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Saturday, 25 July 2015 00:00

Pale Face

Pale jewelweed (Impatiens pallida), like its cousin, spotted jewelweed (I. capensis) is a lovely, French horn-resembling blossom that is prolific in the Southern Appalachians in July and August. According to folklore, wherever Nature creates a botanical peril, it provides a remedy nearby; so both of the jewelweeds are found in close association with poison ivy for which they provide relief from the rash and itching. The name "jewelweed" comes from the fact that water, especially in the form of dew and rain, tends to bead up on the plant's leaves, making sparkles in the sunlight. Jewelweed always seems like a happy plant to me, and it never fails to evoke a smile. I found this stand along the Blue Ridge Parkway near Haywood Gap, but they could have been almost anywhere along this beautiful section of the road. Using my Kiron 90mm macro (135mm on D2x body) with a Nikon PK13 extension tube to increase magnification and decrease the angle of view, I was slightly larger than life size with the blossom (effective focal length around 165mm). An aperture of f/5.6 gave me the depth of field I wanted, and I focused just inside the throat of the flower to achieve actual and apparent sharpness on the flared petals and just inside the interior. A shutter speed of 0.6 second at ISO 100 gave me a slightly lighter-than-medium exposure.

Saturday, 18 July 2015 00:00

I Go Back Because...

I do not think it is possible to know a place well by visiting it only once; and I want to know the places I visit well. So I return time and time again because the place is always different; the conditions are always different; and the images I create will always be different. It is exactly that way with Cowee Mountains Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway where it slices between Jackson County and Haywood County in the Old North State; and every time I go I see something new, something I have not seen or noticed before. So a couple of weeks ago I found myself once more at Cowee in the late afternoon, and as I have become a better weather person, I reduce the times when conditions do not favor working, but rather demand that I simply be there joyfully, leaving my camera in the case. As I watched the light and shadow playing across the land, I realized that patience might reward me with a highlighted foreground and a mid-ground more in shadow. When this occurred, I was ready with my composition. A focal length of 27mm gave me the angle of view I wanted. An aperture of f/20 gave depth-of-field; and with a shutter speed of 0.4 second at ISO 100 I had a medium overall exposure.

Friday, 10 July 2015 00:00

Slickrock Dreams


The upper slickrock in Zion National Park is one of my favorite places. While Zion Canyon is truly incredible, the opportunity to play among the petrified dunes of Navajo Sandstone ignites a creative spark that never seems to be extinguished. In the never-ending folds of varicolored rock, waterpockets are often found; and in the right conditions these small pools provide wonderful expressions for the hardrock that shelters them. Late one afternoon in May I found a small pocket deep inside a crevice between two towering dunes, which has eroded slowly over the passing millennia and has formed a repository that only dries up in the midst of the dry season. Its reflecting waters caught the light from the dune high above and created a small view of magic. I knelt in the sand at the edge of the pool and used the lines of the crevice as a reverse-C-curve. This allowed me to use the diagonal lines of the dunes' surfaces and the shadow cast by the afternoon sun as lines along which the eye could travel. The pines on opposing dunes became frames to direct the eye finally upward to the great dune in the background. The passing clouds added nice touches as actual shapes and as reflections. A focal length of 24mm gave me the angle-of-view I wanted. An aperture of f/22 gave depth-of-field and a shutter speed of 0.8 second at ISO 100 gave an overall medium exposure.

Friday, 03 July 2015 00:00

Gambels and Squalls

As you descend the western flanks of the peaks of Kit Carson National Forest in Northern New Mexico, dropping down between the 10,000'+ summits of Peñasco Amarillo and Cerro Saragate and into the watershed of Rio Chama (Chama River), you enter a fairyland of gambel oak forests, where in May the temperature and moisture patterns can conspire to bloom into sudden snow squalls. The remnants of last year's oak-leaf foliage and the snow driving at severe angles, in conjunction with the emergent grasses, can create an almost surreal beauty. Standing with an umbrella to protect my gear, I was mesmerized by the scene before me: the wispy black trunks with leaves on the ground and still clinging to the lowest branches, the whiteness of the snow, the green of the undulating grasses, and the gray storm clouds. I could not freeze the fast-moving flakes, which were more like pellets than anything else; so I decided to express them as streaks of white. A focal length of 66mm, normal for all practical purposes, gave me the angle of view I wanted. An aperture of f/14 gave depth-of-field, and combined with a shutter speed of 1/30th second at ISO 100, gave an overall slightly darker than medium exposure. A smaller aperture would have necessitated a longer shutter speed, which would have turned the streaks into an indiscernible blur.


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