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Saturday, 26 January 2013 11:28

Everything Emptying into White

I happen to live in a part of the world where the presence of snow is generally celebrated, perhaps because there is just enough of it to be a pleasurable experience when it occurs, but I can appreciate folks whose experience elsewhere may not encourage them to see it in that light. Indeed, when the Smokies are "covered in snow" as the old song goes, there is not a more beautiful sight on earth. Interestingly enough, most of the white in this image is something a little different; it's rime ice, which forms when water droplets in fog or a cloud freeze on the windward surfaces of objects. It's easy to see where the clouds sat overnight from the limits of the ice on the trees. I was fortunate - and elated - that Newfound Gap Road was open so that I could make it to the gap to have this experience. At the moment an extensive landslide has closed the North Carolina portion of the road beyond Smokemont Campground, although Newfound Gap, itself, is accessible from the Tennessee side. The late-afternoon light was side-lighting the high ridges, leaving the lower - and bare - elevations in contrasting shade. It was tempting to go wide and include lots of stuff in the image, but what really attracted me were the contrasting triangles topped by three long, thin rectangles, and that led me to a longer focal length of 255mm. I found a place to get high enough so that the ice-covered foreground trees did not break the skyline and remained nearly entirely within the confines of the relatively dark third triangular area. An aperture of f/20 at the camera-to-subject distance gave sufficient depth-of-field and a shutter speed of 1/13th second at ISO 100 gave me a medium overall exposure. The cloud rectangle sitting above the icy ridgetop rectangle was a wonderful gift, and the sky rectangle completed the trio. 

Thursday, 17 January 2013 16:55

Bare Light

It is always somewhat of a sad occasion each year when the road to Clingman's Dome closes for the winter, creating a seven-mile one-way hike, bike ride, or cross-country ski trek from Newfound Gap to the Dome across the head of Thomas Divide, up Mount Collins, over the head of Noland Divide and on to Kuwahi, the Mulberry Place. I always try to stop by the Dome on the day, or so, before the road closes just to bid my respects to the amazing view that is offered, in this instance looking across the Forney Creek watershed and Welch Ridge, and beyond into the drainage of the Little Tennessee River. Unless an early snow has closed the road prematurely, this will happen on December 1; and so sometime during the last week of November is an excellent choice. The leaves on the hardwoods have long gone aground, but the light can be exquisite, unless, of course, the cloud-cover obscures everything. This past year the light and the clouds conspired to create some wonderful early morning conditions. Of the many compositional choices I worked with, the one that most struck me was this fairly wide shot looking out over the foreground trees below the overlook into the valley and far peaks as the morning light illuminated them. I wanted to take in an area that included all of the sidelit ridges and then frame it with the contrasting shaded areas and cloud-filled sky. A focal length of 36mm allowed for this, while an aperture of f/20 gave me the depth-of-field I wanted; and a shutter speed of 1/6th second at ISO 100 gave me an overall slightly-darker-than-medium exposure.    


Friday, 11 January 2013 23:47

A Bit of Luck

There is a wide place in the road along NC Highway 209 in Madison County, North Carolina. It's just up from Trust; and its name, of course, is Luck. Now closed, the general store in Luck was opened in 1900; and small though it was, it carried most everything a mountain community might need to get by. My grandparents lived in a similar place in Georgia's Piedmont. Maybe that's why Luck has become so special to me; it reminds me of something long ago that is quickly disappearing from the landscape of our country, and whose passing will be a detriment to us all. We are losing the past and our understanding of the past at a horrific rate. I'm not speaking of fossil fuels, but a way of living in the land, a way of community. There are so many ways to photograph the old store and its appurtenances; from straight on, to shallow angle, to severe side views - wide or tight, and macro abstracts as well. Ultimately the one I liked best was this side view. From about 8-10' away I could shorten the focal length to 42mm with the visible part of the foreground pump and the old signpost seeming quite large, and an angle of view that took in an expanse of the front of the store without revealing sky in the image. At f/22 I had plenty of depth for sharpness throughout; and a shutter speed of 6.0 seconds at ISO 100 (It was a very foggy day) gave me an overall slightly lighter-than-medium exposure result.  

Saturday, 29 September 2012 17:40

Above the Clouds

There is no more inspiring place to be at the dawn of a new day than high above Lake of the Clouds in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Looking eastward one sees the fabled waters of Lake of the Clouds, where in the beginning years of the Nineteenth Century trappers sought beaver and muskrat pelts to trade at the American Fur Company outpost at the mouth of Iron River just miles away along the Lake Superior shore. Turning away to the west, the view of the Big Carp River Valley offers another visual feast. One can spend hours here in the coming light and never feel the near-freezing temperatures that welcome an early-October visitor. Water-air temperature differentials ensure that fog on the lake is a common autumn occurrence, especially when there is no wind. Over the years I have photographed the dawn at LOC in a variety of ways, but this past year I decided to play with a more abstract idea. Spot metering (which is something I seldom do these days) the deep orange area in the notch between the ridges, and calling it darker-than-medium, I ensured that the foreground ridge would be nearly black and the ridges beyond the lake would be very dark.The color in the sky was rendered as it appeared, and there was some detail in the water, with the fog serving as a moody element. A focal length of 142mm allowed me to isolate the portion of the ridges and lake that appealed to my sense of balance and also gave me the portion of sky I was looking for, which had interesting color. At f/16, a shutter speed of 20.0 seconds at ISO 100 gave me that darker-than-medium orange tonality.   

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