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Sunday, 28 June 2015 00:00

The Orderliness of Chaos

After spending four hours in one of James Roberts' flue-cured tobacco barns, I was ill-prepared to encounter the rest of his wonderful farm in Madison County, North Carolina; but the tack room, just inside his main stock barn, was the epitome of expression of what it means to be a thoughtful agricultural steward. It was as if order had taken the chaos of a thousand things and transformed it into the simplicity of a well-kept room. I saw my task as simply re-expressing what Mr. Roberts had so thoughtfully constructed; so I knelt in the middle of the opening in order to be at eye-level with the primary shapes. This allowed me to tilt up so that part of the ceiling - the joists and flooring of the floor above - could be included. The sun was directly overhead and it was a mostly sunny day, so I let the outside ambient light become essentially featureless in order to give the earth-toned objects in the room a warm, golden tonality. I considered HDR, but decided to go with a single image. A 27mm focal length allowed me to reach from wall to wall so that all of the contents could be included. An aperture of f/20 gave depth of field and a shutter speed of 8.0 seconds at ISO 100 gave me an overall somewhat lighter than medium exposure.

Saturday, 20 June 2015 00:00

Evolution of a Boulder Field

This Image is a reminder that often we go to a location for a particular reason and find ourselves irresistibly drawn to something entirely different and other. Goforth Creek, in the Ocoee River Gorge of Tennessee's Cherokee National Forest, is so beautiful in its own right that it is only natural to go to photograph the amazing stream as it plunges over cascade after cascade on its way to the Ocoee River; but the relatively narrow watershed of Goforth is also incredibly wonderful. Like a nebula of star-forming gases, its valley is a birthing ground for boulder fields like the one I found here. As I was clambering around in the creek, I looked up to notice the distinct line of boulders, beginning with the one where I stood, that receded up the mountain toward the great rock outcroppings that had given rise to them. The line stood out so clearly that I was immediately drawn to photographic it, but there seemed to be a lot of accompanying clutter that required refining. It necessitated positioning the camera carefully to exclude elements on the left and right that were not part of the story; then I included the bottom of the nearest boulder, but truncated it on the left. The sun was just coming above the rim of the ridge high above, and it backlit the new growth on the beech trees nicely. I used the trees themselves as a secondary leading line to compliment the rocks, and the color at the top to draw the eye upward along the line of boulders into the background. A focal length of 27mm gave the angle of view I wanted. An aperture of f/16 gave depth of field; and a shutter speed of 0.3 seconds at ISO 100 gave an overall medium exposure.

Friday, 12 June 2015 00:00

Yessir, It Was a Long Time Ago

The James Roberts Farm in Madison County, North Carolina comes as close in my mind, as I can recall, to an ideal example of a working mountain farmstead. Its collection of barns, sheds, cribs, and houses could easily qualify it for the National Register of Historic Places. One of the two flue-cured tobacco barns has a shed addition which houses this wonderful old wagon. When I went to begin work there I got so caught up in this one structure that I stayed for nearly four hours. The barn, itself, dates to the late-1800's, and there's no telling about the wagon. I asked Bob, the mule, but he just looked at me and swished his tail. I wanted to take in nearly as much of the barn's inner structure, along with the wagon, as I could, so I used a focal length of 18mm. By adjusting my distance from the closest wagon wheel, I could control how large it appeared as an element and choose what else in the interior I wished to include in my frame. An aperture of f/16 gave me depth of field and a shutter speed of 6.0 seconds gave me an overall medium exposure at ISO 100. Once I had  processed in color I went to Nik's Silver Efex Pro 2 for the B&W conversion.

Saturday, 06 June 2015 00:00

Cloud on a Bullhead

It seems like only yesterday - not two months ago - that the first days of spring were warming Sugarlands Valley at the base of The Bullhead. Yesterday the valley looked like full-on summer. On this day in early-April, however, the clouds were forming overhead as air masses of differing moisture levels and temperatures met and mixed over Mt. LeConte and the light danced across the valley below. What attracted me here so strongly were the shapes, lines, and contrasts formed by the various elements in the visual field. I chose a vertical (portrait) format to emphasize the energy of those elements up the valley to the base of the mountain and then up the slope into the cloud-filled sky. Since I was using a wide-angle focal length, I knew that the mountain would appear smaller in my image than in real time, but that was okay with what I wanted to create. Waiting for the sweep of the light to be optimal took some patience, but patience is often rewarded. A focal length of 33mm gave me the angle of view I wanted. An aperture of f/20 gave depth-of-field; and combined with a shutter speed of 1/10th second at ISO 100 gave an overall medium exposure.

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