My typical practice when I get back from a trip and am going through photos to process for my blog is to toss some of the picks into a Quick Collection in Lightroom. I’ll process those and when I’m done I’ll have a little group to go with whatever words I’ve had bouncing around in my head.
These photos have been sitting in my Quick Collection folder since we returned from our visit to Belhaven in late March. I think 6 out of the 8 were done, I just hadn’t finished them.
I thought I had better clear them out before I start posting more Hilton Head photos. So here they are, better late than never, I guess!
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Along the Pamlico River waterfront in Washington, North Carolina
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
I received a number of favorable comments on a similar photo I posted last week and I thought it made for an interesting subject, so I processed another shot from that same location to share as this month’s wallpaper. I thought about using a snow photo, but for some of us, we’re hoping that the little bit of snow we got this past week means that we’re done for the year and that we can get on to spring. We’ll see how that works out, but that is the optimist’s view!
Well here we are, already into the second month of the year. I know I am looking forward to finishing the moving in process at just about the time the weather warms up enough to make getting outside a bit more enjoyable. Here in the south, February can sometimes mean an early spring or it can mean “don’t hold your breath.” I’ve got my hopes on an early transition. We’ll see what happens!
Kathy & I have worked really hard in recent years to strike a balance between planning & preparing for the future and living a full & meaningful life in the present. A concept that we recently came up with was the idea that we should make it a point to “Celebrate Every Day.” It’s probably a product of age and maturity, possibly wisdom, but starting from the loss of my own parents nearly 30 years ago and continuing as recently as the loss of Kathy’s parents last year, we have made a point of evaluating our own priorities in this context. We finally gave it a formal name just recently.
One night last week – Tuesday, in fact – we decided to have one of our more “splurgy” bottles of wine. We often save those for what we might consider special occasions. But in keeping with our “Celebrate Every Day” theme, we decided to open that bottle “because it was Tuesday.” Thus was born the idea of Wine on Tuesdays. Any other day of the week would be appropriate as well. 🙂
I have received a number of compliments on the photo from my last post and for the same photo that is on this month’s print calendar. This truly is a wonderful photograph, one of my all-time favorites. This is a location I have visited a number of times, at different times of the year and in varying conditions. The particular evening that I made the photograph that became this month’s calendar, I had exceptionally nice light. It only lasted for a few moments, but that light, combined with very still water, made for just the right conditions.
I remembered a similar photograph that I had taken at this same location several years earlier, and went back and pulled it up. While nice in it’s own way, it was a more cloudy afternoon and the light is much more subdued. The lighting was much more subdued, which is what I would typically favor for a lot of the photography I do. It is still a very nice photograph, but not on the same level as the later one.
It is a good example of why we return often to a familiar location. Because you just don’t know what conditions you might encounter.
OK, so I’m a little late this month – SORRY! Actually I sort of forgot. But at least ONE person contacted me to tell me that they missed my update. Sorry, Kevin W, that you had to go almost a whole day without the latest calendar! 🙂
Lots happening in the House of Dills this month. Hopefully I’ll be broadcasting from my new “studio” for the December update. We’ll see. I’ve got some posts in the works, though. Words for some, photos for others. I just have to put them together.
For those of you who also have my print calendar, this is one of the few times that I’ve duplicated my print calendar with my desktop calendar. But when I turned the page on my printed calendar this morning, I liked the photo so much I decided to put it on my computer screen, too! I hope you enjoy it.
I was originally going to title this post “Take the Money and Run,” but when I thought about what I really wanted to say, I realized I was wanting to talk more about the present and the future than revisiting the past. I mentioned in an earlier post about the fact that we had sold our house, were sweating out the due diligence process and had been waiting – somewhat impatiently – to get the green light to move, and eventually to actually close the sale. Well, that’s all done now. We sent about half of our stuff to storage on May 22, moved the important stuff – cameras, computers, the bed and a little bit of furniture 🙂 – into an apartment on May 23, spent the 23rd and 24th unpacking most of what we brought, then immediately headed off to Belhaven, our favorite little town on the coast, for Memorial Day weekend. We then spent evenings this past week and this just-past weekend getting the rest of the odds and ends squared away. I got my printer hooked up and working this morning – it fortunately seems to have survived the move with no ill effects. I have some pictures to hang, but that will be about it.
We closed the sale on the 30th, so now we are houseless, but not homeless. We had lived in our house for 17 years. That’s an eternity for some people, and is the longest we have ever lived in one place. And we haven’t lived in an apartment since 1984. I think one of the lessons learned from the selling and moving process is that that is way too long to stay in one place. Not that there is anything wrong with it, but you tend to accumulate a lot of stuff, and the older a house gets the more money it takes to keep it up. And that’s money that I would rather spend on things other than house maintenance.
Our current plan is to move into a new condo early this fall. It is currently in the very early construction stages – as in there isn’t even a road to it yet. But we visited the site this morning, and there are curbs now where there was just a hint of road only a week ago. The lot is graded and staked out, so we’re thinking that as soon as the road is paved we’ll start seeing forms go up for the footers. That’s pretty exciting – building our own place from the ground up. We’re not physically building it of course, but we picked the floor plan, chose the options and got to put our “signature” on it. All very exciting.
In the mean time, what to do? We think we’re going to like this little break quite a bit. A few months where the only things we need to think about are the necessities. Sure, we need to get up and go to work every day. We need to plan meals and get our exercise. But other than that? No boxes, no inspections and no appraisals. Almost worry free! Most everyone we know tells us that we’ll get tired of apartment living very quickly, and that we won’t be able to wait to get into our condo. But I don’t know. Part of us thinks we could get used to the “footloose and fancy free” lifestyle for a few years, maybe longer. Who says we need to own a house? Only the people who have a vested interest in selling us one! Throwing my money away on rent? How about throwing it away on interest instead? Take your pick and pay The Man. Conventional wisdom isn’t necessarily conventional or wise, I say.
We have every intention of going through with the condo purchase as planned. But we’re going to use this little bit of free time to consider all of our options. And that includes deciding whether or not we want to be tied to owning a house that we have to sell again, or if we just like the idea of giving 60 days notice, loading up the truck and moving somewhere else. There’s a certain appeal to that idea that tells me that I shouldn’t dismiss it out of hand. So we’ll see.
So what does all of this have to do with photography? Probably not a whole lot, except that for the next few months I expect to have a lot more time to spend wandering around with my camera. And I plan to have plenty of time to start writing for my blog again. And we’ll probably travel a little bit, maybe a lot. And that sounds like something that I can really look forward to.
Kathy & I are visiting Belhaven, North Carolina this weekend. One of our many favorite weekend destinations, Belhaven is ideally situated near a lot of places that I love to photograph. And this weekend has proven – once again – the advantage of returning time after time to some of the same places.
The weather has been perfect “Chamber of Commerce” weather. Clear, blue sky with no clouds to be found anywhere. Well, there were a few around late this afternoon, but not enough to make a meaningful difference in the weather forecast. A little tough for photography, but not if you know where to look. And I had a pretty good idea where to look!
I love shooting the boats around Swan Quarter and Englehard. I never get tired of going there, and these are especially good places in the late afternoon on these clear days when I know there will be golden light if I am patient enough.
Once the sun was low enough that the boats were cast in shadow we headed back down the road to Lake Mattamuskeet to see what like of post-sunset color we might find. We found a little, and it was quite nice.
One of the advantages of an early sunset is a little more time to spend processing photos, so I have broken from my usual routine to process a few photos from this afternoon and get them online the same day. I’ll have a few more once we get home and I get them processed on my regular computer.