August 2017

August 2017 (4)

Thursday, 24 August 2017 18:10

At the Edge of Big Creek

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As more adventurers find their way to the edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park along the state line between North Carolina and Tennessee, the wonderful area known as Big Creek becomes more of a destination for other than local folks. There are so many things to love about this place that any list I might make would be woefully incomplete. The creek itself is well-named for it adds substantially to the waters of the Pigeon River a mile away from where I am. Champion Fibre once operated a large mill, Crestmont Lumber Company, that covered both sides of the stream around me, but Nature, given time and opportunity, recovers from the wounds of humanity, even if scars remain; and today Mother Nature holds sway, to the great pleasure of all who come here. With water levels somewhat low in the stream, I worked my way out to a rocky point where I had seen this spade-shaped depression in the rock. Kneeling on the rock I set my tripod up about 18" above the surface and pointed upstream toward the bank on river right. Mother Nature had done her part by encouraging multiple leaves of nearby sycamores to decorate the rock and the water-filled depression. With a minimum of polarization, I made slight movements of my tripod until I had the reflections of the tops of the sycamores surrounding the depression's reflection and waited until a cloud-broken blue sky filled the scene. A focal length of 18mm, fairly extreme wide-angle, gave me the angle-of-view I wanted. An aperture of f/22 provided depth-of-field, and a shutter speed of 5.0 seconds, a patience-testing length of time, at ISO 100, gave me an overall medium exposure. I imagine the chaos and confusion that surrounded the company town, Crestmont, in its heyday, so well-captured in Ron Rash's wonderful novel, Serena; and the present contrasting serenity of Big Creek fills me with gratitude for the gifts that this place of spirit bestows.

Saturday, 19 August 2017 20:57

The White Snakeroot and I

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White Snakeroot (Eupatorium rugosum var. roanense) is a common late-summer composite in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, as the meadows of Purchase Knob can attest. And in the early light of a new day it serves as an attractive foreground element, gathering and reflecting the golden tones of dawn from its tiny white clusters, even as I consider its toxicity to cows and through milk to people (Many believe it was milk fever that caused the death of Abraham Lincoln's mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln). Late summer is also the time of billowing ground fogs and low cloud masses hugging the valleys of the Pigeon River watershed far below, down Cataloochee Divide and rising into Cove Creek Gap. 

All of this makes for some wonderful moments as the sun lights up the fields and forests around the Southern Appalachian Highlands Learning Center. The forecast of the previous evening seemed to suggest that the following day could be a good time to be on the Knob.  Positioning the camera about two feet behind and slightly above the blooming snakeroot, a focal length of 39mm, just beyond wide-angle range, but wide for a normal image, gave me the angle-of-view I wanted. An aperture of f/22 provided depth-of-field; and a shutter speed of 1/5th second at ISO 200, chosen because of a very slight wafting breeze, gave me an overall medium exposure. From the top of the world that is the Cataloochee Divide there is a peace that is palpable.

Saturday, 12 August 2017 00:08

A Horse is a Horse, of Course

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The Grapevine Township of Madison County, North Carolina is a rugged land circumscribed by Bailey Ridge to the East, Sevenmile Ridge to the West, and the meandering uplifts of the Walnut Mountains, just a slightly smaller version of, and a hop,skip, and a jump away from, the great Bald Mountains that wander the North Carolina-Tennessee border to the north. Bull Creek, a major tributary of Ivy River, drains much of this beautiful countryside, a haven of small, upland farming clusters. Here, sometime in the late-nineteenth or early-twentieth century, a farmer named Mace built a lovely livestock barn. It was later adapted to burley tobacco as evidenced by the visibly altered roofline with its shallow angle that provided more room and increased storage capacity in the upper, or loft, area. Gene Rogers now owns the barn and the old homeplace, part of the rich heritage of this venerable piece of these ancient hills. A focal length of 28mm, wide-angle for certain, gave me the angle-of-view I wanted. An aperture of f/18 provided depth-of-field, and a shutter speed of 0.5 seconds at ISO 100, gave me an overall medium exposure. I don't know if his name is really "Ed", but it sure sounded like he said, "Of course", as I walked by.

Sunday, 06 August 2017 14:08

Kodachrome Dreamin'

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Looking into the lower slopes of Mount Kephart from Thomas Divide on an autumn day in mid-October can cause one to feel as if they have become lost on a well-used an artist's palette; and when to this is added the moodiness of a morning's rising fog, one can easily be convinced that the world is nothing if not a kodachrome dream-come-true. A focal length of 117mm, somewhere on the cusp of short-to-medium telephoto, gave the angle-of-view I wanted - an intimate landscape view of the forest. An aperture of f/16, given the camera-to-subject distance, provided depth-of-field; and along with ISO 200 allowed for a shutter speed of 0.4 seconds and a very slightly lighter-than-medium overall exposure. There was just enough of a breeze that being under half-a-second was much more productive than being at nearly a whole second, in terms of achievable sharpness. These beautiful old mountains seem more colorful with the passing years.

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