Saturday, 27 January 2018 15:52

Tiny Desert Fireworks

Near the base of Factory Butte in the Upper Blue Hills of Central Utah, not far from Capitol Reef National Park, these sparse desert wildflowers - long past my limited capacity to identify - possibly a species of aster, caught my eye in the early morning light. The contrast between the highlighted plants and the shaded background of a volcanic ash outcropping seemed especially poignant in the late autumn. It was more than enough to draw my attention from the majesty of eroded mesas and deepening washes and into the immediacy of a wabi sabi moment.


A focal length of 450mm (300mm DX lens on a D800 full-frame camera)  gave me the narrow angle-of-view I wanted. An aperture of f/6.3 helped me limit the depth-of-field to the area near the plants and to soften the dark background; and a shutter speed of 1/25 second at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure, considering the contrastiness of the scene.


Tiny desert fireworks was what it all seemed like to me: just your typical desert diversity and beauty.

Saturday, 20 January 2018 09:17

The Hills Are Alive

High above the verdant valley of Spring Creek, North Carolina is a farm that seems straight out of the Sound of Music. Perhaps there are other barns in Madison County with greater physical character or architectural beauty, but none can surpass the magnitude of the setting of the Maris barn, built in the early decades of the twentieth century. Last week, on the heels of the snow and rime ice that graced the high ridges of the Newfound Mountains, Bonnie and I headed directly for this magical setting in the last rays of the setting sun. The green hillsides will abound soon enough, but on this day their emptying into white was more than enough to hold our amazement.


A focal length of 28mm, well-into wide-angleland, gave me an angle-of-view that allowed the barn to dominate the scene, but still be seen as overshadowed by its surroundings. An aperture of f/20 provided depth-of-field, and a shutter speed of 0.5 seconds in the still air at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure.


This amazing structure has stood on its own in the face of many Appalachian winters, and still it sings its song of communion to the surrounding hills.

Saturday, 13 January 2018 11:40

On the Way to Hot Springs

Madison County, North Carolina is a magical land filled with magical places, and none more so than Spring Creek Gorge. Forming high on the slopes of Sandymush Bald, Spring Creek runs the length of an unusually straight upland valley before dropping beteen the long massif of Spring Creek Mountain topped by Hap Mountain on the east, and the equally massive block of Bluff Mountain on the west. At the end of this run the French Broad River at Hot Springs awaits, but looking upstream from the area known as Vann Cliff, the creek knows only the precipitous plunge of its forested gorge and the delight of mountain waters. After a light snow had salted the tops and slopes of the mountain, the breaking clouds cast moving light over the land below and magic happens. 


A focal length of 97mm, right in the middle of short telephoto, gave me the angle-of-view I wanted. An aperture of f/11, since the nearest foreground ridge was more than a quarter mile away, gave me depth-of-field (after focusing almost halfway into the scene); and a shutter speed of 1/8th second at ISO 100, which the larger aperture sizing allowed, gave me a medium overall exposure and a way of creating a bit more texture in the moving clouds.


We find beauty all around us, that will remain as long as we actively engage in its preservation. 

Friday, 05 January 2018 13:58

Just How Cold Is It?

Haygood Mill County Park in Pickens County, South Carolina is a wonderful time warp in today's world. An 1845 gristmill is the center piece of a collection of historical structures, and included, over and above this, is one of the most amazing collections of prehistoric petroglyphs in the Southeast. Not long ago I was wandering through this incredible place with some dear friends. It was just downright cold, so cold that the water in a barrel at the side of the mill had frozen solid. The ripples of the frozen liquid reflecting the clear blue sky produced some of the most appealing abstractions I've seen in a long time.


Using a 28-300mm lens at just outside the working distance at a focal length of 98mm, I moved until the tonalities and reflective angles expressed what I wanted, making sure to place the camera parallel to the ice in such a way that I did not photograph my own reflection. An Aperture of f/20 insured depth-of-field and edge-to-edge sharp focus; and a shutter speed of 2.0 seconds at ISO 100 gave me an overall slightly lighter-than-medium exposure. The dark area is actually the edge of the wooden barrel. To visit anywhere with the idea that all that is available to be seen is something literal is to negate worlds of creative possibility. 

Friday, 29 December 2017 16:23

A Light to Set the Table

It is in the far northwestern corner of South Carolina that the first uplifts of the Blue Ridge Mountains come into view from the southeast: the Blue Wall, as it is often called. To the Tsalagi it was, indeed, the Blue Wall, a magical land of mountains and waterfalls, almost beyond number, and now dotted with a ring of magnificent state parks along both sides of North Carolina-South Carolina line. As development pressures mount along this line, the Blue Wall will need help from all of us who love the natural beauty of this amazing land. I have been invited by the South Carolina Department of Parks and Recreation to lead a pair of weekend photography workshops in Table Rock State Park and in Devil's Fork State Park in March 2018. It would be a wonderful opportunity to familiarize yourself with this delightful area, and enjoy some fun, friendship, and creativity as well.


Several days ago Bonnie and I made an early morning jaunt to Table Rock. In the waters of Lake Oolenoy we found much on which to reflect as the sun slowly peeped over the Piedmont. A focal length of 32mm, just inside of wide-angleland, gave me the angle-of-view I wanted. An aperture of f/16 provided depth-of-field, and a shutter speed of 1/30th second at ISO 200, chosen to give a little more surface tension control to the already still water, provided a medium overall exposure.


The Blue Wall is so much more than just a place; it is a state of mind that calls for us to share with love and care. 

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