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December 2014

December 2014 (4)

Sunday, 28 December 2014 00:00

A Salute to Morning

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The sunrise at Purchase Knob in Great Smoky Mountains National Park can be one of the most spectacular lightshows anywhere around. Not only is the 270° view an extravaganza of mountains, but the atmospherics often conspire to produce display of cloud and color that is simply superior. Looking northeast you can readily see into the Unakas over in East Tennessee, all the way to Max Patch and far beyond. This amazing scene seemed like a perfect image with which to end the third year of weekly Images. Using the old rail fence and a sliver of yard to anchor the foreground, I left an opening in the fence to allow ingress/egress into the world of nature beyond the hand of man. The ridges were a relatively small part of the attraction in this particular image, so I allowed them to comprise only a quarter of the scene. The main show was in the sky and its clouds and the sunlight spreading through them like flames. A focal length of 39mm gave me a fairly wide angle of view. An aperture of f/16 gave me depth of field and a shutter speed of 1.0 seconds at ISO 100 gave me an overeall medium exposure.

Saturday, 20 December 2014 00:00

Knock on Wood

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In 1889 the Roberts family of Buncombe County, North Carolina built a dairy barn on their property. Like most farming families, they wanted their barn to be the centerpiece of their farm and to be appreciated for the craftsmanship of its construction. And it was; in fact it was so appreciated that in 1958 the creators of the Robert Mitchum movie, Thunder Road, chose this stellar structure for one of the scenes from the movie. Unfortunately, the property on which this beautiful craftsmanship is found is about to be sold and the barn will be taken down, taking a small piece of history with it. As I have come to know it up close and personal, I have found marvelous intimate images within the larger scene. It was the lines and texture of the old wood grain in contrast to the delicate, curving lines of the dead vine that really attracted me to this spot on one of the outer walls. I don't suppose we can save every piece of our past, but it surely would be nice if we could save this one. A focal length of 217mm allowed me to isolate only the boards containing the vine; and I positioned the vine in the frame so that the ends of the three main branches formed an implied diagonal line from bottom left to top right without dividing the frame exactly in half. Even though the image is essentially flat, and therefore two-dimensional, I used f/20 to ensure sharp detail from edge to edge; and with a shutter speed of 0.4 seconds at ISO 100 I had an overall slightly darker-than-medium exposure.

Saturday, 13 December 2014 00:00

Closing Up a Hole

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When I moved to the Southern Appalachians in 1993, the beech and maple trees that grew in front of the view of Bubbling Springs Cascades, where Bubbling Springs Branch tumbles headlong into the growing West Fork of the Pigeon River, were so young that they hardly obscured the view of the stream and its well-known "potholes." Over the years, of course, that has changed dramatically, so that now, as the trees grow taller and closer together, it won't be long before the beautiful rockslide and its falling waters are almost hidden from view. On a blazing fall day in mid-October I made the short drive from the Blue Ridge Parkway down Highway 215 to visit this special place that I have visited many times before. This time, in order the see the base of the cascades, I had to carefully position myself between the foreground trees and shoot through the small opening that remains. One of these years before long even that opening will close. A focal length of 123mm gave me the angle of view I wanted, which included a decision to exclude all sky. An aperture of f/16 provided depth of field and the magnification I wanted, and a shutter speed of 1.0 second at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure.

Saturday, 06 December 2014 00:00

Looking for Big John Metcalf

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It has been a few years since John Metcalf, "Big John" as he was known to the folks in the Beech Glen Community of Madison County, North Carolina, owned the beautiful cove at the headwaters of Bradley Branch, where it slips off the lower slopes of Broomstraw Mountain. If Broomstraw doesn't sound familiar, think of the Black Mountains, and if you're still drawing a blank, think Mt. Mitchell, as in the highest mountain east of the Rockies. Big John's barn was built as a livestock barn sometime in the late 1800s, but it was converted to burley tobacco in the 1930s, when tobacco became the primary cash crop in these old hills. It remains a prototypical example of a bank barn with its rock wall and earthen ramp on the uphill side leading directly into the loft where hay was originally stored and later burley was cured for market. On a frosty morning in mid-November, when there was still some color in the leaves, I waited for the light to top Chestnut Mountain and create the gentle contrast sweeping over the pasture and woodlines to illuminate this classic Appalachian structure. A short telephoto focal length of 117mm gave me the angle of view I wanted. An aperture of f/20 gave me depth of field; and a shutter speed of 1/4th second at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure.

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