Tag Archives: North Carolina

Fall On The Blue Ridge Parkway

Fog and fall colors at the Wolf Mountain Overlook at MP 424.8 on the Blue Ridge Parkway

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the Blue Ridge Parkway.  I love to visit there, but hate dealing with the crowds that flock there, especially in fall when the colors are happening.  Such was the case this week, when Kathy & I decided to head to the high country for a few days to check out the fall colors.

Like all the National Parks, the Blue Ridge Parkway, as the most-visited National Park in the country, has been overrun by tourists seeking an outdoor experience.  I’ll be glad when many of them head back to the office, although there appears to be a large number of retired folks as well.  Drivers on the Parkway range from the Floridian driving white-knucked around the winding corners at 30 MPH to the motorcycle riders trying to make the Parkway their personal Lime Rock Park.  Add in those of us just trying to drive comfortably and enjoy the scenery and it can be a frustrating mix.

Steestachee Bald Overlook at MP 438.9 on the Blue Ridge Parkway

We left home on Wednesday morning with the goal of driving the Parkway from Blowing Rock to Mount Pisgah before heading to Waynesville for a couple of nights.  We have friends who own a motel there, and I have a cousin who lives nearby who we don’t get to see often enough.  Seeing both of them was long overdue.

Wednesday was a Chamber of Commerce Blue Sky Day on the Parkway.  The leaves in the Grandfather Mountain area were just about at their peak.  We stopped at an overlook and had lunch before continuing south toward our destination.

I didn’t take a single photograph all day.

Steestachee Bald Overlook at MP 438.9 on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Between having a case of “Get-There-Itis” * and all the people crowding into any overlook with a view, my heart just wasn’t in it.  It was nice to see, but I rationalized that the mid-day light wasn’t ideal for good photographs and decided that any photograph I made would be no better than a cell phone photo, just taken with a nice camera.

Fog at the Richland Balsam Overlook at MP 431.4. At 6053 feet, the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway

On Thursday, we headed back to the Parkway with the express intention of making photographs.  As we headed higher, it became clear that fog would be our companion for the day.  That suited me just fine, because fog means interesting photography and…fewer people!  The fog and the fall color varied greatly by elevation, and we drove in and out of the fog for several hours.  Some places were pretty clear, while others – like Richland Balsam, the highest point on the Parkway at 6053 feet, were totally in the soup.  But for the first time in a long time, I was able to get a photograph of the sign without someone’s car or motorcycle parked in front of it! 😉

Fog at the Richland Balsam Overlook at MP 431.4. At 6053 feet, the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway

On Friday, we headed toward home by a different route than we usually take.  I got a few photographs from the drive home that I’ll share in another post.  We may try to head back up to the Parkway early next week, weather permitting.  If so, hopefully I can contain my “affliction” and make a few nice photos!

Fall colors in the Black Balsam area of the Blue Ridge Parkway near MP 420

*Get-There-Itis (my definition): (a) in photography, a condition where one is so focused on the final destination that it prevents stopping to take pictures; (b) in aviation, often referred to as exercising poor judgement, resulting in a decision to fly despite adverse conditions, often with sub-optimal results.

Saturday In The Park

(Although it was the Fourth of September, not the Fourth of July *)

Just before he realized what I was doing.

Kathy & I met our son Scott and grandson Edison at nearby Tuckaseegee Park in Mount Holly, NC.  They have a nice playground there plus  several walking paths that run through the woods and along the Catawba River.  Edison likes to take “nature walks” so we spent an hour or so there before returning to our house to a lunch of “Tube Steaks.”

Short break on a park bench.
He doesn’t know the rules, but always “wins.”

Edison isn’t fond of my taking pictures of him but his complaints fall on (my selectively) deaf ears. 🙂

Obligatory sunstar.
Water for the soccer pitch.
Two of a kind!

* For the kids out there, a reference to a 1972 song by the best music group of all time.  Regardless what they say about bands named after bugs or rocks. 🙂

A Rather Unproductive Week

Marina on Little Port Brook in Atlantic, North Carolina

I might have just as easily titled this post “A Week of Excuses.” 🙂

“Redneck (Y)acht Club”

Kathy & I have returned from our jaunt to the NC coast.  I did a little bit of photography, but not nearly as much as I had intended.  I came back with a few decent photographs, but since photography wasn’t really the main purpose of the trip, I’m not disappointed.

Fishing boats at a marina on Brooks Creek on Harker’s Island, North Carolina

– It was HOT and HUMID!  The kind of humidity that makes your glasses (and camera lenses) steam up when you go outside, even at 7:00 in the morning!  The low temperatures at night were in the low 80s, stretching to the upper 80s/low 90s during the day.  I’m not a fan of heat, so that made it tough.

Fishing boats at a marina on Brooks Creek on Harker’s Island, North Carolina

– I’ve been battling a recurring sore leg, which was not helped by walking on sand.  So we limited our beach walking a bit which limited my photographic opportunities.

Bridge on SR 12 over the Thorofare River on Cedar Island, North Carolina
Marina on Little Port Brook in Atlantic, North Carolina

– Mostly we were spending time with family and friends and generally relaxing, so it was overall a good trip.

Now we have a few weeks to rest up for our next adventure.  Coming soon! 🙂

Fixer-upper for sale on E Front Street in New Bern, North Carolina
Elvis Sighting – New Bern, North Carolina

A Quick Visit to Southport, NC

Sunset over the harbor in Southport, North Carolina

Kathy & I made our return trip to Southport, NC this past Thursday & Friday to get our second round of the Covid vaccine.  Kathy fared pretty well (so far) but it really kicked my butt.  Not unusual I suppose, but I had been very optimistic that my experience would be a non-event.  Not so.

Fishing trawler “Cape Point” in the marina at Southport, North Carolina

The weather this time was conducive to spending time in town and having dinner at one of the many waterfront restaurants there.  We spent a little time walking around after dinner before finally needing to escape what I can only imagine were sand fleas.  Pesky little buggers who like to get in your hair and other places you don’t want bugs.  Yuck!

Rickety dock in the harbor in Southport, North Carolina

We depart on Sunday for our latest road trip – a journey to the Southwest through Texas, southern New Mexico & Arizona with a return via parts of Route 66.  We should be gone about 3 weeks and I’ll likely be posting my “postcards” as we go.

American Fish Company restaurant on the waterfront in Southport, North Carolina
Container ship transiting the Cape Fear River enroute to the Atlantic Ocean from Wilmington, North Carolina
Homes along the waterfront in Southport, North Carolina
Fishing pier in Southport, North Carolina
Downtown Southport, North Carolina

Lens Insecurity?

Testing my old Fujinon 18-55 Lens

Years ago I was at a photo seminar, and the presenter – either John Shaw, Tony Sweet or Bob Krist (I think it was Bob but it was a long time ago) mentioned that he thought we were looking at our digital files too closely.  He referred to the fact that in the film days, looking at our negatives or slides under a loupe only gave us about a 10-25% zoom factor, and that if it looked sharp under a loupe it was probably sharp enough.

Testing my old Fujinon 18-55 Lens
Testing my old Fujinon 18-55 Lens
Testing my old Fujinon 18-55 Lens

I’ve always heard (and practiced) that sharpness with digital files is best evaluated at 100%.  That was especially true back in the days of Unsharp Mask in Photoshop.  But now that we have newer, higher-resolution sensors, I’m not sure that needs to be the case any more.  Once in a while I look at my photos think that they don’t look as crispy sharp as they should.  Is it the lens?  Is it my technique?  Is my new whiz-bang camera a piece of junk? Is it my eyes?  Am I looking too close?  But the finished digital files and prints come out consistently good, so it hasn’t been too big of a worry.

Testing my old Fujinon 18-55 Lens

A couple of weeks ago I was aimlessly wandering through my Lightroom catalog and looked at some of my recent photos taken with the Fujinon 16-80 f4.  Although I’ve been consistently pleased with the lens since I got it, I convinced myself that some of them looked a little soft, especially at the edges and the corners, and I wondered about the lens.  So I went back and sorted my photos by camera and lens, looking at photos I’ve taken with some of my older lenses including my primes, and found that they all look really good but all about the same.  The primes are more consistently sharp, but that is to be expected.  That is a good reminder to use my primes more!

Testing my old Fujinon 18-55 Lens

I often reminisce about the Fujinon 18-55 f2.8-4 that I sold to my son along with my old camera bodies, referring to it as “the lens that made me decide to go with Fuji” when I moved away from Canon gear.  He graciously agreed to lend it to me for a week or two, so I have been using it to take some walking-around-the neighborhood photos.  But you know, as good as it is, it isn’t significantly “better” than the other lenses I own.  I do love the more compact size, as it is closer to a prime weight-wise.  But it isn’t significantly better image-wise.  But then I remembered that old saying and decided to back the zoom off to 50%.  Lo and behold, they all look pretty darned good!  So I’m wondering – am I looking too close?

In case anyone wonders, I wrote off the 16-55 2.8 years ago as being too heavy and too expensive, regardless of how highly rated it is.  It would be defeating the purpose of downsizing from the heavy Canon gear.

Testing my old Fujinon 18-55 Lens

Another thought I had was about monitor resolution.  I’m using a good but old ASUS Pro Art monitor that I’ve had for about 8 years.  It’s nothing fancy, especially compared with the newer 4K and 5K monitors out these days.  Is it possible that my monitor is not able to sufficiently resolve the files, or that a newer better monitor would show that detail better?  Or would I be just as perplexed as I am now but several hundred dollars (or more) poorer?  It’s new territory for me, but if anyone has insight I’d love to hear it.

Testing my old Fujinon 18-55 Lens
Testing my old Fujinon 18-55 Lens

In the mean time, I’ll keep my zoom at 50% and be glad that the finished output still looks excellent!

These photos, by the way, were all taken with the 18-55 and in-camera JPEGs with the stock Fuji Velvia profile.  No adjustments in Lightroom other than output sharpening.  For whatever that’s worth!

Testing my old Fujinon 18-55 Lens
Testing my old Fujinon 18-55 Lens
Testing my old Fujinon 18-55 Lens

A North Carolina Ghost Town

Abandoned looking downtown in Fair Bluff, North Carolina

We were only gone from home for a little over 24 hours, but I came back with a number of stories.  This is the last one from our vaccine quest.

Abandoned looking downtown in Fair Bluff, North Carolina

On our way home from Southport, we decided to stop for lunch in Whiteville, a town just off the main route.  The Chef & The Frog, by the way, was excellent.  On our way there we passed through the town of Fair Bluff.  I had seen a billboard promoting their “Depot Museum” and wanted to stop.  As we entered the town it was clear that the place was nearly deserted.  The main street was almost completely devoid of shops.  A former car dealership sat empty with parts of the building on the verge of collapse.  Directly across the street was a building marked as being the Municipal Building, but it was boarded up and silent.  Urns along the sidewalks contained plants that appeared to be reasonably well cared for, or as well as could be expected for late winter.  Farther up the street a gas station was open, and a pizza shop showed signs of life.

Former car dealership in Fair Bluff, North Carolina
Abandoned looking downtown in Fair Bluff, North Carolina

So what happened here, I wondered?  As it turns out, Wikipedia summarizes the events leading up to the situation we came across:

“In 1999, Fair Bluff experienced a 1-in-100 year flood event.

In 2012, the Police Chief of Fair Bluff Marty Lewis was arrested, tried and convicted for selling and delivering oxycodone and possession with the intent to sell and conspiracy to traffic while acting as police chief. He was sentenced to a minimum of seven years in prison and fined $100,000. On April 9, 2015 Marty Lewis filled an appeal of his case. On November 3, 2015 the verdict was unanimously affirmed by the North Carolina Court of Appeals, leaving in place the 90 to 117 month prison sentence originally imposed. Lewis will not be eligible for parole before November 2022.

In 2016, the town was devastated by flooding on the Lumber River caused by Hurricane Matthew, prompting the evacuation of hundreds of residents. As of June 2018 the rebuilding effort was still underway but several hundred residents who had fled rising floodwaters never returned and a number of businesses remained shuttered.

In September 2018 Fair Bluff was flooded again by the impact of Hurricane Florence, again forcing evacuations and leaving the downtown area under water again, and devastating the town for the third time in under 20 years. After Florence, many buildings in the downtown area of the town lay abandoned, with no plans to reoccupy or fix the buildings.

The population was 951 at the 2010 census but is believed to be lower following the two disasters, some estimates going as low as 450 people.”

Old building that appears to have possibly been a railroad building in Fair Bluff, North Carolina
Old building that appears to have possibly been a railroad building in Fair Bluff, North Carolina

That pretty much explains it – a town with a troubled past and cloudy future.  But they do have a very nice train station.

Train station in Fair Bluff, North Carolina now used as a museum
Train station in Fair Bluff, North Carolina now used as a museum

New Shoe Syndrome and Other Thoughts on the Vaccine

Train station in Rowland, North Carolina

I’ve gotten a few questions about our experience with scheduling and actually getting the vaccine, and thought it might be helpful to share a few thoughts.

The Process: I’ve mentioned previously how frustrating the registration process is for many of the county and health agency websites.  Kathy & I are fortunate to be registered with the two major health providers in our area, so we were able to use our login credentials to access those sites, which likely led to a slightly better experience.  We ended up with the Moderna Vaccine through Novant Health.

We were fortunate to find any locations at all on the very first morning of our eligibility.  The fact that the one we found was 200 miles away was no big deal for us.  We have the flexibility to go wherever we need to, and it was easy for us to make the trip.

The vaccination  site was in the parking area of a community college near Wilmington, NC.  The approach was well marked, there were National Guard personnel directing traffic into several lines, checking to confirm appointments and providing forms for completion.  The one glitch was that we had pre-filled everything online, but they still had us manually complete paperwork with the same information.  Taking the paperwork pre-filled and printed would not have helped.

We arrived at about 10:40 for an 11:00 appointment, and although the lines looked long, we queued up and were directed to the actual vaccination line promptly at 11:00 (not due to any process on their part, it just happened to work out).  We sat in our car until someone came around, asked us a few more questions, explained the process and handed us each a card with confirmation of our follow up appointments for the same time and day of the week in four weeks.  Shortly thereafter two nurses came up with the vaccine, plunked each of us in the arm, wrote the time on a paper stuck to the windshield, and told us that after the prescribed waiting time we would be released.  We rolled out of the parking lot at 11:30.

Train station in Rowland, North Carolina

The Vaccine: Did we have any concerns about getting the vaccine? None.  We feel strongly that the vaccines have been adequately tested, we trust in the scientific validity of the data and believe that getting the vaccine has a much lower level of risk than not getting it.  Everyone makes their own choice, but we feel that in order to do the kind of travel we want to do, more states, countries and companies will require a vaccination than not and we don’t want to be left out when the time comes.

Train station in Rowland, North Carolina

Side Effects: None really, but it surprises me how hyper-aware we become when we’re looking for something.  I call it “new shoe syndrome” because of how when we buy a new pair of shoes we spend days paying attention to every little twinge or pinch.  We recently bought new tires for the car, and for the first few drives I paid close attention to the sound, feel and ride.  After a while you forget about it.  We stopped at a restaurant for lunch, and while there a guy came in wearing a really strong cologne.  Strong odors like cologne and smelly air fresheners always bother me, so when my throat got a little scratchy I wrote it off.  No big deal.  Our arms hurt for a few days, especially while we slept.  But my left hip is often sore anyway, and since I got my shot in my left arm, I just spent more time on my right side!

Dilapidated building near the train station in Rowland, North Carolina

Eligibility: We’ve read about people gaming the system by falsely answering the questions, crossing state lines to states with more favorable rules or otherwise getting the shot before they should have.  Kathy & I waited for our group to be called, answered all the questions truthfully and lucked into an early appointment.  Could we have waited?  Sure, but why?  Everyone who wants a shot will eventually be able to get one, so it really doesn’t matter when we go.  Could we have gotten an appointment closer to home?  Perhaps, but once we got our appointments I stopped looking.  I read somewhere about local appointments now booking out into May or June, but it doesn’t matter any more.  The owner of the restaurant we had lunch at told us that someone called him the other afternoon to say that they had 15 Johnson & Johnson shots that were going to expire at the end of the day and to send along anyone who needed them.  That happens too, you never know.

I don’t really have a lot to add.  If anyone has questions I’ll be happy to answer them as comments or emails.  Ultimately everyone is going to make their own decision and have their own experience, but I’ll help where I can.

The Photos: These photos are from the town of Rowland, NC which is on the NC side of the NC/SC line near South of the Border.  They are in-camera JPEGs taken using the Kodachrome 64 recipe from Fuji X Weekly.  The conditions were less than ideal for Kodachrome and look a little warm/brown for my taste, but I’m not sure I got the white balance right.  I’ll try them again under sunny skies and see how they look.  I also shot in RAW and will process those my usual way for comparison.  It’s an interesting look and I’ve been enjoying playing with them.

How We Learn

Murray’s Mill Historic Site

The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence – it is to act with yesterday’s logic. – Peter Drucker

The last few days I’ve been working on compiling some of my blog posts from early in the pandemic into book form.  As I read over some of the things I wrote in March and April last year, I’m struck by how little we knew at that time and what our (my) attitudes were.  I’m not sure we’ve really learned a lot in the last year, but what we know now seems a lot different from what we knew then.

These are a few more of the photos from our visit to Murray’s Mill.  I’ve been experimenting with some in-camera JPEG ‘recipes’ and these are photos made with one called “Dramatic Monochrome” from Fuji X Weekly.

Murray’s Mill Historic Site

Milling Around at Murray’s Mill

Murrays Mill Historic Site located in Catawba, North Carolina

Earlier this week, Kathy & I were itching to go somewhere.  It was a chilly day and we didn’t want another 3-mile hike so we headed north to Murray’s Mill Historic site.

Murray’s Mill Historic Site is an easy 30-minute drive from our house and is operated by the Historical Society of Catawba County. The website says that the mill is open most days, but it did not appear to be open on the day of our visit. There are a number of interesting outbuildings including a blacksmith shop.  A small general store there had a sign that said it was open, but we didn’t go in.

We walked around the grounds, and while it was a chilly day, the fresh air and scenery was nice. There is a “literacy trail” with signboards along a walkway describing a children’s book “Dragons Love Tacos.” In warmer weather they have other activities going on. Something to do on a nice day.

Spillway at Murrays Mill Historic Site
Murrays Mill Historic Site located in Catawba, North Carolina
Murrays Mill Historic Site located in Catawba, North Carolina
Barn on the grounds of Murrays Mill Historic Site located in Catawba, North Carolina
Murrays Mill Historic Site located in Catawba, North Carolina
General Store at Murrays Mill Historic Site
Murrays Mill Historic Site located in Catawba, North Carolina
Is This What They Mean by ‘Lean In?’
Christmas Is Over
Lens Flare, Anyone?

First-Class Glass

Lexington Glassworks Studio in Downtown Asheville, North Carolina

No, I’m not talking about camera lenses OR airline travel!  I’m talking about beautiful, hand-crafted glass like that found at Lexington Glassworks in Asheville, North Carolina.

Lexington Glassworks Studio in Downtown Asheville, North Carolina

I had intended to write this post a while back, but it sort of got lost in the shuffle of fall and the holidays.  During our visit to Asheville for our 40th anniversary, Kathy & I visited Lexington Glassworks during one of our walks around town.  We’ve visited Lexington before, and have acquired only a small amount of their glass, given the number of times we’ve been there, but it is one of those places we just have to visit whenever we are in town.

Lexington Glassworks Studio in Downtown Asheville, North Carolina
Lexington Glassworks Studio in Downtown Asheville, North Carolina

One of the many cool things about Lexington is that they openly encourage picture taking.  I asked anyway, just to be polite, and the girl we talked to was very nice about it.  Sure, she said, let me know if you have any questions or need help.

Lexington Glassworks Studio in Downtown Asheville, North Carolina
Lexington Glassworks Studio in Downtown Asheville, North Carolina
Lexington Glassworks Studio in Downtown Asheville, North Carolina
Lexington Glassworks Studio in Downtown Asheville, North Carolina

The larger pieces are stunningly beautiful, and the reason we don’t have more is that we just don’t have a suitable place to display things like that.  We have some shelves on order which will hopefully rectify that situation, although after buying the shelves we’ll need to re-stock the souvenir fund to buy more things to put on them! 😉

Lexington Glassworks Studio in Downtown Asheville, North Carolina
Lexington Glassworks Studio in Downtown Asheville, North Carolina
Lexington Glassworks Studio in Downtown Asheville, North Carolina
Lexington Glassworks Studio in Downtown Asheville, North Carolina

Partially-related question: I post photos to Instagram through my Firefox browser, using a well-known workaround that “fools” Instagram into thinking I am on a mobile device.  I’ve taken the app off all of my mobile devices.  With the app I used to be able to create a post with multiple photographs, but can’t seem to find a way to do it through the browser.  Anyone have any experience with this?  I’d like to be able to share these photos in a single post and tag the company’s page, rather than post them individually, which makes for a really annoying feed!

Lexington Glass on display at Capella on 9 rooftop bar and tapas restaurant at the AC Hotel by Marriott Hotel in downtown Asheville, North Carolina
Lexington Glass on display at Capella on 9 rooftop bar and tapas restaurant at the AC Hotel by Marriott Hotel in downtown Asheville, North Carolina
Lexington Glassworks Studio in Downtown Asheville, North Carolina