January 2017

January 2017 (5)

Thursday, 26 January 2017 16:08

Fun with Lines and Sliders

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When winter begins to release its grip on the Smokies and the first hints of new growth appear, Greenbrier Cove is one of the first places to which I adventure. Greenbrier, where the very first pioneers on the Tennessee side of what became Great Smoky Mountains National Park originally settled, was extensively logged during the early twentieth-century, but nature has rebounded here and the second generation cove hardwoods are thick with eastern yellow poplar (Liriodendron tulipfera). It is, however, the spindly spicebush (Lindera benzoin) understory that has such a allure for me. Its bright yellow buds and blossoms are some of the earliest in the mountains; and they offer an appealing contrast of both color and shape to the thick trunks of the tulip trees.While the "straight" image was interesting enough, it was the post-processing license I allowed myself with negative contrast and negative clarity, among other adjustments, that became the basis for this creative adventure. A focal length of 102mm, in the middle of short-telephoto, gave me the angle-of-view I wanted, an intimate landscape which emphasized the relationship between the poplars and the spice bush as reflected in the larger forest. An aperture of f/20 provided depth-of-field and a shutter speed of 0.6 seconds at ISO 100 gave me a medium overall exposure as s starting point.

Friday, 20 January 2017 16:57

Lines to a Disappearing Past

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One of the most unique barns in Madison County, North Carolina is the John Shelton Barn in the Big Pine Community. A number of its features were once, surely, commonplace, but now are only relict reminders of structures long disappeared. At 25 logs high from the ground to the top of the wall, it is higher than most other burley tobacco barns, which typically stood at 18 logs; and this doesn't count the logs comprising the gable ends. At 26' square, it is shaped more like a flue-cured tobacco barn, but it was never used for anything other than burley. John Shelton farmed and timbered by the signs; and he and his daugter Pearl cut the logs for this barn on Doe Branch, two miles away and hauled them to the site with horses and mules. John, who was born in 1882, lived to the ripe old age of 99, a highly-respected member of the community. I knelt on the loft floor, about 14" above the decking, and tilted up toward the ridgeline, leaving several feet of flooring distance in front of me as my foreground, which allowed me to pick up the tier poles as they spanned above me from wall to wall. A focal length of 17mm gave me the angle-of-view I wanted. An aperture of f/16 provided depth-of-field; and equally important, it allowed me a 10-second shutter speed at ISO 100 to produce a medium overall exposure. The shorter shutter time allowed me a better chance of controlling vibration while the lower ISO allowed me to avoid the additional noise a higher setting would have generated. In the narrow creek bottom, on an overcast day at 10 seconds of open shutter, there was enough light gathered to make it seem quite bright beyond the walls of this amazing structure, especially if a medium outcome was the goal.

Saturday, 14 January 2017 10:02

And Winter Came

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Over the past decade, or so, it has, unfortunately, become more and more difficult to gain access to the Smokies high country during severe weather events in order to do really creative winter work. It's easy to understand the reluctance of the Park Service officials, who, when faced with funding shortfalls, personnel losses, and liability issues, must make hard decisions about keeping the roads open or denying access. Of course, the other face of the coin is one's being prepared on short notice to grab your gear and head out as soon as the roads are opened. I consider myself fortunate when I can put together such an opportunity. A couple of years ago I had such a chance on the day a short-lived system had covered the higher elevations in white - ice, frost and snow, and all three in abundance. I look at this image now, even though the upper drainage of Walker Camp Prong was not touched by the fire, and think about how scenes like this will play out further north and down the valley into the watershed of West Prong where the blackness of the burned Chimneytops sits silently waiting for spring. A focal length of 255mm, medium-telephoto for certain, allowed the angle-of-view I wanted. An aperture of f/22 provided depth-of-field and a shutter speed of 0.4 second at ISO 100 gave me an overall slightly lighter-than-medium exposure. And when winter comes... a Smokies Spring adventure cannot be far behind.


Friday, 06 January 2017 09:25

In the Stillness There Is a Voice

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The upper slickrock of Zion National Park is a place of many marvels, not least of which are the amazing waterpockets that fill the lower depressions of Navajo Sandstone in the lee of a passing shower. This particular location is one I discovered quite a few years ago and return to every time I visit this wonder of Nature's creativity. Occasionally, it is completely bereft of moisture, but when the rainclouds pass leaving their gifts to the high desert, I return; and if the air is quiet, the reflections are deep and still, and in them there is a voice that speaks to the center of the world. A focal length of 51mm, almost spot-on normal, gave me the angle-of-view I wanted. An aperture of f/16, given the camera to subject distance, provided depth-of-field; and a shutter speed of 1/5th second at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure. Water is life.

Friday, 30 December 2016 11:22

Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head

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During our 2016 Upper Peninsula workshop, we found ourselves facing a day filled with rain, even as the radar revealed a possible partial clearing late in the afternoon. It was not easy to have faith in the accuracy of the weather map. but we hit the road headed to the eastern end of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore hoping for the best. Sure enough, about two hours before sunset we found ourselves in a still-dripping white birch forest working our way toward the end of the day at Hurricane Beach. I had visited this section of forest previously and knew how amazing it could be even under average conditions; but with a still overcast sky and soaked fall foliage, it was more of a magical kingdom than anything else; and when I found this intimate scene, I knew the reward was way greater than the risk. A focal length of 33mm, the extreme long end of wide-angle, gave me the angle-of-view I wanted. An aperture of f/22 provided depth-of-field, and a shutter speed of 1.6 seconds at ISO 100 gave me an overall slightly-darker-than-medium exposure. Never forget that old adage, "When the weather is changing, go outside."

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