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. 🙂
Generally when I am in the process of taking a photograph, I have a basic idea what it is going to look like when I am finished processing it. When I’m sitting at the computer working on an image, it just sort of “develops itself.” Most of the time the direction I need to go with an becomes pretty clear to me. I open up an image in Lightroom, work on it a bit, and after a few basic tweaks it is pretty much done. Unless I’m going to make a print, there isn’t a whole lot more I do.
This particular photograph has me a little perplexed. I processed it exactly how I expected to. It’s a little more processed than usual, but there’s quite a lot of dynamic range going on here. But for some reason, I just can’t seem to get comfortable with it. There’s nothing really “wrong” with it, in fact a lot of people would probably wish that they had taken it themselves. But for some reason I am struggling with it.
It’s a typical Cowee Mountains Overlook sunset. It’s got a nice sky, detail in the foreground, and there’s a lot going on. Too much, I think. It is a very “busy” image, as opposed to a lot of my photographs that are a bit more simplified. I’ve definitely processed it a lot more than I usually process an image. Maybe that’s it, I’m not sure.
I think the thing that I keep coming back to is that it doesn’t seem like it’s mine. It’s the sort of landscape photograph that I’ve taken for years, but I just can’t seem to connect with this one. No, I didn’t switch memory cards with someone by mistake, but it’s just such a departure from the type of photography I’ve been doing recently that I may just have to spend some time with it to figure it out. In the mean time, it just doesn’t feel like my style, and I find that interesting.
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’ve written lately about how I feel like I am in a bit of a slump, photographically. Many readers have made comments along the lines of “gee, I’d love to have a slump like that.” But I’ve recently come to realize what I mean by what I’ve written. What I’ve pretty much decided is that doing the kind of photography I like to do requires an investment of time, energy and dedication that, for a number of reasons, I just haven’t been committing to this year. And this applies not just to the shooting, but to the processing and printing parts of the process as well.
As much as I’d like to think I can, I can’t just show up at a place and take meaningful photographs. I can take photographs for sure, and many of them may be good technically. But to create photographs with meaning requires more time. I need to get to a place, get my mind and my heart tuned in to what is happening, and sometimes just sit for a while until I start hearing the voices. “Being open to the gifts” is what my friend Les Saucier likes to say. I can’t just pull the magic out of my camera bag, toss it out there and expect to take meaningful photographs.
Mostly what this requires is an investment of time. Time partly to allow things to happen, but also time to get to a place in plenty of time for whatever is happening. Sunsets are a good example. I can’t just show up at a spot 10 minutes before sunset, pull out the camera and start taking amazing photos. Sometimes the best photos come well before the actual setting of the sun, sometimes as much as an hour before, such as when the sun is moving behind a low-lying layer of clouds and casting sunbeams, or highlighting ridgelines as they recede into the distance. Often by the time the sun sets all the magic is gone. Occasionally, the magic is just beginning at sunset, as the real color begins to appear after the sun has gone below the horizon. But I need time to “tune in,” to see what is happening, and to figure out what to shoot and how to shoot it.
The other way that my photography requires an investment of time is in having plenty of time to enjoy myself. Kathy & I enjoy good meals at nice restaurants, both at home and when we travel. That generally doesn’t involve sitting at an overlook with cold chicken and potato salad. Sometimes it does, but not usually. So in order to do a little bit of both, it’s often necessary to have more than just 24 hours in a place in order to really do it justice and to find that balance between sunset on the Parkway and dinner in Waynesville (or wherever). One of the ways that this year has differed from previous years is that we have been taking more 2-day weekends and fewer 3 or 4-day weekends. This results in less time in a specific place, and I find that this takes time away from everything. I don’t like to feel like the clock is ticking while I am photographing. And the smaller window of opportunity that is dictated by a shorter weekend makes that clock tick like a parade of Harleys going by! With less time, success is more dependent on luck than creativity, and I don’t work so well when I am depending on luck.
So what does this all mean? Well, it means several things. First and foremost, I think it means that I need to do a better job of managing my time so that I have the freedom and flexibility I need to do the kind of photographic work I find most inspiring while also finding time to do the other things I love. Photography and fine dining aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. Some times of the year they are, so I’ll need to work that out. Sometimes it will mean a nice but late dinner, and sometimes it will mean cold chicken on the Parkway. The other thing it means is possibly traveling less frequently but for longer periods of time. And perhaps staying longer in one place instead of trying to see multiple locations and moving around constantly. I generally shy away from what I refer to as the photographic “death march” and don’t do a lot of good photography while I’m driving down the road. Give me a place to sit and chill for a while and I’m more likely to get inspired.
I’ve done some good work this past year and hope to do some more before it’s done. This year has been a little weird for a lot of reasons, and I’m looking forward to settling back into my usual routine next year. We’ll see where that leads, but I’m hoping it will lead to more fulfilling photography for me, and less of my whining about it to Kathy!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!