Familiar Territory

Outside the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina

Outside the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina

One of my favorite places for wandering around with my camera is downtown Charlotte.  Because it is close to where Kathy has a parking space, I especially spend a lot of time in the area around the NASCAR Hall of Fame.  It’s just an interesting building, especially the metal work over the main entrance and all around the outside.  I think it is supposed to represent a high-banked racetrack, but to me it just looks cool, especially at different times of the day as the lighting changes.

Outside the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina

Outside the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina

I’ve never been inside the building, although if someone came to visit who was interested, I would certainly consider going.  While I have given up following auto racing along with all other professional sports, I still have an appreciation for the history of the sport as it existing before money spoiled it (IMO).

Outside the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina

Outside the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina

So Thursday evening before the baseball game, we wandered around this area killing time.  I have photographed this building numerous times, but I never get tired of it, since there is always another shadow or angle that I haven’t seen before.  Just the color of the sky can change how the metal reflects the light.

Outside the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina

Outside the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina

One of the advantages of visiting a place repeatedly is that there is always something new to see, another angle to explore or a different way the light and shadow plays with the subject.  In this case it is the shapes and lines of the building.

Outside the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina

Outside the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina

Did I end up getting anything that I haven’t gotten before? I did.  I found another interesting section that for some reason I had never seen.  Many of these photos are of the same views as before, but one or two of them are a fresh look at something I have been looking at and photographing for several years, and which I will hopefully be photographing often in the years ahead.

Outside the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina

Outside the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina

Play Ball!

Charlotte Knights baseball game at BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, NC

Charlotte Knights baseball game at BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, NC

Kathy & I are having a little “stay at home vacation” this weekend as we have Bill & Cathy, our friends from Ohio, in town for a few days.  Thursday evening we ventured downtown to check out a baseball game at BB&T Ballpark, the brand-spanking-new baseball stadium here in Charlotte.

Charlotte Knights baseball game at BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, N

Charlotte Knights baseball game at BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, N

I’ve never been a huge sports fan, but I do like baseball.  And while Major League sports in general have lost their appeal to me, there’s something enjoyable about heading to a minor league ball game on a chilly spring evening.

Charlotte Knights baseball game at BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, NC

Charlotte Knights baseball game at BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, NC

I called ahead to confirm, but they do allow cameras in the stadium.  Big yay!  So off we went, and I got a few shots to show for it.  I think we’ll probably head back there soon.  It was a great deal of fun and is a beautiful place to watch a ball game.

Charlotte Knights baseball game at BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, NC

Charlotte Knights baseball game at BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, NC

Charlotte Knights baseball game at BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, NC

Charlotte Knights baseball game at BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, NC

Charlotte Knights baseball game at BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, NC

Charlotte Knights baseball game at BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, NC

A Meeting of the Minds

The Three Amigos and their Husbands (thanks to Earl's phone for the photo)

The Three Amigos and their Husbands (thanks to Earl’s phone for the photo)

One of the many blogs I follow is that of Paul Maxim, a photographer who resides in Rochester, NY.  Paul and his wife Barbara have been on a month-long adventure around the country.  A few days ago I read on Paul’s blog that he was going to be in Charleston, SC so I sent him an e-mail suggesting that if he was going to be passing through Charlotte to give me a call.  As it turned out, he was and he did!

So Thursday night, Kathy & I joined up with Paul & Barbara and Earl & Bonnie Moore for dinner.  It was nice to meet Paul & Barbara in person, talk a little about photography, a lot about travel and retirement, and had some good food as well.

I’ve only gotten to meet a few of my virtual friends in person, but I’ve found that so far I like them even more in person than I do by seeing only the slice of them that they show online.  There are a bunch of interesting people in this world and I feel privileged to have met a few of them!

A Point of Comparison

Graveyard at St Peter's Episcopal Church in Washington, North Carolina

Graveyard at St Peter’s Episcopal Church in Washington, North Carolina

My friend Earl Moore and I spent some time wandering around Washington, NC a few weekends ago.   One of the places we visited was the graveyard at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.  We were only there for about 15 minutes, but we both got a variety of shots.

Graveyard at St Peter's Episcopal Church in Washington, North Carolina

Graveyard at St Peter’s Episcopal Church in Washington, North Carolina

It’s always interesting to see the results when different photographers visit the same place, especially at the same time.  I won’t clutter this post up with a bunch of words, but I do have a few of my own photos from this visit.  There are definitely some similarities to what we saw and shot, but just as many differences.

What fun!

Graveyard at St Peter's Episcopal Church in Washington, North Carolina

Graveyard at St Peter’s Episcopal Church in Washington, North Carolina

Graveyard at St Peter's Episcopal Church in Washington, North Carolina

Graveyard at St Peter’s Episcopal Church in Washington, North Carolina

Graveyard at St Peter's Episcopal Church in Washington, North Carolina

Graveyard at St Peter’s Episcopal Church in Washington, North Carolina

Graveyard at St Peter's Episcopal Church in Washington, North Carolina

Graveyard at St Peter’s Episcopal Church in Washington, North Carolina

Graveyard at St Peter's Episcopal Church in Washington, North Carolina

Graveyard at St Peter’s Episcopal Church in Washington, North Carolina

Camera Phone Fun

Square Color

Square Color

It’s funny, but I just never think about pulling out my phone and using it to take photos.  Last night our friends Edgar & Ann, both photographers, were at our place for dinner, drinking wine, eating food and talking about everything under the sun.  Ann started it, although she might say otherwise, but she remarked about the patterns on the light fixture over the dining room table and asked me if I had ever photographed it.  I admitted to having looked at it numerous times and thinking that it might make an interesting photograph, but I had never actually taken a photograph of it.  Isn’t that weird?

Sort of what started the whole thing.

Sort of what started the whole thing.

I guess the thing for me is that I just don’t generally have my phone at the dinner table, and when I do my manners usually prevent me from playing with it at the table.  Yes, that probably shows how Old School I am.

Color

Color

Like most people, when I do take a picture with my phone I’m often tempted to share it, or at least do something with it.  But since I don’t share stuff on Facebook, Instagram or any other “share on the run” websites, I often just don’t bother taking a photo.  But when I do I realize that it’s a great way to take photographs without the pressure of needing to Make Art and without the constraints of needing to be technically perfect – all “requirements” I tend to have when I use my Real Camera – it can just be a way to have fun.

Black & White

Black & White

I’ve stated before that I have gotten to where I don’t process my photos when I  travel because I like to continue enjoying my travel and not feel compelled to start looking at my photographs.  The same principals apply when I use my phone to take pictures.  I usually just take a picture and forget about it.  But once in a while it is fun to just play around with a different tool.  I need to get better at remembering that.  Sometimes I just don’t realize what I’m missing!

A Vicious Circle

A Vicious Circle

There was food involved...honest!

There was food involved…honest!

 

Too Far, Or Not Far Enough?

Fishing boats in Swan Quarter, North Carolina

Fishing boats in Swan Quarter, North Carolina

Kathy & I value quiet as much as just about anything there is to value.  By quiet I don’t just mean sound, although that certainly accounts for a lot of it.  I mostly refer to the kind of quiet that means the absence of noise, both physical and mental.  By that I mean the constant background chatter, the incessant televisions that keep us “entertained” while we try to shop or have a meal, or the impatient and distracted “me first” drivers.  It can mean also mean something as simple as having to call the bank or the cable company for the eighth time about some problem that can never quite seem to be resolved.

Fishing boats in Swan Quarter, North Carolina

Fishing boats in Swan Quarter, North Carolina

We go to great lengths to make our home as peaceful as possible.  We don’t have a television.  It’s amazing how much difference that makes.  When we did have one we found that even when it was not on, it begged us to turn it on, to find something – anything – to watch.  That’s noise.  We love to listen to music, but when we do it is often smooth jazz or classical, with no words and no blaring horns or guitars.  There’s a time and place for the big band jazz and the vocals, but we save that for working in the garage or cleaning the house.  Our favorite play list on Spotify is called “Shhhhh!” (I made it up myself)

Fishing boats in Swan Quarter, North Carolina

Fishing boats in Swan Quarter, North Carolina

On our recent weekend with our friends Earl & Bonnie Moore, we found ourselves spending some quiet time at Swan Quarter Wildlife Refuge.  At the end of a mile or so long dirt road is a good-sized parking lot.  Why the parking lot is so large I have no idea, because in all the times we’ve been there I think we might have encountered just one car.  The parking lot was established for the Bell Island Pier, a beautiful fishing pier that extends perhaps 200 yards or more into Rose Bay Creek, which is an inlet of Rose Bay, the Pamlico River and eventually the Pamlico Sound.

Bell Island Pier at Swan Quarter National Wildlife Refuge near Swan Quarter, North Carolina

Bell Island Pier at Swan Quarter National Wildlife Refuge near Swan Quarter, North Carolina

Despite the sound of the wind and surf, this is truly a quiet place.  We enjoy spending time there, and enjoyed sharing it with Earl & Bonnie.  It’s a place that reminds us that there can be quiet anywhere, we just might need to work a little harder to find it.  There are a lot of spots like that everywhere.  A few of them I like to keep to myself, although they aren’t exactly a secret.  With others the key is to know when to go there and when to stay away.

Bell Island Pier at Swan Quarter National Wildlife Refuge near Swan Quarter, North Carolina

Bell Island Pier at Swan Quarter National Wildlife Refuge near Swan Quarter, North Carolina

Kathy & I have often discussed the possibility of relocating to eastern North Carolina.  There’s a lot to like out there.  It’s close(r) to the Outer Banks, we have made friends in Belhaven and Washington, and we’ve found that it’s just a great destination for a quiet weekend, whether I photograph or not.  There’s a noticeably slower and more relaxed pace out there.  It’s a pace we enjoy because it comes very close to the way we like to live our lives.

Swan Quarter National Wildlife Refuge near Swan Quarter, North Carolina

Swan Quarter National Wildlife Refuge near Swan Quarter, North Carolina

One of our objections to moving so far east is that it is so far from the other places we like to go.  It’s a good 5-hour drive from Charlotte, and another couple of hours or so to the mountains.  But at some point we realized that, being so far from everything might just be the point.  Maybe escaping the hustle & bustle, the traffic and congestion, might be worth the price of having to drive a little farther to get to some of the other places we love.  It’s hard to say for sure, but we may be on to something.  It’s possible that being farther from some things might bring you closer to others.

Graveyard at St Peter's Episcopal Church in Washington, North Carolina

Graveyard at St Peter’s Episcopal Church in Washington, North Carolina

For the foreseeable future, home is where the jobs are, since it’s those jobs that allow us to have the house and travel to all of the places we like to travel to.  Down the road it might be another story, although I suspect the finally getting to the point where we can kiss the corporate world goodbye might lessen the need for escape.  That’s a hard scenario to predict.  But in the mean time, you can be sure that we will continue to seek the quiet places, whether they are close by or farther away.

Graveyard at St Peter's Episcopal Church in Washington, North Carolina

Graveyard at St Peter’s Episcopal Church in Washington, North Carolina

Along the Pamlico River waterfront in Washington, North Carolina

Along the Pamlico River waterfront in Washington, North Carolina

Along the Pamlico River waterfront in Washington, North Carolina
Along the Pamlico River waterfront in Washington, North Carolina
Along the Pamlico River waterfront in Washington, North Carolina

Along the Pamlico River waterfront in Washington, North Carolina

 

No Fooling, It’s April!

Sunrise on the beach, Hilton Head Island South Carolina

Sunrise on the beach, Hilton Head Island South Carolina

Keeping with the theme of abstracts, here is another take on one of my favorite “beach blur” photographs.  Captured by panning the camera at a slow shutter speed, I’ve always loved how the motion tends to simplify a scene.  It’s tough to get right, and a lot of experimentation is required.  One of the benefits of digital cameras is the ability to try stuff like this until we (hopefully) figure it out!

Ranking and Judging

It's impossible to see except at 100%, but there are hundreds of snow geese flying over Lake Mattamuskeet in this photograph.

It’s impossible to see except at 100%, but there are hundreds of snow geese flying over Lake Mattamuskeet in this photograph.

I enjoy sharing my photography with other people, and the place I share the most is on my blog.  The thing that I enjoy about that is that most of the people who read my blog, or at least those who comment on my posts, read it because they enjoy reading what I have to say and enjoy looking at the photographs I’ve made.  I’ll occasionally get some constructive feedback about a process or technique I’ve used, but mostly it is just friends enjoying other friends’ photographs.  I like that.

The most photographed posts - at least by me - in Belhaven, North Carolina

The most photographed posts – at least by me – in Belhaven, North Carolina

I often have a hard time sharing my photography with other photographers, especially hobbyist photographers, because too often such discussions turn into what I call a “duck measuring contest.”  As soon as I show a photograph, someone has to pull out their iPhone and say, “Oh yeah, I got that.  See?” or “here’s my albino Lithuanian wildebeest from my trip to the Masai last fall.”  Whatever.  It stops becoming a discussion about photography and becomes all about their photography.  They don’t really care about my photography, they just care about showing me theirs.  It doesn’t work that way on our blogs, though.  And I appreciate that.

Around the train station in Sanford, North Carolina

Around the train station in Sanford, North Carolina

Kathy & I went to a wine dinner a few months ago at our favorite restaurant.  Wine dinners are an experience that we really enjoy, and involves a pairing of nice wines with foods prepared specially to match up with the wines.  Done well it is a culinary experience that is tough to beat.  At these dinners we are always seated at a table with 4-6 others, almost always couples.  The people are all very nice, but sometimes they know each other and Kathy & just sit there and listen, as they regale each other with tales of their most recent conquest, whether it is dinner at the French Laundry, their new boat or car, or their new 2,000 bottle wine room in their McMansion at the lake.

Around the train station in Albemarle, North Carolina

Around the train station in Albemarle, North Carolina

Eventually someone realizes that there are other people at the table (us) and decides to be polite and talk to us.  Sometimes they’ll ask us where we live, whether we’ve ever been to Napa or what our favorite wineries are.  And while it might appear that they are actually interested in what we do for a living or how old our kids are, it always seems to me to be an excuse to “pull out their iPhone” and talk about themselves.  I’m not completely sure, but I think that’s because people like to find out where you fall on their own personal hierarchy.  A lot of people have a need for that, and it brings them comfort to be able to rank and judge people based on their own scale of whatever it is that they value.

Sunrise from the City Park in Belhaven, North Carolina

Sunrise from the City Park in Belhaven, North Carolina

When I share my photographs on my blog, I never feel like someone is comparing my work to someone else’s, at least from the standpoint of whose work is better or who is a better photographer than someone else.  Because for many of us it’s about appreciating someone’s work for what it is, not trying to prove we are better than everyone else.

Train Station in Grifton, North Carolina

Train Station in Grifton, North Carolina

One of the things I find fascinating is the wide variety of subject matter and the range of equipment we use.  We have people shooting with the latest WhizBang Mark V, some using point & shoot cameras and others shooting with film.  And it’s all good.  Because what matters to us is not whether someone has the latest camera, but how they use the camera they have.

Around the train station in Sanford, North Carolina

Around the train station in Sanford, North Carolina

Whether a photograph was taken in someone’s back yard, Yosemite, Nova Scotia or Tuscany, what’s important is enjoying looking at photographs that show what someone sees and how they see it, not where they were when they took it or what camera they shot it with.  And we learn about that by sharing.  Sharing comments on someone else’s photographs and receiving comments on our own.

Closing Out Winter

Kiddie pools at Walmart covered with snow - seasonal contrast

Kiddie pools at Walmart covered with snow – seasonal contrast

I was looking through my photos from the last month or so and came across of a few stragglers from our snow storm in February.  Here are a few I hadn’t posted yet, just in case anyone was missing the snow.

Forecast is sunny and 70 today…almost time to get out the short-sleeve shirts. :)

No Shopping Today - Snowbound shopping carts in Wal-Mart parking lot

No Shopping Today – Snowbound shopping carts in Wal-Mart parking lot

Kiddie pools at Walmart covered with snow

Kiddie pools at Walmart covered with snow

Random photos from walking around the neighborhood during the snow storm

Random photos from walking around the neighborhood during the snow storm

Random photos from walking around the neighborhood during the snow storm

Random photos from walking around the neighborhood during the snow storm

 

Random photos from walking around the neighborhood during the snow storm

Random photos from walking around the neighborhood during the snow storm

 

 

Learning Curve

Around the train station in Sanford, North Carolina

Around the train station in Sanford, North Carolina

I recently built a new computer.  Well, to be accurate, my son Kevin built a new computer and allowed me to plug in some of the parts, and I mostly installed the operating system with him looking over my shoulder.  He hides his impatience with me pretty well, but he very politely allowed me to do it even though I was pretty slow and had to refer to the instructions too much. :)

Around the train station in Albemarle, North Carolina

Around the train station in Albemarle, North Carolina

Buying the parts was about as easy as buying a whole computer already assembled.  I got a list of all the stuff I needed from a website online, confirmed my choices with Kevin and with Earl, and a few days later it started raining Newegg boxes at our house!  The assembly process was fairly straightforward, too.  Although it helped a lot that Kevin knew where all the plugs and pieces went.  I would still be trying to figure it out if I was trying to do it on my own.

Around the train station in Albemarle, North Carolina

Around the train station in Albemarle, North Carolina

I know enough about computers to be just shy of dangerous.  But I know little enough that whenever I start to ask someone a question I can feel the “please don’t ask me a computer question” tension start to build.  As part of the learning process I spent a lot of time trying to figure stuff out for myself, and that involved looking at message boards.  And just like on photography boards, there was a lot of condescending “if you don’t know that you don’t have any business building a computer” talk, and that can be a little off-putting.  I never would have attempted the project if I didn’t have expert help, but now that I’ve seen it done, I feel like I would be a little more confident trying to make a change or even building another computer.  Although the idea is that I won’t have to do that for a long time.

Around the train station in Sanford, North Carolina

Around the train station in Sanford, North Carolina

One of the first things I did after I got the computer up and running was to install Lightroom 5 and Photoshop CC.  I had not used Lightroom 5 on my old computer, because it was barely able to run Lightroom 4, and I was certain it would choke on Lightroom 5.  I did have Photoshop CS6 on my old computer, but the only thing I was using it for was adding the text to my monthly calendar and sharpening the output for the web.  The new versions of Lightroom and Photoshop aren’t a lot different than the previous ones, but it became apparent very quickly that I have some catching up to do.

Around the train station in Albemarle, North Carolina

Around the train station in Albemarle, North Carolina

Because I have taught classes and done tutoring in Lightroom, I consider myself a bit of an expert.  I have even toyed with the idea of taking the test to become an ACE (Adobe Certified Expert) in Lightroom.  But now I feel like I need to take a class myself, because after just a few short months of not keeping up, I’m already behind.

Sunset from Water Street in Belhaven, North Carolina

Sunset from Water Street in Belhaven, North Carolina

And that brings me to the point of this article.  There are so many things that we have to know and understand to be photographers that it is hard to keep up with it all.  We’ve always needed to be experts on the basics – composition, exposure and focus – fortunately those basics don’t change much, although the more we learn the more we find out we don’t know.  We need to have a high level of familiarity with the mechanics of our equipment, and that equipment has gotten more complex as our cameras have become capable of doing more things.  And then there is the output side – computers and printers.  Assuming that we buy a computer that is already built, there is still a matter of getting everything to do what we need it to do, such as installing the software, calibrating the display and hooking up the printer.  And if we decide that we want to do our own printing, that is a whole world in and of itself.

Sunrise from the City Park in Belhaven, North Carolina

Sunrise from the City Park in Belhaven, North Carolina

I love learning new things.  That’s why the project of building a computer appealed to me.  And there is something fun about buying all of the parts and assembling your own.  And the fact that I was able to buy and build a computer to do my photography makes it that much more rewarding.  But now the real fun begins.  I get to learn how to use it and make it do what I want it to do, to hopefully make the final result of my photography even better.  I’m glad I had some friends to help me along the way, and I’m sure I will be relying on them for more help down the road.  But I’ll try to figure it out myself before I ask!

Sunrise from the City Park in Belhaven, North Carolina

Sunrise from the City Park in Belhaven, North Carolina

Photographs and stuff!