Tag Archives: NC

October Wallpaper Calendar

Morning light and fall color from Pounding Mill Overlook on the

I didn’t shoot a lot of desktop-worthy fall color last year, so I had to go back two years for this one.  While it isn’t “fall leaves and acorns” it is nevertheless color in the sky that you just don’t get too often over the summer.  Not until the humidity blows off do you get these vibrant colors in the mornings.

Pounding Mill Overlook is on the Blue Ridge Parkway just south of the SR 276 intersection, so whether you are in Brevard or Waynesville it is an easy sunrise destination, especially in the fall when sunrise is at a very civilized time.  People don’t believe me when I say that the best color is often 30 minutes or more before sunrise.  Why?  Because people don’t usually start looking that soon, and because it is still really, really dark.  But the color is there, you just have to be ready for it.

Kathy & I have a little bit of fall travel planned, although we will mostly be making day trips. I’ve used up nearly all of my vacation time for this year, and we’re holding onto what few of our vacation dollars are left until we can close on our house.

Good As New

Shelton Vineyards, Dobson, North Carolina
Shelton Vineyards, Dobson, North Carolina

I got my camera back from the shop last week and had a chance to test it out over the weekend.  Kathy & I visited Shelton Vineyards with some of our nature photography buddies.  As far as I can tell it looks like the machine is functioning properly.  The operator felt a little rusty but I got the hang of it pretty quickly.

More photos than words today, so enjoy!

Shelton Vineyards, Dobson, North Carolina
Shelton Vineyards, Dobson, North Carolina
Shelton Vineyards, Dobson, North Carolina
Shelton Vineyards, Dobson, North Carolina
Shelton Vineyards, Dobson, North Carolina
Shelton Vineyards, Dobson, North Carolina

Hidden Treasures

Bearded Beggarticks (Bidens aristosa) along the Torrence Creek Greenway in Huntersville, North Carolina
Bearded Beggarticks (Bidens aristosa) along the Torrence Creek Greenway in Huntersville, North Carolina

I recently sold a couple of prints to a repeat customer, and before I made the prints I went back over the files, as I often do, and made a few tweaks to take advantage of a more recent version of Lightroom than I used when I originally processed the photos a few years ago.  As I was going through my library, specifically the folder where one of those prints resides, I went back and looked at some of the other photos in that folder.  As often happens, a number of my “picks” for that day hadn’t been processed, and I was playing around to see what some of them might look like processed.  I came across this version that I think I like even better than the first.  It is a different flower, but the composition and the lighting make it a bit more dramatic than my original favorite.  I made a small print of this one, but think I may have to go a little larger and make one to hang on the wall.

My “former favorite” is below.  I’ll be interested in thoughts on how the two compare.

Bearded Beggarticks (Bidens aristosa) along the Torrence Creek Greenway in Huntersville, North Carolina
Bearded Beggarticks (Bidens aristosa) along the Torrence Creek Greenway in Huntersville, North Carolina

Taking Comfort in the Familiar, and July 2013 Wallpaper

Sunset from Morton Overlook, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN
Sunset from Morton Overlook, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN

I guess it’s human nature that we find comfort in returning to things and places we have been before and know well.  Even when we have moved on to so-called “bigger and better things” we never completely get away from our past.  Whether that is good or bad is to be determined, and is up to each of us to decide.

While it’s where I started my “serious” photographic endeavors, I find myself doing very little classic  “Nature Photography” these days.  Not that there is anything wrong with it, as there are few things I enjoy more than standing at an overlook in the pre-dawn cold or the late evening dusk waiting for that Magic Moment.  But there’s just so much more to do than that.  As much as I love it, in many ways, as a photographer I’ve moved on.

I need to be a little cautious here, because I have a lot of good friends for whom nature photography is exactly what they want to do, and they spend all of their spare time, effort and money doing it.  So I’m not trying to make myself out as better than anyone, or suggest that I am more of an artiste than someone else, just because I like taking photographs of peeling paint and shadows.  It’s just that after a few hundred sunrises and sunsets, eventually they all sort of started looking the same to me.  While I still do my share of sunrises and sunsets, flowers and bugs, there’s only so much time, and I want to see what else there is!

So with all that said, this month’s calendar is one of those cliché photographs from an iconic location.  Morton Overlook in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of just a handful of places you can shoot sunset standing next to your car.  Plus, it often has just the right combination of good light and interesting sky that it often produces interesting results.  The downside, however, is that there is really only one view.  You seldom need anything but a 24-70 lens, which is what I used for this photo.  You can go wide or long within those limits, but for the most part that’s about what you have to work with.  The rest is up to the fate of the weather conditions.  Makes it a little hard to be contemplative or creative, it’s mostly a matter of luck.

This was taken with my long-obsolete Canon 20D and the now-ancient 24-70 lens.  Re-processed in Lightroom 4 to take advantage of some new technology.  Still not a bad photograph, I’d say.  And I’ll have that lens with me for a while!

Still Here

Wandering around downtown Waynesville, NC on a weekend perfect for a wanton disregard of critical obligations.
Wandering around downtown Waynesville, NC on a weekend perfect for a wanton disregard of critical obligations.

I thought I had better post a few words and some pictures just to prove that I am still alive and kicking.  Things have been a little hectic lately around The House of Dills.

After about 5 years of preparations, Kathy & I decided in February that this seemed like the right time to put our house on the market.  We began working with a Realtor to get things finalized so we would be ready for the spring sales market, which we expected would be a good one.  It’s amazing how much there is to do to a house to get it ready to sell – things you haven’t thought about or had just put off because you just hadn’t gotten around to it.  Despite having been “getting ready” for the last couple of years, there was still a last-minute rush to get things done.

Wandering around downtown Waynesville, NC on a weekend perfect for a wanton disregard of critical obligations.
Wandering around downtown Waynesville, NC on a weekend perfect for a wanton disregard of critical obligations.

In true Tom & Kathy fashion, we did the sensible thing and immediately headed out of town for a quick rest-up before we got started.  That was the weekend in February when we headed to Charleston, SC.  When we returned, we dove head-first into a 6-week period of repairs, staging and primping.  I also took photos for the listing, which I’ll probably share in another post.  By the end of March, we were ready.

Wandering around downtown Waynesville, NC on a weekend perfect for a wanton disregard of critical obligations.
Wandering around downtown Waynesville, NC on a weekend perfect for a wanton disregard of critical obligations.

Kathy & I had decided that we didn’t care to be hanging around the house for the first weekend that the house was on the market, figuring that most of our traffic would come that first weekend and we likely wouldn’t spend much time in the house anyway.  Another excuse to travel!  The listing hit the MLS on a Wednesday, and we immediately started getting calls for showings.  We went to work on Friday packed and ready for a weekend in Waynesville, NC, one of our favorite weekend getaway destinations.  By the time we were ready to come home on Sunday, our Realtor called to tell us that we had “multiple offers.”  Amazing.

So we came home, settled on the offer that looked the best and seemed like it would have the best chance of closing, and signed.  Now we’re waiting.  In NC the buyers have a period of time – the Due Diligence period – when they can pretty much just change their minds and walk with minimal consequence, and that period expires next week.  We have every indication that the buyers really want the house and that we will get through with no issues, but you just can’t be 100% certain.  You really can’t start heavy-duty packing just in case the house has to go back on the market.  In the mean time we have been organizing and getting ready to pack and move, so we’re ready to go once we get the green light that the deal is going to go through.  It’s a frustrating process, but one that I suppose will benefit us when we decide it is time to buy.

Wandering around downtown Waynesville, NC on a weekend perfect for a wanton disregard of critical obligations.
Wandering around downtown Waynesville, NC on a weekend perfect for a wanton disregard of critical obligations.

Here are a few photos from our weekend to Waynesville.  Just so you’ll know I’m still around and doing a little photography.  We’re planning to move to an apartment on May 23, and we’ve already got plans to head out of town on May 25 for another getaway weekend, so all is good here!

Wandering around downtown Waynesville, NC on a weekend perfect for a wanton disregard of critical obligations.
Wandering around downtown Waynesville, NC on a weekend perfect for a wanton disregard of critical obligations.

May 2013 Wallpaper

Sunset from Waterrock Knob, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC
Sunset from Waterrock Knob, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC

This month’s photo was my second choice for last month’s wallpaper, and I liked it so much I decided to run it for May.  Plus there is an added bonus of getting to tease my friend Kevin W. who made the mistake of telling me that he was homesick for the NC mountains and that my photos made him more so.  Come on back, Kevin!

Amazingly, this photo was taken just 4 1/2 minutes after the photo I used for last month’s calendar.  Looking west from Waterrock Knob, out over Cherokee and the Oconoluftee River toward the crest of the Smokies, this is one of my favorite views.  Not as famous (or as crowded) as some other sunset spots, I like it because I can practically shoot out of my car, and there are facilities nearby!

In the months and years after I took this photo, the view started to get overgrown with trees and brush.  Until the Park Service recently cleared some of the overgrowth, it had gotten to the point that there were very few vantage points for a good sunset view.  I’ve been back a few times recently, but the conditions haven’t been cooperative.  But it’s a place I return to often, and one day I’ll get my next Waterrock Knob sunset.  Maybe soon!

I know I’ve been a little quiet lately, but I’ve got some non-photographic backlog to get through and I’ll be back.  That’s a promise!

Time for Reflection

Boat Reflections on Far Creek, Englehard, North Carolina

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.

Boat Reflections near Swan Quarter, North Carolina

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!

Boat Reflections near Swan Quarter, North Carolina

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.

Cypress Trees at Sunset at Lake Mattamuskeet near Englehard, North Carolina
Cypress Trees at Sunset at Lake Mattamuskeet near Englehard, North Carolina

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.

Sunset at Lake Mattamuskeet near Englehard, North Carolina

November Wallpaper Calendar

Sunset from Currituck Heritage Park near Corolla, North Carolina

Here in North Carolina,  we typically still have a lot of fall left in November.  Especially in the lower elevations, there is often a decent amount of color around until Thanksgiving.  Time will tell what the impact of the late-October storm will have on the fall for this year.

This month’s photo returns to the scene of the September calendar – Currituck Heritage Park in Corolla, North Carolina.  In fact, this photo was taken about 35 minutes before the photo of the Whalehead Club that I used for the calendar just a few months ago.  While it was still very warm when I took this photo, the colors are more fall-like.  Winter is on the way though!

October 2012 Wallpaper

Morning light and fall color with an early snow fall from the Deep Creek Valley Overlook in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Last fall we were treated to a relatively rare (for me, at least!) mix of fall color and snow.  We had driven up to Clingman’s Dome in the Smokies for sunrise, only to be chased back down by gale-force winds and blowing snow.  The morning light a few hundred feet below proved to be a good consolation.

October is definitely my favorite time of the year here in North Carolina.  We have a number of interesting adventures planned, including a long-overdue visit to Florida (not for fall color) so stay tuned for updates on our travels.  Whether you manage to see snow or not, I sincerely hope that your October is a wonderful one!

Just Get Out and Shoot!

I ran into a friend of mine the other night, and he walked up to me with an expectant look on his face and asked, “so how is it?”  I looked at him with a puzzled look that I hoped read as “so how is what?”  And he said, “the camera, the Mark III.  How do you like it?”  Ohboy.

This friend, we’ll call him ‘Bob,’ has frequently sought my advice on cameras and lenses in the past.  I like ‘Bob’ and he’s a nice guy and good friend, and the fact that he asks my advice means he is also smart. 🙂  But ‘Bob’ has asked my opinion on cameras before, in fact, he has been the subject of my blog posts before (sorry, ‘Bob’).  But I’m afraid that he may just not like my advice.

‘Bob’ shoots with a Canon 40D, which is a very good camera.  I own one, still use it and some of my photos from it have made me money.  It’s still in my bag, although it has been relegated to third position behind my 5Ds.  Right now I am using it to hold my Holga lens, but at any time I could throw another lens on it and it would work fine.  Either way it will make good photographs, at least as good as I am able to make.

When we spoke 8 or 9 months ago, ‘Bob’ was thinking about buying a new camera and was vacillating between a 5D Mark II and a 7D.  He had seen photos taken by friends with newer cameras and was convinced that their photos were “better” than his.  I told him at the time that if he wanted a new camera he should just pick one, then take it out and use it.  Either camera would have been, and still would be, a great choice.

What ‘Bob’ told me the other was that he never bought a camera in November.  But now he was getting ready for a trip to Europe and felt like he needed to make a decision.  He had recently rented a 5D Mark III and really liked it, but he decided he didn’t want to spend that much money.  Which is quite understandable, it’s an expensive beast.  So ‘Bob’ decided to buy an “interim” camera and picked up a refurbished 7D.  That’s a very good camera, and one he might have purchased back in November.  But he’s thinking of sending it back.  The problem, he said, is that when he compared the photos from the 7D with those from the 40D, he didn’t feel like he was seeing the improvement that he thought he should be seeing.  But he felt like the files from the 5D Mark III were a lot better than those from the 7D.  Uh, huh.

He then started talking about Nikons and something about 36 megapixels and whether Canon was going to match Nikon and maybe he should just buy another lens and what kind of lenses he should consider.  I kind of zoned out.  Yes, there are cameras with lots of megapixels and big sensors, and huge dynamic range, and there will be more tomorrow.  And there will be more the next day and next month and next year.  But what are we going to do today?  What can I shoot now?

I bought a 5D Mark III in April, which it turns out was a little ironic since the June issue of a newsletter I write for contained an article I wrote about how gear didn’t matter.  I even stated that I didn’t think I was going to buy a new camera.  And then I bought a new camera (I wrote the article in January – things change).  But I didn’t buy it because I thought it would improve my photography (honest!).  I bought it because it was time to upgrade my tools and I wanted to have the latest technology, so that the photos I took with it would give me the best results possible.  The best raw materials, if you will.  But it is still up to me to take the photographs, and I only hope I can do it justice.

But that makes it hard for me to tell ‘Bob’ not to buy one.

One of the things I’ve found about the 5D Mark III is that the camera is so good that it amplifies my mistakes.  That’s good in that it forces me to work harder, but bad because it’s easy to screw up.  One thing I’ve learned with this camera is to stop looking at the files at 100%, since that magnification is way too high.  My new default is 50% for that camera, going to 100% when I really need to get fussy.  Otherwise, at 100% you are imagining flaws that aren’t really there.  Yeah, it makes nice files, but if the photo is crap it’s just a nice file of crap.

Long afterward – too late for me to say anything to ‘Bob’ (I always get my best thoughts hours later!) – I thought that what he did was a lot like test driving the Mustang and buying the Focus.  If what you really want is the Mustang, you’ll never be happy with the Focus.  But if you know you’ll never cough up the money for the Mustang, don’t drive the Mustang.  I think ‘Bob’ wants the 5D Mark III, and until he buys it he won’t be happy.

In many ways, ‘Bob’ represents a lot of us.  We are our own worst critic.  Often I look at my own photos, whether on my computer screen or on a print I have made, and I feel disappointed because I don’t think they measure up to what I see others show.  Other people’s photos often look better than mine.  It’s an example of “the grass is always greener” principal.  Our photos always look worse to us than they really are.  But then I see one of mine hanging on a wall or online next to others’ photos and I think, “hey, that looks pretty darned good.”

We all have the desire for that Magic Button, whether it’s a camera, a lens, a tripod or a computer, we often feel that there’s that “one more thing” that will make us the photographer we know we can be.  But you know what?  That’s just not the case.  The problem is that, except to the extent that a new camera motivates us to get out and use it, it doesn’t really improve our photography.  Sure, a new camera might produce nicer files, but nicer files don’t necessarily mean better photographs.

My advice to ‘Bob’ was to pick a camera and get out and use it.