Category Archives: Photography

Figure It Out

Dogwood, azalea and spring flowers in bloom in Charlotte near the intersection of Mount Holly-Huntersville Road and Westminster Rd

It’s been interesting to see how people and businesses are responding to the forced changes in their lives.  Many people have found ways to adapt.  Some have not.

The owner of a restaurant that Kathy & I frequent when we travel recently posted on Facebook something along the lines of “well, our food doesn’t translate too well to takeout, so we will remain closed for duration of the coronavirus situation.”  So now he just spends time posting photos of his tattoos and sharing articles about how the government is going to have to step up and make loans to all these businesses that are affected by the shutdown.  Meanwhile, two of his neighboring businesses – also very fine restaurants – are offering takeout meals and posting words of thanks to all of their friends that are responding positively to their efforts to provide takeout.  When I read the stuff that the one guy posts, I think, “dude, you need to figure it out!”

On the flip side, I was inspired by a recent article about a Michelin-star chef in NYC who “created a menu that eschews complex, hard-to-deliver items like tuna tostada in favor of homey offerings like chicken — a food he never thought he would serve.”  The article goes on to say that “he has also had to get used to seeing delivery drivers mishandle his carefully assembled dishes. And he has learned to package certain orders in foil containers so the dishes do not have to be removed from their delivery vessels to be heated in the oven.

“Before, we were a Michelin star restaurant where people would have a bunch of mezcals and hang out for a while and spend money,” Mr. Steele said. “Now we’re sending chips and salsa and soup to people.”

This is a guy who has figured it out.

I know that my criticism might seem a little unfair, because this is hard for everyone.  But we see examples everywhere of people figuring it out.  Locally, our local breakfast/lunch diner has setup a drive-up/pick-up service.  They figured it out.  Many other restaurants, including our favorite fine dining restaurant and favorite Italian restaurant, have set up online ordering so you can do “contactless pickup” of their dinners.  They figured it out.  A bartender at one of those restaurants has started preparing mason jars of pre-mixed cocktail ingredients to sell with their takeout orders.  You just have to follow instructions and add your own booze.  She has figured it out.  Our favorite bartender, who just happens to enjoy concocting many of his own mixes, has come up with a line of bottled Old Fashioned mix that he is delivering – reasonably priced – to anyone who asks for it.  I won’t be surprised to see him expand his offerings.  He has figured it out.

No one is coming through this unscathed, and unfortunately a lot of businesses will not survive.  By the time this is over though, we’re all going to need haircuts!  Many of us will be looking forward to that first sit-down meal, wherever it might be.  And we’re surely looking forward to planning and setting off on that first adventure, whether by land, air or sea!  But in the mean time we all need to figure it out, in whatever way works for us.

Interesting Times

Sunbeams through the fog along the Blue Ridge Parkway near the intersection with US 23/74 near Waynesville, North Carolina

Interesting times these are.  According to Quora, the saying “May You Live in Interesting Times” is misattributed to Confucius.  It was first used by Sir Austen Chamberlain in 1936, and later popularized through a speech by Robert F Kennedy in 1966. The phrase “live in interesting times” dates at least to the late 19th century. The “Chinese curse” element was likely added by Sir Chamberlain as an (effective) embellishment. There is no evidence of a Chinese origin.

Rosebay rhododendron along Balsam Mountain Road, Blue Ridge Parkway near Waynesville, North Carolina

When we’re not traveling, I’m usually content to be a homebody.  Why is it then, when I’m told not to go out, I want to go out?  When we saw Monday’s announcement that people should stop eating in restaurants, almost immediately followed by an announcement from our favorite fine dining establishment that they would be closing immediately, Kathy & I did the sensible thing and dashed out to our favorite Italian restaurant for pizza!  That’s essential travel, right? 🙂

Turk’s Cap Lilies along Balsam Mountain Road, Blue Ridge Parkway
Turk’s Cap Lilies along Balsam Mountain Road, Blue Ridge Parkway near Waynesville, North Carolina

When I walked this morning, it was business as usual at our local Micky D’s and Eat Mo Chikn, but now we’re getting word that the governor has ordered all restaurants to close their dining rooms after 5:00 today – take out and drive through only.  So it’s a good thing we brought home extra pizza!  And a good thing we like to eat our own cooking!

Yellow jewelweed along the Blue Ridge Parkway Waynesville, North Carolina

The grocery stores should still be open, although there’s no telling what the shelves will look like.  Kathy & I are well stocked with vittles to get through, although we’ll continue to shop as long as we’re able to get to the store.

Wildflowers along the Blue Ridge Parkway at MP 437 near Waynesville, North Carolina

The whole thing seems like a ridiculous overreaction from here at this point, but I know that we see a very small sliver of the world, and I know that we are – for the moment – mostly out of the epicenter of the exposure to this nasty bug.  Hopefully we can keep it that way.  A reminder like this video from people in Italy helps keep the perspective.

Wildflowers along the Blue Ridge Parkway at MP 437 near Waynesville, North Carolina

So we’re good for now.  We’ve got food & wine, music, internet, LOTS of photography books to look through, and several thousand photos to process if I choose to.  So I think as long as our neighbors don’t try to sing we’ll be able to get by just fine!  I told Kathy earlier that, since the economy (and our retirement fund) has gone to sh1t, we might as well do our best to stay healthy and keep ourselves occupied while it has a chance to recover.

Along the Blue Ridge Parkway at MP 437 near Waynesville, North Carolina

The links are from friend and photographer Jeff Curto’s blog.  He and his wife are “stuck” in Italy (by choice – read the blog) and he has been posting about his time there.  Because Italy is a few weeks ahead of us in terms of the virus, they are experiencing what we might have to endure if things progress in this country.

Rosebay rhododendron along Balsam Mountain Road, Blue Ridge Parkway near Waynesville, North Carolina

We’re also tracking the progress of some friends who have been on a world cruise.  When the cruise line decided to shut down operations and send everyone home, they started looking for a place to dock.  They are currently in the Pacific Ocean somewhere, headed to Australia, but Australia might not take them.  The good thing is that they have been sailing since early January and no one on board has been exposed, so hopefully they will be able to land somewhere!

Rosebay rhododendron along Balsam Mountain Road, Blue Ridge Parkway near Waynesville, North Carolina

The photos are ones I’ve recently rediscovered from a macro workshop in 2009.  I’d forgotten about them and am having a blast with the processing, especially using software technology that didn’t exist back then.  Looking at these photos reminds me to get my macro lens back out! (And yes, a few of them have some nasty fringing from the closeup diopter I was using at the time.  Others really do have pink edges!)

Morning fog in the valley from The Orchards Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway, MP 444 near Waynesville, North Carolina

Fuzzy Concepts 2

Motion Blur in Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina

Panning with moving objects to convey a sense of speed and motion.  I need to do more of this, although people can be weird about a guy standing on a street corner with a camera.  Maybe now that I’m older they’ll just think I’m eccentric but harmless. 😉

Motion Blur in Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina
Motion Blur in Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina
Motion Blur in Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina
Motion Blur in Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina

The Frog

Frog – The Frog Formerly Known as Prince

After recently commenting on Monte’s post, Monte asked me to show him my frog.  I’ve given him a corny name, but most folks who read my blog will get it.

I found Frog at a shop in Bryson City, NC this past fall.  I had previously photographed one of his cousins in Columbiana, OH.  It is his cousin’s photo that I’ve been using as my avatar, but I may need to change it now that I have my own.

Frog lives on our front porch.  He has a solar panel on the back of his head that will make his eyes light up at night.  I haven’t turned it on yet.  I’m waiting for someone to move into the house across the street. 🙂

Power To The People

Walk around the neighborhood on a winter morning

I’ve been working lately on having a camera with me on my morning walks.  It’s interesting what I see when I have a camera with me (duh!). 😉

Transmission towers aren’t exactly a glamorous subject (unless you’re into such things), but they do have some interesting lines and shapes.  This one is a regular subject, mostly because it’s always there, looks different in changing light and weather, and gives me a reason to trudge to the top of the hill.

It’s also a good camera test – to check focus and sharpness!

Now You See Them…Now You Don’t

Angry surf on the beach at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia

I’ve been going back through old image folders looking for unprocessed photos that are worth spending time with.  I recently came across some photos from a visit to Chincoteague, Virginia in 2010.

Angry surf on the beach at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia

The ocean was particularly angry one morning, and I remember standing on the beach shooting the surf while trying to keep myself and the camera dry from the salt spray.  In order to slow the shutter speed down enough to show the motion, I had stopped my lens down to – according to the metadata – f40.  I didn’t remember having a lens that stopped down that much, but sho-nuff the old Canon 100-400  did!

Angry surf on the beach at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia

Of course, at f40 every dust spot on the sensor is going to be visible, and on some of these photos there were dozens, perhaps a hundred or more.  It’s a pretty safe guess that the reason these photos hadn’t been processed was because of all the spots.  I’ve never been meticulous about cleaning my sensor, and it shows.  But one of the advances in Lightroom that I am now able to take advantage of is the Spot Removal tool.  The technology has improved dramatically over the last 10 years, to the point where I was able to salvage this photos.  It involved a lot of clicking and a certain amount of adjusting, but a lot less futzing than I would have had to do back then!

Angry surf on the beach at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia

A Matter of Perspective

Sunrise along the waterfront in Belhaven, North Carolina

One of the more recent additions to Lightroom is the “Transform” function, in particular the perspective correction tool.  I find myself making use of this tool a lot, as it “corrects” photos where I’m forced to shoot from an angle – side to side and up to down – and making them look normal.  I don’t generally use it to “cheat” but rather I like to use it when I don’t have a choice about where to stand.

Sunrise along the waterfront in Belhaven, North Carolina

I’ve been going back through some old unprocessed photos and came across a group of sunrise photos from 2010 in Belhaven, North Carolina.  One of the distinguishing features of the harbor in Belhaven is a break wall that separates the harbor from the larger Pungo River.  The break wall is a well-recognized landmark of this area, but the problem I always have with it is that it doesn’t run perpendicular to the places I photograph from.  As a result, there is always a perspective mismatch between the horizon line and the line of the breakwall.  They never looked right when I processed them, so I’ve always been hesitant to use them for anything.  Until now.

Sunrise along the waterfront in Belhaven, North Carolina

Looking at this photos, I wondered if the perspective correction in Lightroom could be used to “fix” the position of the breakwall so it looked “right” in my photos.  Lo and behold, it does!  There is a little bit of falloff in focus in the areas that are actually father away, but it’s hardly noticeable.  And yes, I could have done this a long time ago in Photoshop.  But that misses my point.  And of course, someone who lives there and is used to the view would likely recognize the change immediately.  But for most folks, they wouldn’t notice the difference.

I’ve attached a couple of photos as examples, including one “before & after composite.  I think it turns a photo that never looked quite right into one that looks pretty good for all but the pickiest few among us.  And chances are they don’t read this blog! 🙂

before-after

Tilting At Windmills

Wind generators off US 36 near SW Lakesite Road near Osborn, Missouri

From Wikipedia: “Tilting at windmills is an English idiom that means attacking imaginary enemies. The expression is derived from Don Quixote, and the word “tilt” in this context comes from jousting.

 The phrase is sometimes used to describe either confrontations where adversaries are incorrectly perceived, or courses of action that are based on misinterpreted or misapplied heroic, romantic, or idealistic justifications. It may also connote an importune, unfounded, and vain effort against adversaries real or imagined.”

Here in the east we don’t have many, if any, opportunities to see wind turbines in the huge farms like they have out west.  There are a few in eastern North Carolina and I’m sure more in other locations, but I haven’t come across them in the numbers that we encountered out west.  I had seen photos of wind farms in the west, but seeing them in person made an even greater impression.

Seven Mile Wind Farm near Medicine Bow, Wyoming

Wind turbines are not without controversy, certainly, but I find them to have a graceful beauty, spinning like a dancer in slow motion.  I don’t profess to be an expert on wind turbines or any other methods of producing electricity.  But as someone living within 20 miles (technically 20.5 miles) of two nuclear plants, two coal plants and a few other types, I think I would rather see a few dozen (or hundred) wind mills on my horizon than the steam plumes from the cooling towers of nuclear plants.  They may not work here or make sense for an area as densely populated as Charlotte, but I see turbines as a viable alternative for producing electricity, particularly in rural areas such as Nebraska, the Dakotas and Wyoming where constant wind is a fact of life.

Wind generators off US 36 near SW Lakesite Road near Osborn, Missouri

We were fortunate enough to come across a few sites at times when it was conducive to making photographs, and I hope I’ve done a reasonable job of presenting them.

Wind farm along US-487 south of Casper, Wyoming