Thursday, 21 April 2016 02:20

Just Drifting

One of those amazing out-of-the-way places in Acadia National Park is Little Hunters Beach. It is the Maine Coast encapsulated in 200 meters of lithic outcrop and tumbled beach stones; and if you understand how to gauge the comings and goings of the tides, you can find yourself at Little Hunters at just the right moment to play with the mighty Atlantic as it caresses the rocky shoreline. One spring day I arrived just in time to find a large chunk of driftwood caught between the oncoming waves and the waiting rocks. The trick was to place my tripod in just the correct position to align with the wood and the waveline, release the shutter as the wave arrived, and then grab gear and get out of the way before being drenched about the legs with the foaming breakers: beach tag, if you will. A focal length of 21mm gave me the wide angle of view I wanted. An aperture of f/20 provided depth of field; and a shutter speed of 1/5th second at ISO 100 gave definition to the water and a medium overall exposure. At some point in the game the driftwood simply drifted away to the sea.

Friday, 15 April 2016 12:26

Meeting the Bluebell Family

The Virginia Bluebell's (Mertensia virginica) elegant pulchritude is not common to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but it is found there occasionally, as it is also found throughout the Southern Mountains. The delicate, lilac-colored, trumpet-shaped flowers are first seen as tiny, club-shaped buds in early- to mid-April. Where they are found, as here in Cades Cove, they are wonderful macro subjects that remind us of the ephemeral nature of spring's early gifts, here for only a short while, to be appreciated and released until a new cycle of days returns them to us again. I was using my excellent, old Kiron 90mm macro lens, to which I added a Nikon PK 13 (27.5mm) extension tube, from a distance of about 6" to achieve the angle-of-view I wanted. An aperture of f/5.6 gave me the depth-of-field I was looking for, and a shutter speed of 1.3 seconds at ISO 100 gave me a slightly lighter-than-medium exposure. The Bluebell family just smiled sweetly and did not nod.

Thursday, 07 April 2016 13:00

Conversations with the Arch Druids

Lore has it that the lovely old structure known as the Carter-Shields cabin in the Cades Cove section of Great Smoky Mountains National Park was originally constructed in the 1830s and ultimately came to serve as a dwelling for newlyweds in the extended family of James Sparks, one of the very early pioneer settlers in this area. As a young couple would grow their family, they would outgrow the cabin and build elsewhere, leaving the small dwelling for the next newlyweds in line. "Carter" Shields purchased it from John Sparks in 1910 and lived in it until 1921. It is a quintessential Smokies log structure; but what makes it really beautiful are the graceful dogwoods that grow near the Loop Road, framing the old cabin as it sits serenely at the edge of the forest. In April those small hardwoods display the lovely blooms for which they are known, framing the house in a delicate arch. Even though I could not have an open view of the cabin within the dogwood arch, I moved so that the doorway and the sidewall window were unobstructed, and I raised my tripod so that the splitrail fence did not appear to become a barrier. A focal length of 42mm - essentially a "normal" focal length - gave me the angle of view I wanted. An aperture of f/16 provided depth-of-field; and a shutter speed of 1/10th second at ISO 200 gave me an overall medium exposure and allowed me to stop the motion in the trees from the slight breeze that wafted through the scene. You can almost hear the processional beginning as druidic spirits whisper among themselves.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016 01:35

Stepping into the Same Stream Twice

There are so many beautiful places on the surface of the Earth that we easily adopt the notion of bucket lists which tells us we have to continuously find new, special locations in which to photograph, never to return to somewhere we've been. I humbly reject this notion, believing that it is appropriate, creative, and wise to return to the places we love again and again. From these returns we find connection, and it is connection that fosters real creativity. One of my favorite such places is Middle Prong of Little River in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. William Marion (Black Bill) Walker must have also loved it, for he built a farm in the valley below here where he lived for many years before the Little River Lumber Company bought him out. I have no idea how many times I have meandered the road from the mouth of Middle Prong upstream to its creation in the joining of Lynn Camp Prong and Thunderhead Prong, but it will always be one time less than enough. Last spring, after a couple of days of heavy rain, I found my way to this location yet again, knowing that I could never step in the same stream twice, and this year I will do so once more, for the connection I feel draws me back time and again to see what new beauty the river has to offer. A focal length of 33mm gave me the angle of view I wanted. An aperture of f/16 provided depth-of-field and a shutter speed of 1/5th second at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure. And Old Man River just keeps on rolling.

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