Category Archives: Photography

Icons and Creativity

Tuscan countryside near Montalcino, Italy

When visiting a place known for being a photographic destination, it isn’t unusual for certain locations to be “famous” as sites of iconic photographs.  We all have our favorite examples.  One of them for me was the photos I made of the blurry gondolas in Venice.  While I captured the obvious shot, I also tried to find my own view, to make it my own, in a sense.

Chapel of the Madonna di Vitaleta in the Tuscan countryside near Vitaleta, Italy

While on our photo tour in Tuscany, several of the students asked about specific locations and whether we would be going there.  Jeff (Curto) indicated that those spots were not on the itinerary but that we would likely pass by a few of them.  Jeff was very familiar with the locations, but cautioned us that for a number of reasons – namely conditions such as weather, season or time of year – we would not be able to capture the photos those folks had in their minds and had seen on Flickr, Facebook or National Geographic.  But, photographers being photographers, they wanted to go anyway so we did.  There’s nothing wrong with photographing famous photographic subjects of course, but Jeff encouraged us to find our own unique view of the locations – under the conditions we found there – and to make the best of them.

Tuscan countryside near Montalcino, Italy
Tuscan countryside near Montalcino, Italy

Case in point is our visit to the Chapel of the Madonna di Vitaleta, which is in the Tuscan countryside near Vitaleta, Italy and is the location of the photo I posted previously and the location of the photos in this post.  It’s a spot that even I was familiar with, having found photos on a number of websites and possibly in a guidebook or two along the way.  It is a beautiful scene under just about any conditions, but at the time of our visit we faced a number of challenges.  First, being that it is a place famous for being famous, it attracts a lot of attention.  In the middle of the afternoon in June, there was no way to avoid people.  Second, it was 4:00 in the afternoon, not exactly an ideal time for photography, although the light in Tuscany was almost always ideal for some kind of photography!

Tuscan countryside near Montalcino, Italy. The sign says “Vietato Calpestare – Coltura In Alto” or “Forbidden to Walk – Farming in Progress”

I worked to try and come up with a couple of views that I felt would reflect my own take on the scene.  By taking the wide-angle approach I minimized the appearance of people and took advantage of the great sky and the surrounding landscape.  I also looked around for other scenes that were not as iconic but photo-worthy themselves.  I think I came up with a few good shots, including one of some actual people!  On the distance shots I could have cloned out most of the bodies, but to me that was part of the scene and I decided to leave them in.  Plus, the scenes looking elsewhere didn’t have any people in them!  If at some point I decide to make a “fine art” print I may take a few more liberties.

Tuscan countryside near Montalcino, Italy

Tree Family

“Tree Family” at a parking area near Linville Falls on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Kathy & I recently made a day trip up to the Blue Ridge Parkway.  We had hoped to get in a little hiking, but the weather turned out to be uncooperative.  We did manage to spend a little time between rain showers just sitting at a parking spot along the Linville River.  While we were there I spotted this grouping of birch trees that I thought would make a nice still life.  It looked like a family photo to me, so that’s where I came up with the title.

Randomness, Happenstance and (Sometimes) Luck

Sky and cloud reflections at the Bell Island Pier near Swan Quarter, North Carolina

Making a slight diversion from working on and posting about Italy photos….

Sky and cloud reflections at the Bell Island Pier near Swan Quarter, North Carolina

I first heard the term “stochastic photography” in a post by Ctein on The Online Photographer way back in 2010.  It’s sort of a refined version of pointing your camera at something, taking a boatload of pictures and hoping some of them come out in a way that is pleasing or that somehow meet the intention of what you were trying to capture.  As in “I’ll know it when I see it.”  I don’t always remember to use that technique, although I often recognize situations where it might be appropriate.  Sometimes I even have my camera with me.  While I don’t generally care to make my photographs “about the technique, ” sometimes the technique helps to define the photographs.  Post-visualization perhaps, rather than pre-visualization?

Sky and cloud reflections at the Bell Island Pier near Swan Quarter, North Carolina
Sky and cloud reflections at the Bell Island Pier near Swan Quarter, North Carolina

Kathy & I spent 4th of July week out in eastern NC, in New Bern and Belhaven.  One morning we stopped at the Bell Island Pier, which is a fishing pier within the Swan Quarter National Wildlife Refuge, near Swan Quarter, NC.  It was a beautiful day, with towering cumulus clouds and a deep blue sky.  I noticed the reflections of the sky in the water and decided to see what I could get.

Sky and cloud reflections at the Bell Island Pier near Swan Quarter, North Carolina

Over the course of about 4 minutes I fired off a little more than 100 shots.  It’s a little hard to tell which ones are “successful” but I’ve put together a little collection of a few that I liked.  The ones that “feel right” to me have a nice balance of light and dark, color and no color, with an interesting pattern.  I may decide later on that there are others I like or some that I don’t like, but that’s part of the fun!

Sky and cloud reflections at the Bell Island Pier near Swan Quarter, North Carolina

A Touch of Spring

Springtime at South Mountains State Park

Here in the Piedmont of NC spring has been springing for several weeks, and we are almost into early summer.  The dogwood have been out for a week and the hardwoods are unfurling their new leaves.

Springtime at South Mountains State Park

Several weeks ago Kathy & I visited South Mountains State Park for a little hiking and sightseeing.  The park is west of Charlotte, about halfway to the “real” mountains, and a slightly higher elevation, so spring was a couple of weeks behind us here.

Springtime at South Mountains State Park

One thing I love about spring is looking through the woods and seeing just the hint of green.  I think that “Spring Green” is a shade of color unique to new growth leaves, and to me it speaks as much about the seasons as the fall colors do about fall.  Coupled with redbud and the occasional other early bloomers, they make for a hopeful sight after the gray of winter.

Springtime at South Mountains State Park

These photos won’t do much to show off my nature photography skills, but they do a reasonable job of showing the spring that we saw as we explored the park.

Springtime at South Mountains State Park

Lightroom Update

Hennepin Avenue Bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis Minnesota

I don’t usually get too excited about software, but the most recent update to Lightroom has me pretty intrigued.  Most of the changes were cosmetic in nature, related to the layout of certain menu items.  But Adobe has introduced some new and improved Develop profiles that I really like.  I’ve never been able to come up with black & white conversions that I was consistently happy with, but some of the new profiles are pretty sweet.  I might even give Monte a run for his black & white money!  The color profiles are pretty nice too.  I’m still working and fiddling with them, but I think I may have found some new tools!

A Few More

Views of uptown Charlotte from the Seventh Street Station parking garage, Charlotte, North Carolina

Nothing to say today, important or otherwise.  I just processed a few more photos from the same folder as the last post and thought I would share.  Hope everyone is enjoying the weekend.  Staying warm where it’s cold and dry where it’s wet. 😉

Views of uptown Charlotte from the Seventh Street Station parking garage, Charlotte, North Carolina
Views of uptown Charlotte from the Seventh Street Station parking garage, Charlotte, North Carolina
Views of uptown Charlotte from the Seventh Street Station parking garage, Charlotte, North Carolina
Views of uptown Charlotte from the Seventh Street Station parking garage, Charlotte, North Carolina
Views of uptown Charlotte around the Imaginon Children’s Library in Charlotte, North Carolina

Looking Back – January 2012

Beach at Sunset, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina – Canon 5D

As part of my project to recover drive space by deleting photos that didn’t make the cut, I get to go through those folders again, looking for photos that made the cut but that I had never processed.  The year I’ve been looking at most recently is 2012.  These photos were from a trip to Hilton Head Island that year.  It’s interesting to see that I used three different cameras at that time.

Beach at Sunset, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina – Canon 5D

Beach at Sunset, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina – Fuji X10
Beach at Sunset, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina – Canon G12

Spoiled For Choice

If someone put a motor on an ofo, would that make it a mofo?

A recent Charlotte phenomenon is the proliferation of something called  “dockless bike-sharing programs.”  By using an app on your phone (of course) you can pick up one of these bikes, ride it wherever you want, and leave it there.  It unlocks automagically using the app, then presumably locks itself when you are finished.

It’s kind of an interesting concept, and I kind of hope it catches on, but I have to wonder just how many people are actually going to ride these things.  A recent news article indicated the city council had authorized four different companies to have up to 2,000 bikes in town.  That seems like a lot.

Maybe on the first 70 degree day we should have a Bike-In, and everyone head out at lunch time, ride a bike to some central location and leave them all in one place.  Seems like a lot of trouble but what the heck.