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Saturday, 21 February 2015 00:00

A Whiter Shade of Pale

Whatever else it may be - and I say this thinking about the winter of 2015 and our friends in New England - the relationship between snow and old barns is magical. In Madison County, North Carolina one of those particular magical relationships is the Dolph Robinson barn in the community of Beech Glen. It was constructed in the late-nineteenth century as a stock barn, but over the years additional space was added so that it could become, also, a burley tobacco barn during the early-1900s. At the head of the narrow valley where the structure sits, the mountain comes down closely all around creating a sense of isolation that is very real. The original sections were hand-hewn logs felled in those mountains and pulled to the site with the mules or draft horses that probably called those stalls "home." For some reason this barn speaks strongly to me, and in the snow its story fairly shouts. I knew I wanted to show the entire structure with the mountainside behind and no sky above. After walking around it as much as I could, I picked a perspective just higher than ground-level that offered two complete sides from which I could show the snow-covered foreground. A "normal" focal length of 51mm gave me the angle of view I wanted: enough room on both sides without "bull's-eyeing" the barn, enough foreground to show the conditions on the ground, and enough mountainside behind to show the conditions all-around. An aperture of f/18 gave me sufficient depth-of-field, and a shutter speed of 0.3 seconds at ISO 100 gave me an overall slightly lighter-than-medium exposure.

Friday, 13 February 2015 00:00

Almost Bells and Whistles

In one of our favorite Madison County barns there is a beautiful old threshing machine, an implement known more simply and affectionately as a "thresher." Threshers make easier, more efficient work of the task of separating the grains and seeds of small grain and seed crops from the chafe or straw of the plant at harvest time. The thresher here is somewhere between 75-95 years old and has seen its share of harvest moons. There are so many geometries and scales in this wonderful mechanical contraption that it would be easy to spend the better part of a day just playing with the abstracts and intimate landscapes so much in evidence. What really drew my attention to this particular perspective were the spokes of the iron wheel with their enclosing rim, and their relationship to the side of the thresher with its belts and pulleys and levers set in the beautiful old wooden frame of the machine itself. The years-build-up of dirt and grime merely added to the allure. I knew I did not need the entire wheel to tell the story I saw, so I got down to wheel level and used a little more than a quarter of the full part. As we were in the hallway of the building between the two rows of stalls, the afternoon light coming through the opening created an interesting side-illumination. A focal length of 45mm isolated the intimacy of what I saw in my mind's-eye. An aperture of f/7.1 was sufficient depth of field, considering where I chose for a focal point; and a shutter speed of 6.0 seconds at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure. Obviously, shutter speed time was a big factor in my aperture decision, but f/11 (@ 16 seconds) would have been about as small an opening as I would have used regardless. 

Saturday, 07 February 2015 00:00

Light a Distant Cliff

At 8803' Point Imperial on the North Rim is the highest overlook in Grand Canyon National Park, and since it faces primarily eastward there is no chance of a sunset opportunity, yet something almost as spectacular can sometimes be seen. Looking to the northeast, the desert stretches away for miles into the spectacular uplift of the Vermilion Cliffs, the second step of the "Grand Staircase;" and in the late-afternoon, when the light no longer touches the shaded lower reaches off the point, the rise of the first cliffs catches the waning glow and sets the rock on fire. In the contrast between the twilight valley and the radiant vermilion wall, the beauty of light reveals itself. I wanted to isolate a very small portion of the larger visual field in order to increase the drama of the light, and so I chose a focal length of 450mm. The lines of the foreground cliff and the low midground mesa added depth and visual paths into the image. The focal length reduced my depth-of-field, but the camera-to-subject distance and an aperture of f/22 gave apparent sharpness throughout. A shutter speed of 1/4th second at ISO 100 gave me a somewhat darker-than- medium exposure.

Saturday, 31 January 2015 00:00

Hymn to a Bright Angel

To peer into the vastness of the Grand Canyon from any vantage point is to peer deep into the seeming endlessness of geological time. To gaze into its depths down the axis of Bright Angel Canyon looking toward its confluence with the greater chasm is to be given an added understanding of what "vast" really means. Dropping down the North Rim, the Bright Angel Point Trail descends to a steep, near vertical scarp overlooking the sinuous meander of the North Kaibab Trail as it climbs past the Transcept and begins its rise through Roaring Springs Canyon on the way to its rendezvous with the great rim far above. The view from Bright Angel Point reveals the lithic lines of a musical score which could only be seen as a hymn to all that is beautiful. Standing near the point, I chose a 66mm focal length to isolate what I felt. Using the rock ridge trailing into the canyon off of Oza Butte, on the right, as a foreground line, I stopped the ridge above its intersection with Bright Angel Canyon to lead the eye into Bright Angel and then diagonally down Bright Angel through its many convolutions toward the Grand itself in the top right of the image. I wanted to get as close to the top of the far South Rim in my composition as possible without including sky. An aperture of f/22 provided depth-of-field; and a shutter speed of 0.3 second at ISO 100 gave an overall very-slightly-darker-than-medium exposure.

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