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Thursday, 28 January 2016 23:01

Ms Lucy's Barn

Many years ago Ms. Lucy Nolan told me that I was welcome to photograph her barn at any time, so long as I did not use the image in a "beer commercial." I have kept my word, and I have photographed Ms. Lucy's barn in every season and under almost every imaginable condition. To me it represents the quintessential mountain farmstead; an icon of something I hope will never disappear, but whose numbers seem to diminish with each passing year. When it snows in the lovely, but narrow, valley of Fines Creek and the ground is covered in white, along with the bare winter trees and grass stems, there is offered up a stark contrast with the still bright red framing of the structure, sitting just off the creek and near the base of a low ridge where the Nolan farm has nestled for many years. It was snowing fairly hard as I stood with an umbrella in one hand and adjusted settings with the other. I chose a focal length of 78mm, short telephoto, to give me the angle-of-view and slight magnification I wanted, which provided both context and some small enlargement of the subject. A shutter speed of 1/8th second was enough to slow some of the motion in the snow without causing more blur than I wanted. Another stop slower would have been too much blur I decided; and an aperture of f/16  at ISO 100, it gave me depth-of-field and the shutter speed I wanted with an overall exposure of somewhat lighter-than-medium. A time gone by, but never forgotten.

Friday, 22 January 2016 17:30

Rumpelstiltskin's House

The rivers of the Southern Appalachians are beautiful beyond words, and when the reflected light of a winter sun bounces off an understory of last fall's leaf litter unto a surface of churning water, magic happens, like Rumpelstiltskin spinning liquid straw into gold. The Tellico of Southeastern Tennessee's Cherokee National Forest is such a river. It takes the drainings of the Unicoi Mountains and funnels them into an ancient narrow metamorphic sandstone gorge before delivering them to the greater flow of the mighty Little Tennessee. In its tumbling and rolling, when the light is right, the Tellico becomes braided sunshine. A focal length of 300mm narrowed my angle of view so that what was included was just the flow over a small underwater boulder and the white turbulence beyond. An aperture of f/16 provided sufficient depth-of-field, and a shutter speed of 1/15th second at ISO 100 gave a slightly lighter-than-medium overall exposure.   

Friday, 15 January 2016 12:34

The Eyes of the Gingerbread Man

On my way from Las Vegas, New Mexico to Amarillo, Texas I crossed the Llano Estacado from west to east as a fierce thunderstorm blew in from the North. I had come through the edge of the storm and knew there was both lightning and hail associated with the cell; so I decided my best tactic was to outrun it, but its beauty was too great to ignore. So I would drive as quickly as I could to get far enough ahead so that I could stop, grab my gear, and compose an image or two before the rain began to overtake me again. This game of cat and mouse went on for about 40 miles until it began to be so dark my shutter speeds were becoming longer than I wanted. This was the final image, taken just as the sun began to slip below the horizon. In the end I felt like the Gingerbread Man, but with the hope that I might actually get away from something seemingly determined to devour me. I decided that the story of the storm was best told through wide-angle landscape eyes, so I used a focal length of 27mm to give me the angle-of-view I wanted. I was far enough away from the elements of my image that f/11 gave me depth-of-field. As you can see, the wind was blowing the grasses in the foreground, but a shutter speed of 1.0 second managed to provide some detail in them. At ISO 100 these settings gave me an overall slightly darker-than-medium exposure. A Llano Estacado storm through the Gingerbread Man's eyes.

Friday, 08 January 2016 17:14

Everything Emptying into White

It has become rather difficult to do much artistic landscape work in the Smokies during icy and snowy weather events because the Park's roads are often closed. It's probably more a matter of maintenance costs than anything, although safety is certainly a large factor. Either way, it is an occasion for excitement when I find myself on the inside and there is snow or frost on the trees. Such was the case a couple of Februarys ago as I came up Newfound Gap Road above Chimneytops Trailhead and entered a fairyland of lacy white growing out of the green lushness of rhododendron and mountain laurel. A line of leafless birches made for an interesting foreground in an abstracted forest. A focal length of 66mm allowed me to isolate a small section of the larger whole and create an intimate landscape of frosty hardwoods. An aperture of f/16 allowed for depth-of-field; and a shutter speed of 0.8 seconds at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure. A day of frost in the Smokies is a fine day indeed.  

Friday, 01 January 2016 16:13

In the Beginning

Indian Service Road 7900/7950 is the most direct way into Chaco Canyon from the northeast, crossing through the Navajo Nation from Nageezi. It is a rough, rocky, washboard of a dirt track, and it traverses through layer after layer of high desert geologic time with little human presence to mark its passing. On our way to greet a Chaco morning last fall we were stopped by one of the most intense sunrises I have ever seen. The sky was a fire of flaming stratus streamers, whose show I wanted to anchor with a bit of mesa line and chaparral. Without the assistance of my 5-stop graduated neutral density filter to open up some detail in the foreground, the chaparral and mesa would have become silhouettes.  A focal length of 187mm was sufficiently telephoto to somewhat magnify the clouds and mesa, yet with enough angle-of-view to give a sense of the enormity of the cloud cover. An aperture of f/18, given the camera-to-subject distance, provided depth-of-field; and combined with a shutter speed of 1/5th second at ISO 100, it created a slightly darker-than-medium overall exposure. I wondered what the ancients would have thought.

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