Saturday, 29 December 2018 12:58


"...To the kingdom of the West-Wind, where upon the gusty summits sat the ancient Mudjekeewis, ruler of the winds of heaven. Filled with awe was Hiawatha at the aspect of his father. On the air about him wildly tossed and streamed his cloudy tresses, gleamed like drifting snow his tresses, glared like Ishkoodah, the comet, like the star with fiery tresses."

I can think of no more apt imagery to complete another (6th) year of Image for the Asking than an image from the awesome Upper Peninsula of Michigan, that seemed, in the moment I saw it, to completely embody the words of Longfellow's great poem. We were between Baraga and Nisula where the road to Pike Lake would take us to some amazing early-morning fall color. The sun was still below the horizon when I looked to the north and saw him, looking eastward over the landscape. We stopped on the side of M-38 and began to photographically contemplate the visage of the great immortal of Anishinaabe myth and lore.

A focal length of 27mm, definitely wide-angle to cover the enormous cloud and a bit of anchoring countryside, gave me the angle-of-view I wanted. An aperture of f/22 provided depth-of-field, and a shutter speed of 0.4 second, fast enough to avoid significant blurring, at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure.

There is a fine assemblage of adventurers accompanying us to the UP in October for what may well be our final adventure there with a group. We are looking forward to it.

Thursday, 20 December 2018 10:14

Rock Breaks (Covers) History

Time always favors water; and water generally conspires with rock; and together they both overcome the march of history, that is to say, human history. Big Creek, the principal drainage of the northeast corner of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, flows from the heart of the high country, off the base of Tricorner Knob and Mt. Guyot, eastward and then northeast, before exiting the park into the waiting flow on the Pigeon River, tributary of the French Broad, one of the oldest rivers on Planet Earth. Near this boundary once operated the great logging mill of Suncrest Lumber Company and the logging town of Crestmont. Eventually the loggers and their machines went away, and Nature began her slow, but inexorable, process of restoration; and today there is little evidence remaining of a past that once threatened the mountains with much harm, but is now a distance memory slowly carried away by the waters of Big Creek.

A focal length of 27mm, upper-mid-wide-angleland, gave me the angle-of-view and spatial relationships I was looking for. An aperture of f/16, from perhaps 2' above the leaves, provided depth-of-field; and a shutter speed of 0.8 second at ISO 100 in the calm water of the mid-ground, gave me an overall very slightly darker-than-medium exposure.

I can hear the wonder of Nat King Cole's melodious voice and I know that winter cannot be far behind.

Saturday, 15 December 2018 18:21

A Magic Carpet Ride

Morton Overlook is not only the premier Smokies sunset location for half of the year, it is a visual spectacle all year-round. In those non-iconic times, of which there are many, it often becomes a lens through which the mountains can be seen close-up and with appreciation. As the great air currents move across the faces of the ridges, as if they are campfires of moving fog, pieces of ridgeline are revealed then covered, as if magicians are at work playing some gigantic shell game purely for our ocular delight. Perhaps it is merely a game of hide-and-seek that the trees are playing with each other.

A focal length of 300mm gave me the narrow, compressed angle-of-view I wanted. An aperture of f/20 from the camera-to-subject distance provided depth-of-field; and a shutter speed of 1/15th second (fast enough to slow the moving cloud) at ISO 100 gave me an overall slightly-lighter-than-medium exposure.

In moments like these, Morton Overlook becomes a magic carpet ride offering a cornu copia of bird's-eye views of the wonderland that is the Great Smoky Mountains.

Saturday, 08 December 2018 11:06

Solar Condensation and a Wet Rock

Drosera rotundifolia, common sundew, is found around the globe in all sorts of bogs and marshes; but in the Southern Appalachians it can also be found on rocky outcrops in high elevations. Percipitation falling on these outcrops percolates downward with the help of gravity until it finds a way to the stony surface. In this way tiny wetlands - called "seeps" - are formed which become ideal habitats for these tiny splatters of carnivorous sunlight. Sundew leaves are coated with drops of a sugary, sticky mucilage, which to a small insect is just what the dietitian ordered. Insect walks in, lunch is served.

A focal length of 300mm provided magnification and the narrow angle-of-view I wanted. An aperture of f/22 provided depth-of-field; and a shutter speed of 2.5 seconds in windless air at ISO 100 gave me an overall somewhat darker-than-medium exposure that was tempered by a small, gold reflector.

The rock faces of these old mountains contain many treasures. One of these is a tiny plant called sundew.

Friday, 30 November 2018 19:41

When Sunrise Appears as a Layer Cake

The beauty of a Luftee Overlook sunrise is a matchless event in Nature. Looking over the headwater drainages of Beech Flats Prong, across the layered shoulder ridges of the Smokies Crest, the land of the Oconaluftee and its sibling streams is revealed, layer upon layer from the darkened depths of the valleys  to the wispy overhead cirrus catching the sun's light, while in between, the golden rays of dawn proclaim the magic of a new day - one that has never dawned before.

With a careful cropping across the bottom of the image, a focal length of 25mm gave me the wide angle-of-view I wanted. An aperture of f/16 provided depth-of-field, and a shutter speed of 1/6th second at ISO 100 gave me an overall very slightly darker-than-medium exposure.

With a dynamic range as great as the one here, it would be very difficult - impossible actually - to hold the tonalities as my eyes saw them, even with the aid of a 5-stop graduated neutral density filter; so I chose to allow the foreground details to go darker for the sake of maintaining the preferred tones in the rising sun and the blue sky.


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