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August 2013

August 2013 (4)

Saturday, 24 August 2013 23:50

Some Say Fire, Some Say Ice

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According to the Farmers' Almanac there is some old mountain wisdom which says that for every fog in August there will be a snowfall over the coming winter. If there is any truth at all to this lore, then the coming winter is going to be the snowiest of my entire life. Regardless, I do know that this August has already been the foggiest in my memory, and it has made for some of the most incredible sunrises and sunsets I have ever had the pleasure of photographing. As has happened on more than one occasion this summer, the conditions upon arrival at Cowee Mountains Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway appeared promising, and we excitedly prepared to photograph the late-afternoon light. Then the slight breeze shifted enough that the fog began to drift completely over the overlook, obscuring everything in view; and there was uncertainty as to whether we would even see the sun again. Our patience and perseverance were rewarded; and, as the sky began to clear, the scene revealed itself in its magnificence. In order to frame the foreground ridge with its shroud of fog in a way that felt balanced to me, I was required to frame the overall image with the horizon pretty much near the middle; but with all of the layering of tonality and contrast, this does not seem readily apparent, at least to me. A focal length of 187mm gave me the angle of view I wanted. Given the camera-to-subject distance, an aperture of f/16 gave me sufficient depth-of-field; and a shutter speed of 1.6 seconds at ISO 100 allowed me to push the exposure as far to the right (light axis of histogram) as possible without blowing out the sky detail except in the bright areas near the sun, which had no detail to begin with. In film days I would have exposed for one of the sky's tones and let everything else fall as it would relative to that choice; but I considered that I might wish to print this and I wanted to introduce as little "noise" as possible to the file.  

Saturday, 17 August 2013 21:40

In the Middle of Triple

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In my mind I can almost see Hawkeye running across the top rim as the movie portrayed him; but, then, the water levels that have existed for much of the summer season in the beautiful fastness of DuPont State Forest's Triple Falls would surely have washed him all the way to the French Broad River. Little River, the hydrolic force behind these magnificent cascades has been anything but little in a year that has seen record rainfall in July and an annual rainfall amount that, year-to-date, is two feet above normal: wonderful for those who love to be creative with the waters of this awesome steram. I arrived at the broad rock shelf that separates the middle and lower drops of Triple Falls just after the sun had risen high enough to send its warming light across the top of the falls, lighting up the river-left embankments. I knew I wanted to create as wide of a shot as I could, so I carefully worked my way out to the edge of the flow just below the foreground cataract, which I planned to use as my foreground element. I set up and created my composition waiting for a surge of water to come over the near small ledge toward me. Because the light was still too low to give me the shutter speed range I was looking for, I raised my setting to ISO 400. I still wanted to use an aperture of f/22 for depth-of-field, so these values together gave me a shutter speed of 1/6 second for an overall medium exposure. A focal length of 45mm allowed me to include all of the falls above me with just a small triangle of sky in the top of the frame to provide context while at the same time allowing me to include all of river-left and enough of river-right to create a sense of balance in the visual weight of the elements. When this incredibly beautiful place was saved from private development, it was the State of North Carolina acting at its very best.    


Sunday, 11 August 2013 05:48

Old Friends

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Not too long ago I was researching a story on old mountain country stores when I came across these fellows who meet occasionally at the original Mast General Store in Valle Crucis, North Carolina. They've known each other for quite some time, and so there's nothing more pleasant on a chilly winter morning than to sit by the old wood stove and share a few thoughts on the state of the world and perhaps a story, or two, to pass the minutes before heading off to meet the day. My story was about them and their surroundings, and so I wanted to feature the stove prominently along with the men and their discussion, and also to be wide enough in my angle of view to take in some of the wonderful interior of the store, which was opened in 1883 by Henry Taylor and became the Taylor and Mast General Store in 1897. In 1913 Mr. Mast bought out Mr. Taylor's interest and it became known as the Mast General Store. Today it is an employee-owned company. A focal length of 27mm gave me the angle of view of the interior I wanted. An aperture of f/6.3 gave me just enough depth-of-field; and at ISO 800, a shutter speed of .8 second allowed me to freeze nearly all of their motion (a little foot-wagging excepted).

Saturday, 03 August 2013 19:41

I've Looked at Clouds From Both Sides Now

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Windingstair Gap in the Nantahala Mountains is where the Appalachian Trail passes above the Cartoogechaye Creek watershed on its way to Wayah Bald and eventually to Wesser Bald before dropping down to flirt with the Nantahala River. Because the orientation of the mountains here is North-South, the gap faces east-west and on its eastern slope there is a marvelous view of the great wall of the Blue Ridge to the south and southeast. Due east finds you looking toward the Cartoogechaye Creek drainage and into the Balsams and the granitic domes of the Tanasi Ridge beyond. First light and early light here can be wonderful opportunities. Last week I was in Windingstair Gap for an amazing sunrise followed by the appearance in the south of an incredibly beautiful mass of altostratus clouds. The sunlight in the East was still coloring the low clouds on the far horizon. I wanted to include only a small portion of the receeding ridges as an anchor for the image since the real story of what was happening was developing above my head. A focal length of 39mm, fairly wide, allowed me to capture the greater mass of cloud without being so wide as to bring in distracting elements closer than the dark ridge on the right, or too much sky above the cloud. An aperture of f/22 gave me sufficient depth-of-field, and a shutter speed of 1/10 second at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure.

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