Tag Archives: North Carolina

August 2012 Wallpaper

Moon Over Price Lake at Sunrise, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC

Well, how did that happen?  We just finished June and already July is over!  Of course that means we are edging toward Fall, and an end to Summer’s heat is just around the corner.

Price Lake is a hit-or-miss spot for me photographically.  A decent photograph here generally depends on getting something interesting to reflect in the water.  Sometimes it is fall color, sometimes you can catch some good clouds at sunrise or sunset.  Such was this case on an August morning back in 2005.  One morning prior to attending the annual Camera Clinic at Grandfather Mountain, I was up to shoot the sunrise and shortly after the sun came up I ventured down to the lake to see what was happening.  It’s a little hard to see in this photo, but a nearly full moon was playing hide-and-seek in the clouds.  I got a few shots with the moon in the clear, and a few with it partly or mostly obscured.

This photo was taken with my Canon 20D and 17-40 lens.  It was originally processed using Photoshop Elements, then reprocessed using each of the prior versions of Lightroom.  For this calendar I converted the file to Process Version 2012 and updated my settings one more time.  It’s amazing what newer software can do with photos that were taken with cameras that are now sitting in storage.

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.

4th of July Fireworks

I finally got a chance to spend some time at the computer today and decided to work with some of my fireworks photos from July 4th.  I knew when I took the photos that I would be making some composites in Photoshop.  These were all taken handheld with the 5D Mark III and the 40MM 2.8 pancake lens, f4 at ISO 3200. My shutter speeds ranged from 1/5 to 1/50 of a second.

All the photos had some initial processing in Lightroom, including a little sharpening and noise reduction, then were composited in Photoshop.  Once I brought the composited file back into Lightroom I added a little more punch in contrast, vibrance and saturation.

There’s no question that these are more than a bit over-the-top from the standpoint of reality, but that’s what artistic license is all about.  This is what I saw and this is what I felt, so here it is!

This was the first time I had used Photoshop on any 5D Mark III files, and I must say that I seriously challenged the capabilities of my 5 year old iMac.  Each file is around 1 GB, and I had some serious beachball action (it’s a Mac thing) going from time to time.  If I do much more of that I’m going to need to look at upgrading the computer hardware a little sooner than I planned.

Long Overdue

Kathy & I had been trying to find a weekend to head to Waynesville, NC – our favorite little town in the NC mountains – since March.  With the exception of our Alaska and California adventure, things just haven’t been very conducive to getting away for the last several months.  We finally had our chance this past weekend and took advantage.

As luck would have it we didn’t get a lot of relief from the high temperatures, as Waynesville – while about 10 degrees cooler than Charlotte – was still unseasonably hot, to the point where most of the HVAC systems were doing their best to keep up.  Most of them were up to the task, a few were not.

We wisely headed out early and got our in-town sightseeing done early.  In the heat of the afternoon we headed up to the Blue Ridge Parkway for a few hours, and while it was 97 in town, it was an unusually warm but relatively cool 84 at Waterrock Knob, an overlook and visitor center at 5,820 feet.  After a stop for ice cream it was back to town for a nice dinner and some rest in our thankfully-air-conditioned room.

Sunday was spent getting back to reality, and after a stop in Statesville here we are.  A couple of work days with a holiday sandwiched in, and before we know it we’ll have another weekend!

No serious photography this trip, but I had a camera with me at just about all times!

Marion, NC Train Station

Marion Train Station, Marion North Carolina

Kathy & I make frequent trips to Marion, NC to visit our friends at Bruce’s Fabulous Foods on Main Street in Marion.  We stumbled on Bruce’s a few years ago and have been making regular visits ever since.  This past Saturday we made our most recent pilgrimage.

Marion Train Station, Marion North Carolina

I’ve had an ongoing love for train stations and enjoy photographing them.  Not sure exactly why, but I do.  We often plan trips around train stations just to check them out.

This one's for Earl

The station in Marion is one we had visited before, but with a new camera to play with it was time to stop by again!  The light was a little tough and we were hungry, so we didn’t spend a lot of time but I got a few shots.

Fire Alarm
Old building near the Marion Train Station, Marion North Carolina
Growing Like A Weed

More 5D Mark III Fun!

Views of uptown Charlotte from the Seventh Street Station parking garage, Charlotte, North Carolina

I’ve gotten a little more time to shoot with the 5D Mark III over the last few days.  Saturday I was teaching a digital point & shoot class for The Light Factory, and part of the class time is spent out actually taking photos.  What a concept – a photography class that actually goes out and takes photos…amazing if I do say so myself!  I cheated a little and took the 5D, with full disclosure to the class, of course.  And after using my G12 in the previous session.

Looking Up, Clouds

I’ve still a little vexed by what I feel is most likely a learning curve in Lightroom…my files seem to be coming in flat and dark, and only after applying a pretty aggressive tone curve adjustment can I get them where I want them.  I thought maybe I  had some kind of Auto Tone turned on, but nothing I see indicates that I do, and even if I did I think the images, if anything, would look lighter instead of darker.  I also saw on a video tutorial something about some automatic highlight suppression that Lightroom is doing, but I haven’t found anything definitive about that.  So for now I’ve got something that works and I’m using it.

Looking Down

I’ve posted this photos a little larger than usual in case anyone wants to do some peeping.  Click on each photo to make them bigger (dare I say “embiggen?”).  They look pretty good, I think.

Frame In Need of a Face
No Littering

April Wallpaper (Better Late Than Never)

For those of you who I forced to spend a few extra days in March…sorry.  The weekend got away from me and before I knew it, well you know.

One of my favorite sunrise locations at any time of the year is Pounding Mill Overlook, on the Blue Ridge Parkway just south of the junction with US-276 that runs between Brevard and Waynesville.  It’s either hit or miss here, but generally speaking if you aren’t socked in with clouds you’ll get something worth pulling the camera out for.  Fog in the Pink Beds is always a good bet, and a nice golden glow from the rising sun makes for a doubly special sunrise.

Things may be a little quiet here for the next week or so as we head out on our next adventure, but with any luck I’ll come back with some nice shots of the Shenandoah National Park area.  They had a little snow at Big Meadows this morning, so you just never know what you might run in to!

A Visit To Salisbury, NC

Historic train station in Salisbury, North Carolina

Yesterday, Paul Lester & I made a trip to Salisbury, NC to meet up and do some photography with fellow photographer and blogger Earl Moore, aka “The Earl of Salisbury.”  Earl and Paul had met previously, but while Earl & I have been following each others’ blogs for a few years we had never met.

Paul & Earl at the historic train station in Salisbury, North Carolina

After a cloudy and damp start it was a great day.  Earl was the consummate host, showing us around town for a few hours, then treating us to lunch at a nice little Thai/Chinese/Japanese Sushi place called “Bangkok Downtown” before a final stop at the Salisbury National Cemetery.  Well, final in a figurative sense, not in a literal way. 🙂


Amazingly for me, it was my first visit to Salisbury.  I’m sure I had passed through at one time or another over the past 17 years, but I had never spent any meaningful time there.  Salisbury has a beautiful and historic rail station, is the birthplace of Cheerwine, headquarters of Food Lion, has a beautiful downtown area and a number of beautiful and historic homes & neighborhoods.

One of many church steeples on the Salisbury skyline

As is typical of a Southern town, Salisbury has a lot of churches.  Most of the popular denominations seem to be represented.  There is probably a covered dish dinner going on somewhere in town every day.  Just like at the mall, there is truly something for everyone.

Dogwood in full bloom

I took over 250 photos, which is a lot for me, but there was a lot to see and shoot.  Mostly it was enjoyable to spend time talking and photographing with friends.  A number of the photos I took have more of an “urban decay” theme, and while they are interesting I won’t post them here because they don’t suit my intention for this article.  I’ll probably use them to illustrate another article I have in mind, but for now they will remain unshared.

Not all of the windows are real!

I truly enjoyed my time in Salisbury and hope to return there again soon.  The train station itself is a place where I could spend hours.  The cemetery will be lovely when the grass greens up, but before summer’s heat takes its toll.  And there are a lot of shops and restaurants to explore…I’ll definitely be back!

Salisbury National Cemetery