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April 2014

April 2014 (4)

Saturday, 26 April 2014 22:35

If a Few Good People Do Nothing

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The philosopher Edmund Burke once said, "All that is necesssary for the triumph of evil is that good (people) do nothing." And in my mind any force that would impair the beauty of Goforth Creek is tantamount to evil; so doing nothing is not an option. Goforth Creek arises along the ridges that separate the Ocoee River watershed from that of the Hiawassee River in Southeast Tennessee's Chreokee National Forest. It is not a long stream by any measure, ten miles, or so, at best; nor a particularly large one; but beauty is measured by neither of these criteria. As it drops closer and closer to the foaming power of the mighty Ocoee, Goforth Creek forms a sizeable canyon of its own, which over thousands of years has filled the streambed with boulders as big as small barns, whose weathering reveals the innumerable layers of sediments that became rock from the basement of time. It is a place to enjoy a hike, or wade in a mountain stream, while the stresses of the day fall away. A proposed new stretch of US Highway 64, known as Corridor K, through the Ocoee watershed would destroy this timeless beauty. Near the mouth of the creek I was struck by the beauty of the diagonal created by the stream as it dropped from boulder to boulder toward the rock on which I knelt. A "normal" focal length of 42mm gave me the angle of view I wanted. An aperture of f/16 and a shutter speed of 1.0 seconds at ISO 100 gave me an overall slightly darker than medium exposure  


Saturday, 19 April 2014 20:10

You Know It's Spring When...

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In the Southern Appalachians you have a pretty good idea that it's spring when the dogwoods and redbuds are blooming together - even when the weather is otherwise somewhat erratic. Spring has, indeed, seemed to arrive in fits and starts, as they say. However, it has been warm enough long enough that these two clear signs of the season have bloomed throughout the mountains, and now both species are well on their way to being leafed-out completely. Still, in a few tucked away locations such as the north flank of Cocke County's Green Mountain, where the cold served more to retard rather than to harm, the amazing display continues, at least for another few days. The wispy redbuds seemed to enfold the smaller dogwoods in a warm blaze of color as the forest behind continued its greening up the mountain. It was an intimate feeling of new life softly exploding before me. A focal length of 60mm carried the feeling forward with the angle of view I wanted. An aperture of f/16 gave me plenty of depth of field, and a shutter speed of 1/5 second at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure.

Saturday, 12 April 2014 10:04

For the Love of Top Backlight

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The name "Graveyard Fields" has a truly interesting story to accompany it; yet even with such a somber sobriquet, it is, in my mind, one of the most beautiful places on the entire Blue Ridge Parkway. Sitting in a narrow valley near the base of Black Balsam Mountain, Graveyard Fields receives the gift of the headwaters of Yellowstone Prong of the Pigeon River and passes it on to waters far away with names like Tennessee, Ohio, and Mississippi. The valley of Graveyard Fields itself sits at over 5000' in elevation, so spring arrives here behind other locations nearby; but when it arrives, it is glorious. Serviceberries and other small hardwoods dot the valley giving a color to the vernal onset that rivals the fabled hues of autumn. One of the things I love is the top backlight of a late spring afternoon when the new leaves become tiny points of colored fire and the east-facing ridge slopes gather in the blue wave lengths of tonality that collect in the early-gloaming shade. The intimacy of the landscape reveals in angular slices the larger scene spread about. A focal length of 90mm gave me the angle of view I wanted. An aperture of f/18 and a shutter speed of 1/8th second at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure which I darkened in post-processing to create the deeper contrast I actually experienced.  


Saturday, 05 April 2014 20:27

Wider Than a Mile

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It is a place that is more special to me than I can imagine or express. It is the place that taught me how I primarily see the world photographically. I shall never forget the early spring day when I walked up White Oak Flats Branch, the beautiful tributary of Little River in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and found this wonderful arc of trillium grandiflora arrayed across the moss-covered boulder that had restricted the flow of the stream at this spot for many years, perhaps centuries. I realized that if I straddled the narrow flow of the rocky bed with my tripod and focused in the correct place I could achieve sharpness from foreground to background throughout the entire image, and seeing how depth-of-field was maximized in this way was the discovery that showed me that being a wide-angle landscape artist was the path along which my deepest creative impulses lay. I saw the curve of the flowers leading my eye over to the stream and then following the line of the creek diagonally back up through the watershed, taking in its surroundings as it traveled. It was magical, a spiritual moment. I had returned to this spot each year for nearly two decades, until in July 2012 a violent windshear of a storm came through Little River Gorge, wrecking devastation as it traveled. When it got to White Oak Flats Branch, it snapped and toppled large trees like they were matchsticks. The amazing wide-angle image that showed me how I "see" will likely not be the same again in my lifetime. A focal length of 18mm gave me the angle of view I wanted. An aperture of f/22 and a shutter speed of 6.0 seconds at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure.

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