make for a pretty dramatic image.

I'll post some more as I uncover them....

Monday, June 30, 2008

Sylva, North Carolina

Spent the weekend in Sylva, NC getting shots for an upcoming article in WNC Magazine. Sylva is a quintessential mountain town. A thriving main street shopping area with a number of interesting businesses, a variety of restaurants, and usually an old hardware store and a handful of churches.

These two images give some perspective. The first image shows the Jackson County Court House from Main Street, and the second image was taken from in front of the court house looking down Main Street.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Blue Ridge Country!

I was just thumbing through the latest issue of Blue Ridge Country and for some reason looked at the list of contributing photographers and was surprised to see my name! Lo and behold they used two of my images - one from the front porch of Moses Cone Manor on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and one from Natural Bridge in Kentucky. What a pleasant surprise - that was one of my goals for the year and I made it in June (although it is the August issue)!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Group Photo

I shot this image from behind some of my fellow CNPA-Charlotte members at sunrise on Roan Mountain. I purposely let some of the sky (ok, a lot of the sky) blow out in order to get more foreground detail. I was able to save most of the sky using a heavy curves adjustment in Lightroom. Ah, the advantages of RAW!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

More Roan Mountain

Here are a few more shots from Roan Mountain. As incredible as the Rhododendron were, the Flame Azalea were equally impressive! These Azalea were up on Round Bald, just over the hill (always look behind you!) from the sunrise location in the previous post. The Rhododendron were just across the road from the parking lot (shhhhh!). I thought the fence added a particularly nice touch.

Stay tuned for more!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Roan Mountain!

Kathy and I spent this past weekend with some of our CNPA-Charlotte buddies at Roan Mountain, which is on the NC-TN border just north of Bakersville, NC. This was my first time at "The Roan" and it definitely won't be our last. What an incredible place!

Our primary objective this weekend was to shoot the incredible display of Catawba Rhododendron that Roan Mountain is famous for. But first, I had to try and capture one of the famous sunrises that I have been seeing for years. We set out at 5 am to hike up to Roan Bald, and arrived just as the color was starting to light up the sky. We were rewarded with this wonderful display as the sun rose over the horizon.

I've got a number of good shots to post over the next few days but thought I would lead with this Roan Mountain Sunrise!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Motion Blur

Kathy & I spent this past weekend at Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina for their annual Nature Photography Weekend. A good time was had by all, there was a lot of photography going on and we heard a number of inspirational speakers.

One technique that seems to be trendy these days is using motion blur to create painterly and abstract images. William Neill has been doing it for a while and I admire his work. Charles Needle was one of the presenters at Grandfather Mountain, and his presentation inspired me to give it a try.

This was my favorite blur image of the weekend. It had gotten breezy, the sunlight was coming in and out of the clouds, and I liked the parallel curves of these two tree trunks. I made this by setting the lens to an aperture of f22, throwing the trees slightly out of focus, and panning vertically for a 6-second exposure. A polarizer helped slow the shutter speed.

It's not what I usually do, but it was nice to have options when the conditions got less than ideal. And it was nice to be liberated from the tripod and try something new!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Spider Lilies!

To cap off our vacation week, we spent Sunday of Memorial Day weekend with our friends John & Marcia at Landsford Canal State Park in South Carolina. Landsford Canal is home of the largest collection of Rocky Shoals Spider Lilies in the world. They bloom from mid-May to mid-June at this spot along the Catawba River. I had heard about these but never seen them before. What an amazing sight!

This image gives an overview of the shoals and shows just a portion of the thousands of flowers growing at this special place.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Photography-Free Week

We're spending this week at one of our favorite vacation spots - Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. We've been pretty busy and I owed Kathy some Tom-time, so I left the majority of my photo gear at home. Not being one to travel anywhere without some kind of camera however, I have my Canon G9 with me "just in case." I shot this image of sun dogs from our balcony while we were taking a break from the beach and having lunch. It's a fun and colorful image and one I thought I would share.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Charlotte Lynx

I've been wanting to get some shots of Charlotte's new light rail, the Lynx, since it went operational in November of last year. I have a number of shots of the Charlotte Trolley cars, and wanted to get some nice images of the Lynx to add to my collection. I purposely waited until spring to get some green on the trees and in the grass. This past Sunday turned out to be a perfect day - clear air, blue sky and some nice clouds.

This shot was taken at the rail crossing at Park Avenue in Charlotte's South End.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Slow Down to Go Faster (aka Do Less to Do More?)

This is a recurring theme, and one I have played over a number of times, but bear with me. Driving to work this morning I remember thinking, as I was merging into traffic, that sometimes you have to back off a bit in order to get into the fast lane. The lane you are merging into is jammed with people barely going the speed limit. Because the next lane over is doing about the same thing, you can't get over to the lane where the traffic is actually moving at a reasonable speed and not full of trucks. Instead of jamming on the gas to try to force an opening, it sometimes works better to just keep it a little slow, let the people in the next lane over get past until an opening catches up, then make the move into that lane and eventually into the lane you want to be in. A few miles down the road you have settled in nicely, the people in the other lanes are changing frantically in an attempt to gain a spot or two, and you are right where you knew all along you wanted to be.

This concept has parallels with my photography. Going into this year, I decided to set some pretty serious goals for the business side of my photography. In order to get where I want to be, I had to get certain things done or it was never going to happen. Knowing that I only have so many hours in a week to devote to it, I had to prioritize. I've been saying for a long time that what separates me the most from people who do this full time is that (a) they are independently wealthy or (b) they spend a lot more time on the business side of things, which they typically do while I am at my day job trying to earn a living.

Like so many people, when I made the switch to digital about three years ago, I was unprepared for the huge shift in time commitment that would go along with it. The money commitment was hard enough, but the time needed to review, edit, process and catalog images is huge, and I quickly fell behind to the point where I had 20,000 digital images in my collection but no way to know what was any good and where the good ones were or how to find them. By necessity I developed a workflow that I was comfortable with, but that was late last year and I had three years worth of work to catch up on.

I realized that if I kept shooting the number of images I have been shooting since I went digital, there was no possible way I was going to (a) catalog and keyword all my images, (b) expand my submissions of stock images to magazines, (c) update my website, (d) buy a printer and learn how to use it and (e) lots of other nagging things too numerous to mention. After some thinking, I concluded that the best solution was going to be to scale back the amount of shooting I was doing. Less shooting = fewer photos = less time processing = more time for the priorities. With just a few exceptions, I have been limiting my shooting to magazine assignments and places where I have a specific theme or subject I am looking for. While I could certainly stand to have a few hundred more spring images in my inventory, that can wait until next year. In the mean time I have rediscovered last year's spring images, which in a lot of ways is better than taking new ones, because I already had some good ones and they haven't cost me anything but time.

The best news is that it is just now the end of April, and I have captioned and keyworded all my images (not to a great level of detail but at least to the point where I can find them), submitted a number of images to new publications, completed an overhaul of my website and purchased a printer. So far I have only managed to crank out a few crappy looking pieces of paper with ink on them, but if that's how I spend my time the next eight months I might just figure it out. In the mean time I can put a stock submission together in about an hour, process images from an assignment and turn them around in a couple of evenings, and have a few hours a week to pretend I am a normal person. I'm cruising along in the lane I want to be in, waiting for my exit to come up, and when it does, I'll be back out there in the middle of Cades Cove or somewhere trying to add to my photo collection.

Beats the heck out of being a Photoshop zombie.

Bluebird on Fence

I came across this image while going through some of my work from last year. It was shot in June last year along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia at a place called Groundhog Mountain. Even though it was taken in June I thought it looked springy, so I went ahead and made it up to post.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Random Thoughts

If you walk outside, look at the sky and your first thought is about pulling down the luminance on the blue channel for more contrast, is that a sign you've been spending too much time at the computer?

New Website!

My new website went live last week! It was long overdue, as my old site had gotten a bit dated and the photos were almost two years old. I really like the new design, and I am able to update it myself with no programming knowledge. Which is good, because I don't have any and don't have the time or inclination to learn.

The new site is easy to use, I can tweak it any time, add new photos, captions and change the colors whenever I want. Check it out:


Sunday, March 09, 2008

Pounding Mill Overlook

I "discovered" this location on an outing with some of my CNPA buddies near Brevard last fall. This wasn't where we planned to go for sunrise, but it turned out OK. This is one of a number of shots from that morning. The fog was laying in the valley with the taller trees sticking up through, and as the sun came up it made for some interesting shadows.

Two Years?

This must be the time of year I think about starting something new, like this blog (what time of year do I actually get to finish something?). It's been almost two years to the day since I created this thing, and here I am. What happened to last year? Who knows?

Anyway, I finally finished processing my images from last fall. It was a bunch - thank goodness for Lightroom! My next big hurdle is updating my website since my "New Work" section has images from our Kentucky trip in September 2006. Yikies! More to come on that, but my goal is to have it done by the end of March, so we'll see how industrious I am.