Remnants of Autumn at Stone Mountain

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Welcome Home
It seems as though Fall has been hanging on for quite some time now.  It was the middle of September when I ventured out to Graveyard Fields for the first bit of fall color.  Since that time, we have seen warmer than average temperatures, some sudden drought conditions and just generally everything that could be thrown at the season to keep the leaves from changing like they were on track to do.  The side benefit to that weather pattern, is that for the most part, the leaf season has been stretched out to over two months, which is rather nice.  As we approach the middle of November, most of the state is well past peak, and there is just a little bit of color lingering for our enjoyment.

Having been pretty much all over to catch the color, I decided to change it up a little bit today and I headed out to Stone Mountain.  The last time I was there, I was shooting just one of the waterfalls, and there was just a hint of color in the park on that day.  Obviously, I would have liked to have hit the leaves at peak color with this trek, but I knew I would be on the tail end of the leaves.  It was fine by me though.  I was going to have fun hiking and just decompressing for a little while.  The intention was to shoot what the conditions called for.  I was prepared to shoot waterfalls, woodland, and grand landscapes.  it all just depended on what the clouds did.

Mossy Seat
 When I arrived at the park, I was a little disappointed at the lack of color in the leaves.  I knew I was past peak, but I though that I would have a little more color than this to work with.  Oh well, I had come out this far and I was going to make the best of it.  Looking at the sky, the clouds were thick and they had no obvious texture to them.  This meant that I wasn't going to mess with hiking up to the top to get grand landscapes.  I was going to focus on woodland and white water scenes as that was what the light called for.  I set out on the trail to the Hutchinson Homestead and started to look for color in the trees.  I didn't find any real color, but I did find an interesting tree that I have seen many times before.

I've always wanted to photograph this tree, but it has proven difficult to get a composition with.  I started to look around and see what I had to work with.  I really liked the way the trunk was shaped, and the moss on the tops of the main sections.  In order to get everything that I liked about this tree, I was going to need to select a pretty wide focal length.  I went ahead and fitted my 16-35mm lens with the Singh Ray Color Combo Polarizer.  I got in close and started to work my way around the tree in order to find that perfect position.  I'm not sure if I found it or not, but this is much closer than I have come before to getting it right.  If nothing else, Toni likes it, and has expressed interest in using it for a project later on.  I count that as a win!

Autumn's Failing Grip
After I spent some quality time with the tree, I moved on down the road to the homestead.  There were a number of people there looking at the exhibits, which made my task a little difficult.  I had to exercise lots of patience waiting for people to move out of the frames before I released the shutter.  It did give me plenty of time to fine tune the compositions before I actually shot the pictures.  I was really happy that there was a little color in the background for me to use in the compositions.  it wasn't much, but it did give a little extra visual interest to the pictures, and added a sense of season which I was after.  For this particular subject, I swapped lenses and went with my 70-200mm lens so that I had a much better chance of excluding the sky which was pretty much a blanket of white above.  I kept the Color Combo Polarizer on this lens to help extract as much color out of the scene as possible.

Historic Homestead
One thing that I have been rather sad about for a while now is that the tree that used to make for a great foreground was no longer there.  It was cut down several years ago.  I really hate that happened because the odd shaped tree made a wonderful element to any composition of this old house.  Now, the stump will have to serve as a foreground element.  It is still effective, but not nearly as interesting.  The trick here is to position the one tree to the left in front of the display that tells about the home.  By covering that, this looks much less like a museum piece and more like an old cabin at the base of the mountain.  Since that was what I was going for, the composition was quite important.

Rustic Lines
As I was working the old cabin, I started to get interested in the lines that I saw by the chimney.  There was some nice old stonework set next to wooden planks.  The shutter over the window was vertical and made for a great contrasting element to the siding.  The roof line was diagonal, which mirrored the step on the chimney.  The shingles on the other section of roof gave a counter element to the chimney.  I was on to something with this isolation of the old cabin.  The warm colors were just the icing on top of the already tasty cake.

Unfortunately, as I was getting into the groove of photographing this old cabin, more and more people started to come in.  I was starting to have a terrible time making compositions that didn't include people, so I decided to move on to another location and see what else I could work with.  I made my way just outside of the old homestead and found that the split rail fence really caught my eye.

Split Rail Barns
I was able to get a composition that included the fence, a pair of barns and just a taste of fall color behind the barns.  It was more or less a postcard shot, but I was kind of liking it.  It captured the feel of the scene, and had a certain timeless quality to it.  The composition was also dependent on two different issues.  The first was people that were sitting just to the left of the frame, and the display that was right there with them.  I had to crop in tighter than I would have liked on the left in order to get the shot.

Autumn at Stone Mountain
Having had enough with people, I abandoned any further attempts at photographing the homestead.  I decided to move on though the meadow to find fall color and some woodland images.  The sky was still not doing me any favors so I was content leaving my long lens on and searching for isolations.  I happened to find just what I was looking for at the base of Stone Mountain.  There was a tree with some brilliant orange leaves that stood out.  I liked the trunk system as well and the background of the bald really pulled it all together.  This started to set the tone for me when it came to finding color.  There were trees here and there that had some great color, and I was going to pick them out one by one if I could.

Woodland Needles
I continued through the meadow and went to my favorite little pocket at the end.  It is here that I have found some really nice trees to work with.  One of my favorites didn't disappoint today.  The swooping branches were still just as alive as ever, and the rich greens were joined by some golden tones which added a nice sense of season to the image.  The brown grasses below also helped with the color pallet in the composition.  The change of seasons is always so much fun to do woodland images because of the different colors that are on tap at almost any given location.  The only trick is to find where these colors make sense and have some sort of visual anchor to rest the eyes on.

A Golden Curve
After about 2 hours in the park, I decided it was time to actually hit a trail and start working my way to the water.  In order to be a little more likely to try compositions, I left the camera built with the long lens and polarizer attached.  I started to make my way through the lower section of the Stone Mountain loop.  I wasn't really finding much that caught my eye though.  The water levels were low, so the stream was a little boring.  Even areas that I have photographed many times before lacked anything special this time.  I had been excited about the controlled burn that they did earlier as it will cut down on the underbrush quite nicely, but I just couldn't find anything at all to photograph.

Then, off in the distance, I saw a vibrant yellow tree up high.  I got closer to it and realized that there was only one direction that I could shoot the tree without getting any other trees in the frame.  The section I was after was up about 40 fee or so.  I positioned myself so that I could shoot up that high without getting the sky in the composition  I used the delicate tree trunk as a visual anchor for the image.  Because of that, I started out with the camera in portrait orientation to accentuate the arch in the wood.

Golden Abstract
Wanting to take advantage of the abstract qualities of the leaves, I flipped the camera back on the horizontal axis and recomposed another image.  It was not nearly as strong of a composition, but the abstract quality was worth the frame.  There was a slight haze in the distance that I was able to accentuate with the limited depth of field.  The background was just a blur of color and shape beyond the golden leaves.  It wasn't perfect, but it was setting the tone for the rest of the hike.  I was going to be working some abstract scenes where I could find them.

As it turned out, the abstract scenes that I was going to be shooting for the next little bit had nothing at all to do with the leaves.  The deeper I got into the trail, the less leaves I found in the trees.  I started to look lower for inspiration.  Oddly enough, the water levels were looking pretty good as I got closer to the main waterfall of the park.  I started to pay attention to the sections of white water as I found them.  One such section I had tried to photograph before with absolutely no success.  I recalled trying to take it all in with my 24-70mm lens and ended up with nothing worth keeping.  This time, I was in a mindset to isolate sections of the landscape, and this was looking like a good place to do just that.

I wasn't able to get downstream on the best section of this bit of rapids, but I was able to shoot down on it from upstream.  Looking at what I had to work with, I decided that shooting an abstract would be the way to go for this one.  I zoomed in tight on a section of rock that had some nice cascades rolling off it, and surrounded it in a sea of cloudy mist.  I included one rock that was above the water level to give a nice visual anchor.  I dialed in a five second shutter speed in order to really blur the water.  The resulting image was pretty good, but I wanted to get it in even closer than this.

As a Dream
I flipped the camera over on its side and zoomed in even tighter.  This image had less visual clues as to what you were looking at, and was even more abstract.  There was a definite dreamy quality to it with most of the image being the blurred water.  Having the water flowing at this angle looks odd to me, but fits with the abstract qualities of the image that I was going for.  Since this wasn't the only section that was worth a picture, I redirected my attention to the other side of me for a more expected composition.

Leaf Collection
The other side didn't have that much water, but what it lacked in water, it made up for in splashes of color.  There was a rock that was nearly covered in golden leaves which made a great focal point.  There was also a nice touch of greenery on a rock in the background.  The water just provided a nice sweeping frame for the leaves in the foreground.  This composition is less about the water and more about the season and the wonderful lighting that I had to work with.  It took a little doing to get this composition though.  I tried different variations, some of which included another set of cascades below this one.  None were as pleasing as this one that really focused on the leaves covering the rock.

Once I started to feel like I was forcing the compositions, I decided to move on down the trail.  I didn't find any more colorful trees, but I did come upon a very interesting set of cascades that I had seen several times before.  I had even tried to photograph it a few times with no success.  Today, the water flow was different and it really looked promising.  Since I had my long lens on, I decided to try picking out compositions instead of photographing the entire thing as I had done in the past.

An Autumn Drop
As with in the previous cascade, I really liked the orange leaves that were scattered about.  They gave the scene some much needed color, and even a bit of texture.  The water was magnificent though and had great flow.  I was able to get the shutter speed to between eight and ten seconds which was about perfect for the flow I was seeing.  It became all about getting the right composition at that point which was not the easiest thing to do because of the way the rocks were.  However, by getting in tight, I was able to capture meaningful compositions that told the story of this little cascade.  

Water Therapy
The part that really caught my eyes was the section to the left under the "snout" as Toni called it.  There was so much detail in the water, and you could just pick out each and ever layer to the rocks beneath the water.  It was just so dang soothing to watch.  I flipped the camera over on its side and put a composition together that would highlight just that part of the cascades.  The depth of this image was just remarkable with the leaves in the foreground and the background continuing with that theme.  The dark and light elements played so nicely together as well.

I decided that after getting a handful of shots from here, I had better get back to solid footing.  There is nothing quite so slick as wet rock with leaves on it.  This was what I was standing on, and it was a slope at that.  In the interest in not crashing the camera, I went ahead and got back up the hill to the trail.  I continued on to the main falls, but not before passing a long section of cascades that I had photographed a couple of times before.  There was a couple leaving that section so I decided to not rush them and I continued on to the main falls.

When I got there, they were just as boring as I remembered.  There just isn't much I care to do with a large waterslide like Stone Mountain Falls.  There was no interest at the base either.  The couple had caught up with me, and I think we were all coming to the same conclusion that there wasn't much to see here as we all started our way back down the trail.  The stairs to the top of the waterfall had been damaged during a controlled burn and that section of the trail was closed.

Lone Leaf
I made it a point to stop off at the small cascades that I had skipped a few minutes before.  I got down into the water and started look for compositions.  There wasn't much there as foreground interest was scarce.  I did like a single yellow leaf that was stuck under the water just above the cascades.  This was the first composition that I started to work with.  It wasn't all that spectacular, but I liked the simple splash of color.  From there, I started to look for other compositions.

Clam Falls
One section that caught my eye was a double layered cascade with additional cascades above it.  I went ahead and framed that shot using the fallen leaves as my foreground interest and splash of color.  The design of this was a bit abstract and it took a little doing to get it to flow right.  In the end, I had a composition that I liked pretty well, and one of the few from this section that I really thought stood apart.  It wasn't until I started looking for my next composition that I came upon something truly special.

Essential Layers
This is a short waterfall, but very wide as it stretches across the width of the stream.  As I was looking for my next composition, it hit me like a ton of bricks.  This was a panorama if I had ever seen one.  I went ahead and leveled the tripod.  I pulled the lens out to 70mm and swept the scene to make sure that I had the sweep level.  I dialed in the exposure and set my borders before I made a six shot sweep of the scene.  From what I could see, it looked really good in the individual frames.  I had no way of knowing just how well it turned out until I got home and got the images stitched together.  When I saw it, I knew I had something much better than anything else I had shot here before.

Now that my feet were starting to get cold from standing in the water, I decided it was time to head back to the car.  I had been out here nearly four hours at this point and needed to get home.  I left the camera out just in case I found some more compositions along the way though.  As luck would have it, I found nothing at all on the hike back.  It wasn't until I reached the base of Stone Mountain that I started to see other possibilities once again.

Autumn Tapestry
Going back to my abstract photos from before, I started to find pockets of color at the base of the mountain.  There was this one section that caught my eye, and you could actually see through the center part.  It was not my normal composition, but one that I wanted to give a try.  I started out with the camera horizontal as that gave the best abstract framing to the trees.  I also wanted to get a little more specific with the trees, so I flipped the camera for a portrait shot of the same scene.

Peering Through the Colors
The vertical composition was quite a bit stronger, but I actually liked both of them equally as well.  It is probably my last hoorah for Fall this year as the leaves are quickly falling and I have a long week ahead of me at work.  I might be able to squeeze in one more Fall trek, but I'm not holding my breath for it.  As it is, I'm quite happy with my day.  I've got 20 new additions out of 128 frames shot.  I really can't complain about that at all.  In fact, I wish there had been less as the time is now 10:46pm and I am needing to go to sleep so that I can get to work in the morning.  Ahh, the benefits to having two jobs that both take a lot of time.  At least I enjoy this one!

Autumn at Hanging Rock

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Streaming Cascades
It seems that the last handful of times that I have been to Hanging Rock it has been a quick trip before work, or just slipping it in for a quick outing.  I feel that I haven't been giving Hanging Rock its fare shake lately.  There is a lot to photograph out there with about a half dozen or so waterfalls in the park, not to mention many trails that lead to overlooks.  There is just so much to do there, but since it is close I get out there quite a bit usually.  However, this year my time there has been in hour long segments with a handful of pictures that are the result.

With the work week coming to a close, I was itching to get out and do some photography, but I wasn't really sure what kind of weather I should be expecting.  For the most part it had been sunny throughout the week which doesn't make the greatest of conditions for a photographer.  When I looked at the forecast on Friday, there was going to be a lot of clouds in the foothills and mountains with some occasional rain.  This was my kind of shooting conditions!

I started to look at places that I could go.  The Blue Ridge Parkway has been done to death by myself and other photographers for the last six weeks or so, and quite frankly, I was a little tired of making that trip.  Stone Mountain was next on my list, but the clouds were going to be a wild card.  If they were thick and lacking definition, I wouldn't be able to shoot dramatic landscapes from the clearings I like to hike to.  There aren't that many waterfalls there that I enjoy photographing, and I had just done Widow's Creek Falls a couple of weeks ago.  That meant that Stone Mountain was out.  That left Hanging Rock, which worked out pretty good.  I could concentrate on waterfalls and woodland images if the sky was boring, and if it got interesting, I could hike up to a couple of different points of interest.  Hanging Rock it would be!

Haunted Lagoon
I started my day early so that I could get to the park when it opened.  By the way, that was 7am, about 30 minutes before sunrise.  I wasn't going for a sunrise opportunity because I knew that there would be no color this morning.  I was just looking to get an early start because the park was having several different programs throughout the late morning and into the afternoon.  I wanted to have plenty of time to be by myself and concentrate on photographing rather than dodging other hikers. 

I did get there before first light and that meant that I would be hiking with a flashlight.  My first destination was going to be the Upper Cascades because that was going to be the first program destination and I wanted to be done with it before that started up.  When I arrived at the falls, it was still pretty dark and I got to thinking that I might want to try doing a little light painting at this one.  I went ahead and set the camera up with the 16-35mm lens and got in close to it.  I composed the image with the aid of the flashlight and set it to bulb so that I could just have the shutter stay open until I was done.

I tried several different times, and finally got one that I liked.  The one above was 60 seconds of exposure during which time I painted the waterfall with my flashlight.  I hovered over the pool at the bottom as well to give it an ethereal feel.  Of course the white balance was all over the place with the ambient light, and adding an LED flashlight.  I had to do a little work to balance the colors out when I got home.  For my first attempt as light painting a waterfall, I'm actually pretty happy with this.

Rocking Fall
As the sun was coming up I started to look around to see if there was any Fall color in the park.  I was quite pleased at the amount of color that I saw, but realized that there was none in close proximity to the waterfall.  There were some bright trees to my rear though, and they caught my eyes.  There were two large rock outcroppings that complimented themselves, and a nice tree trunk at the end of one of the outcroppings.  In the background there were some brilliant trees.  The trick was going to be dealing with the sky which was pretty much featureless.  I decided to crop in close and use my 24-70mm lens with an intensifying polarizer attached.  The composition that I chose showed a nice "S-Curve" through the picture leading the viewer to the colors in the background.

The exposure wasn't too difficult as the sun was barely up at this point.  Everything was quite even in tone, and it was just a matter of getting the composition right with the camera.  That took a lot of moving around in order to get the right angle on things.  The one that I decided I liked the best was one of the tighter compositions and really had an intimate feel to the whole image.

From here, I started to move around the scene a little bit.  I wasn't all that impressed with the water flow, but I decided to get an overall shot of the Cascades.  I moved back into the water and framed the shot to show the full waterfall in the morning light.  This is the opening image to the entry.  It is one of my favorite exposures of the waterfall, but unfortunately the flow let me down.  Without more water, the photograph kind of feels flat in comparison to others I shot. was still worth a press of the button for sure!

Seasoned Slopes
As the sun continued to rise, the lighting quality changed all around me.  I started to focus my attention back on the seasonal colors down stream.  This time, I went further back and got a wider view of the scene from a slightly different angle.  There is more context here and I personally like the image more than the intimate one.  There is still a great deal of detail in this image and the trees in the distance really stand out.  The interesting tree trunk in the foreground is still an important part of this composition, as is the "S-Curve."

I tried to shoot some isolations on the waterfall but was unable to get anything that I really liked.  I tell you...when the waterflow is low, this is just not an impressive waterfall.  I decided to call it quits here and move downstream to the unnamed cascade a few minutes off of the trail.  It isn't too bad of a scramble to get down to it, but having the camera still mounted to the tripod made it a little more difficult to do.

A Subtle Melody
I've only photographed this waterfall one other time, and the lighting was not quite the best.  Today, the lighting was much better.  I just had to hope that the flow was decent.  When I got down to it, I found that the water was actually flowing quite nicely over the rocks.  The water was shallow enough that I could get right up on the falls as well.  I left the 24-70mm lens attached and got in really close.  I chose to use a rocky wall as a natural frame for the waterfall which I was unable to do last time.  This allowed me to keep the actual waterfall completely uncovered.  I went very wide for this shot and got really excited with what I was capturing.  I tweaked my position a couple of times to really fine tune the composition.  The lighting was nice and consistent so the exposures were all the same and looked great!

Cascade Cliffs
One thing that I had not done with this waterfall was to shoot isolations on it.  Since I was up close and personal with it, I figured that I might as well give it a try.  I found an interesting segment that had a bit of visual drama, and also had a counter element of fallen leaves that gave a different diagonal line.  It was also the splash of color that the image needed to keep me from shooting it as a monochrome composition.  I had ideas of doing the conversion when I got home, but when I saw the image, the splash of color really set the photograph off.  Black and White wasn't going to do this one justice.  After about 30 minutes, I decided that I had shot everything that I was going to here.  For the climb back up, I packed the camera back in the bag to keep it safe and started back up the hill to the trail.

I hiked back past the rock garden but didn't find anything that I particularly wanted to photograph there.  I got to the main parking area and looked for interesting trees, but there was just too much visual clutter to be able to get the trees that I wanted.  The colors were really nice though and I wanted to shoot some woodland scenes.  As I worked my way down the next trail to the Hidden Falls, I passed by the picnic shelters and started to look at using them in some compositions.  Nothing really worked out for me though, so I was starting to get a little discouraged.  The last shelter that I passed by changed my mind though.

Getting in Step
As I was passing the last shelter, I saw the stairs leading up to it, and saw this really cool diagonal tree that complimented the stone railing quite well.  The color behind the tree was amazing so I decided to set up the camera to see what I could do with it.  Since I was wanting to work on shapes and textures, I chose to shoot this scene with my 70-200mm lens with a polarizer attached.  I framed up a landscape composition and liked it, but all of my visual interest was to the side.  I flipped the camera and recomposed to get the stairs and the one tree.  It was a simple composition but one that I was pretty excited about.  It got me motivated once again to keep looking for those woodland shots with the trees looking so brilliant.

That was short lived though.  The further I got down the trail, the less vivid the colors were.  Oh well, I was about to be at the Hidden Falls which I always enjoy photographing.  I had to wait to turn down the trail because there was a family hiking out and continuing down to the Window Falls.  That left me all alone at the Hidden Falls. I was rather excited!  But when I got to the falls, that excitement left me really quick.  The waterflow was dismal and there was no color in proximity to the waterfall.  I could have shot isolations on this one, but quite frankly, there wasn't enough water to make it worth the time.  I went back out to the main trail and started to look for woodland compositions once again.

Nature's Sigh
There wasn't anything really standing out to me, and I actually caught up with the family.  Once I got past them, I decided that I would go ahead and get on to the next waterfall to give myself time to work it before they got there.  When I arrived, it was empty which was great.  The waterflow was not that exciting, but I was planning on shooting isolations anyway.  I still had my 70-200mm lens attached and started to frame up shots from the base of the falls.

One of the nice things about this waterfall is that it is just a drop and there are interesting points at the top and the bottom that work well in photographs.  The lighting was excellent so I was in a happy place with this waterfall despite the lack of water.

Twin Streams
For the first time in several years I was actually moved to shoot the top of this waterfall. I'm not sure what drew me to it, but I had to act quick.  There was a light rain falling and having the camera angled up left my glass exposed to the elements.  I just couldn't resist though with the water just gently flowing over the cliff.  It was rather soothing to me.  I still prefer the terminal end of the drop though with the little mini cascades that result.  I always tend to gravitate to those compositions more than the top of the falls.

A Cavern's Whisper
One of the things that I love about photography is that you really control how the image is presented.  This waterfall is pretty basic, and there is nothing all that special about it, but when you start doing isolations with it, you can change the entire look of the environment.  The way that I framed this particular picture makes it look like the water is falling from a hole above and into a cavern.  The rocky wall to the rear appears to continue all the way around. The light looks like it is concentrated through that hole that the water is flowing from.  This is so not the case with this waterfall though.  The visual tricks are what makes it fun to work with though.

After a few minutes of working on this waterfall, the family arrived and gave me my space which I greatly appreciate.  Not wanting to prevent them from enjoying the waterfall, I went ahead and packed the camera up, and decided to go up to the unnamed waterfall that is above the Window Falls.  It is not difficult to get to, but requires a little bit of rock crawling to get up to the upper section.  Once there, you are treated to almost a cave cut into the rocks.  It is a very cool place to be, especially the first time you see it.

The Forest's Cry
For this subject, I decided to swap in my 24-70mm lens and get up close to the waterfall.  There wasn't much flow to it, but there was enough to capture my attention.  With the help of a polarizer, I was able to get the contrast of the scene just right even in the tricky lighting of the cave.  I worked my way around the water and tried compositions from both sides.  The most effective ones were the ones that were shot directly to the falls, which is what I decided to stick with when I was editing the photos.

Quiet Thoughts
My favorite composition was a portrait shot of the waterfall.  It took advantage of the flow that was there, and had a nice visual flow through the frame with the rocks below providing a nice barrier for the eyes.  By far, this is my favorite composition that I have shot at this waterfall which is usually quite disappointing.  Now, I can't remember the last time that I tried to photograph this waterfall, so my skills have improved quite a bit since that last time.

About the time that I was getting into the groove and was about to switch out to my 70-200mm for some different compositions, I realized that there was a scout troop that was working their way up the rocky wall to join me.  Well, this was the end of the road for me.  There were just too many people milling around at this point so I packed up my camera and worked my way back down to the trail.

I kept my eyes out for any woodland images, but there were just too many people and distractions at this point so I started to lose my eye.  The fact that I was hiking uphill and getting tired didn't help matters either.  I didn't see a single thing that I wanted to photograph on the way back up the trail.  I did decide that I was going to get back on the road when I got to the truck since the park was getting rather full of people enjoying the leaves.

Cozy in the Forest
When I got back up to the shelters I again started to look to see if I could get anything to use as a visual anchor in a composition.  I did see two small buildings off in the distance away from the shelters, tucked in the woods.  I was a little disappointed to see that they were restrooms, and I really didn't want to use those in a photograph.  However, the colors were just too good, and the wood and stonework on the structures were just too good to pass up.  I worked around until I found a possible angle to shoot from.  

I was lucky to find an area where there was a little bit of a clearing so that I didn't have to shoot through too many trees to get the composition I wanted.  I did choose to use my 70-200mm lens with an intensifying polarizer to compress the scene and focus on the repeating shapes of the trees and the contrasting lines of the (we're going to call it a) cabin in the woods.  I decided that the most effective composition was going to be picking only a portion of the cabin to give a sense of story to the image.  The main element was going to be the color in the woods.  It took about four frames to get settled in on the composition that I wanted.  The end result looks really warm and cozy as you can see the...ahem...cabin overlooking the colorful surroundings.  It's a cabin, and I'm going to stick with that story.  It works in the picture, and makes the whole scene make sense....until you realize that there is a roll of toilet paper by the door.  Made you look!!

Well, the parking lot was in sight, and so were droves of people and dogs at this point.  It was time to cut bait and leave.  I was hoping to find a barn or two on the way home since I was still wanting to shoot more.  I even took the long way home and wend down Hwy 8 which I don't usually do.  The rain was starting in earnest at this point and I was glad that I was not still out hiking.  At least I could look for something else to shoot in the dry.

Mail Call
About halfway home, I passed a property that I have driven past many times before but this time something caught my eye.  It was an old Postal Jeep.  Not exactly the classic car that I like to shoot in the last stages of life, but something about this old Jeep struck a nerve.  I turned around and took a second look.  Yeah, there was rust, and it was in front of a barn.  It was worth a frame or two, and what was best was that I would do better shooting it from the street than on the property.  I pulled off the road and opened the hatch to get the camera.

Before I even got the tripod out and leveled, I heard an ATV coming down the road.  Yep, I know what was about to happen.  He stopped across the road from me and we both said hi.  I went ahead and beat him to the punch and asked if this was his property.  He replied that it wasn't, but he knew the owner.  I went across the road to engage him in a little conversation.  He said that he didn't think that the owner would have a problem with me photographing from the road, and he pointed to where the house was where he lived.

Now, I'm not lazy, but the house was a little further than I wanted to walk leaving my 4Runner on the side of the road.  It was way too close to justify cranking it up and driving it over there.  Since I was planning on shooting from the road, I decided to save the aggravation and the potential for missing a rain free opportunity.  We concluded out chat and I went back to setting the camera up.

American Icon
Since I was shooting from the road, I put the 70-200mm lens on the camera with an intensifying polarizer attached.  I stayed true to my word and remained close to the road so as not to encroach on anyone's property when I wasn't sure if they minded or not.  The compositions actually came pretty easy.  There was a tree and some type of old farm implement right next to it that helped to add some context to the story.  The barn, while not a typical barn had a little bit of character and the vertical boards on it made for a very nice contrast to the horizontal stripes on the old postal carrier.

I was actually surprised at how good these came out.  Normally white vehicles don't photograph all that great, but the white really made it stand out from the background and made a rather impressive composition.  I'm sitting here looking at the picture now remembering the days gone by when these Jeeps were all over the roads delivering the mail.  They had character, unlike the mail trucks of today.  In fact, this old Jeep still has a lot of character, and it is instantly recognizable to anyone above the age of 30.

Well, the rain was returning so it was time to get on home to finish processing the images.  During the course of my day I had shot 113 frames between Hanging Rock and the Postal Jeep.  I was feeling pretty good about things, and when I got finished editing the pictures I was really happy to find that 15 of them managed to make the cut.  It was a really great day, and the weather was perfect for what I was shooting.

Rain on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Saturday, October 29, 2017

Falling Rain
Toni and i decided to do a little impromptu trip to the mountains for the weekend.  The goal wasn't photography, but since we were there, might as well bring the camera right?  Well, we brought the camera and hoped for the best.  The clouds were excellent all the way up to the mountains, but as we got past Wilkesboro, the clouds got thicker and the rain started to fall.  We decided to hop on the Blue Ridge Parkway to see if the rain would subside long enough to get some pictures.

Once we entered, we were greeted by some pretty dense fog which I didn't mind at all.  The colors looked nice, and I was pretty hopeful for what I would be able to capture.  As I got into the mindset of looking for foggy compositions, the fog broke.  Now it was starting to mist, which was not too big of a deal.  I changed gears and looked for some woodland isolations that I could shoot that would show the color.  As I started to get into tune with that type of composition, the rain got harder.  Well, I can't work in that kind of rain, so I turned around.  

We entered fog again along with the rain, and then the fog started to lift, and the rain slacked off a little bit.  We happened to be coming around a curve and there was a really nice red tree framed by a fence that caught both of our eyes.  I went ahead and pulled the 4Runner off to the side of the road and looked at the scene closer.  Toni was dead set that she wanted the fence to be the main leading line into the tree, and I could see that composition working nicely.  I had a bit of curiosity about using the road itself as an "S curve" through the scene though.

I crossed the road (the answer to Why did the photographer cross the road?) to check things out.  I could see a good bit of potential here, and decided to get the camera.  The mist was getting heavier so I knew that I was going to need to get my long lens because it has the deepest hood to shield the lens.  This hood that was so necessary to the protection of the lens prevented me from using any filters.  The bit of glare that a polarizer would have removed wasn't worth fighting the water on the lens, so I wasn't stressing it.

I got everything set up and found my position.  I actually shot this scene at 135mm which was actually pretty narrow for a landscape shot, but it captured everything that I wanted in the shot.  I played with the composition a little bit, and managed to fire off three shots before the rain started to fall in earnest once again.  It was too much for me to subject the camera to since I didn't have my foul weather gear out and ready.  I went ahead and packed everything back up and got back in the truck.  I was looking for some more compositions, but the weather just wasn't going to work out.  I decided to wait until tomorrow.

Well, tomorrow came and while the sky was phenomenal, and the lighting was perfect, I just wasn't really motivated to shoot any more.  I had other things that needed to be done back at home, and I just wasn't feeling creative at all.  Instead of fighting it and trying to make photographs, we just headed home and called it a day.

Sometimes, the artists just isn't ready to create.  That is part of it, and I would have liked to have captured some of the scenes that were going around in my head, but the images would have looked forced, and I wouldn't have been happy with them.  As it turned out though, one of the three that I shot on Saturday actually turned out quite well.  For not going out there to make photographs, coming home with one picture is a resounding success!

A Friend Was Holding Out

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Resting Heartbeat
So, every so often I put feelers out through social media about wanting to photograph old cars and barns.  My friends all know that I enjoy photographing these things.  I ask then, how is it that one of my friends out of nowhere one day starts talking about a Nova sitting in her back yard.  Wait.....a Nova you say?  A '72 you say?  How have I not heard about this until now?  Well, it's better late than never I suppose.  She sent me some pictures of the car as it sat under a car cover.  It was hard to tell the actual condition of the car, but I could see that there was very little rust on it.  But, I had not shot a Nova before, and they are one of my favorite body styles from the 70's.  it was worth a shot...pardon the pun.

Looking at the pictures, I could tell where the sun would be hitting, and I was pretty sure that I would need some nice diffused lighting to make the exposures look right.  The trees let the sky through, so an overcast day would probably not work as well with the bright white shining through the trees.  I was going to need a blue sky day with clouds over the sun, or a dark gray day to make it work out.  My first opportunity came the night of severe storms.  The sky was great, but the wind was relentless and it was raining.  The next day promised decent cloud cover, and a possibility for a shoot.

The Soul Remains
As the afternoon neared, the sky was much clearer than the forecast had lead me to believe.  I wasn't sure if it was going to work, but I figured that since I had worked through lunch and could leave a little early, I would give it a try.  If nothing else, I could scout it out and see what was there to work with.  When I arrived, the trees were doing a decent job of blocking the direct light, so that was good.  There was plenty of blue sky behind the trees as well so that was in my favor.  I went over and pulled the cover off and looked at the car.  It wasn't nearly as rusty as I was hoping.  Shoot, it was actually in pretty good condition.  The car itself though, was worth photographing and the lighting was looking pretty good for the time being.

I went ahead and pulled out my camera and mounted the 24-70mm lens since I was going to have to get in close due to some obstacles in the yard.  I started to size up compositions and wasn't all that impressed due to an out building to the rear of the car.  It wasn't horrible, but it made the pictures look like a basic snapshot, and I wasn't looking for that type of photograph.  I started to get in closer to the details and found that there were some wonderful lines in this car.  That was what I zeroed in on for the pictures.

Yesterday's Chevrolet
Of course, I started out with the emblems as those are some of my favorite things to photograph on these older cars.  There wasn't quite as much flare to the '70's though, and I was left really wanting more out of the emblems.  I guess I have been spoiled by the '40's and 50's emblems recently.  At any rate, I was able to get in close and capture some compositions that made sense and caught the soul of the car.  Of course, the vintage "Heartbeat" tag on the front captured my eye, and the fact that the script matched the color of the car was an added bonus.  It proved a nice balance to the image.

Brake for Rust
Just because the car was in generally good condition doesn't mean that it was devoid of rust.  There was some decent body rot on the car that captured my attention.  Fortunately, there was a good deal of it near the rear name plate and tail light.  Of course, this captured my attention and I went to work figuring out a composition that included these elements as they all work together to tell a story.  From a rust hunter's standpoint, this composition was the money shot for this old car.

One of the features of these old Novas that I really like was one that was shared with the late '60's Chevelles.  That is the continuation of the grill to the edge of the fender.  The fins are an iconic part of this design and were captured beautifully from the side.  To make for a complete composition, I was very happy to see that the displacement badge and the marker light were still intact on the fender.  They really helped to break up the sea of red.  Fortunately, I had some nice green tones in the woods just beyond to balance out the very warm tones of the fender.  For a car nut, there are just enough clues here to determine what car you are looking at, but you do have to take it all in before you figure it out.  For those that aren't car nuts, there are lots of angles that add to the excitement of the image to draw you in.  The depth is provided by the limited depth of field causing a blur to the background.

Grill in the Woods
Speaking of that iconic grill, I had to get a composition with the whole front end represented.  Since the sun was starting to give me some mottled lighting on the fender, I used that to help highlight the 350 badge and the headlight.  The woods once again provided a nice color balance to the image and kept the red from being overly prominent.  There is more there than I would have typically liked, but I think overall, the color balance works just fine.

I spent about an hour working the car, and in that hour, I got 37 frames shot.  There are many compositions that I don't have represented here because they were just too mundane and boring.  many included the outbuilding which I didn't think was too bad at the time, but looking at the pictures on the monitor, it was a very big distraction.  It was the close up shots that really made this photo shoot.  I was actually quite surprised to have ended up with six different pictures that I really liked from this car.  Not too bad for an hour's work.

Doughton Park: Well, I tried

Saturday, October 21, 2017

OK, to be honest, I didn't really expect much from this trip.  The weather was not looking great either day with very little cloud cover.  It became more a matter of trying to get that last bit of fall color in the mountains before it was all gone.  If I found the right trees, I could handle a blank sky, and that set the mission for the day.  I got up early and left just before Toni headed to Doughton Park.  My plan was to try and shoot some stars as dawn was breaking, and the best place to do that is Doughton.  When I arrived, the sky was mostly clear as expected, and I started the chilly hike up the Bluff Mountain Trail.  To my surprise, I found not one, but two tents set up right where I wanted to put the tripod.  Well, that wasn't expected at all.

I wasn't going to be able to get the stars as I had wanted to, and that was ok.  The more I looked up, the more haze I saw in the sky and it wasn't quite as clear as I wanted it.  On the other hand, there wasn't any actual clouds either.  That meant that sunrise would be rather dull.  Fortunately, I had another idea and that was possibly going to work out.  

A while Back I shot to the West on a clear morning at sunrise and got some nice Alpenglow from atop this hill.  I was going to give that a try.  I was wanting to use my long lens, but the tents were in the way for that, so I opted for my 24-70mm lens and got in a little closer.  The mountains in the distance didn't suffer too much from the shorter focal length so I was good.  I set up my composition and waited for the light to happen.

Blue Ridge Awakening
My ultimate goal was to get the warm sunlight on the rocks, but I was enjoying watching the shadow of the Earth moving toward the horizon.  When it entered into my frame, I started making exposures.  The light clouds above did a fantastic job of capturing the pink sunlight and gave some nice texture to the sky.  The exposure was even enough that I didn't need any filters either.  There was plenty of detail in the foreground and the distant mountains were very rich in their visual detail as well.

With the haze in the sky, I was wondering if I was going to get my sunlight on the rocks as I had envisioned.  It was a painfully slow process watching the sun come up behind my back.  The further up it got, the less interesting the sky became.  I was getting worried, and it was a race with only one element controlling two aspects of the composition.

Kissed by the Sun
As the sun got closer to the rocks, the blue was returning to the sky, just above the pink.  This could work out if the timing hit just right.  It actually did for a change.  The rocks became red with the low sun, and the blue sky came right into my frame at the top.  I fired off a few frames and saw that the exposure was well inside of the camera's capabilities so I called it quits on that location in favor of moving to another place.  While I had been shooting the occupants of the tents had woken up and were all out enjoying the sunrise.  I didn't want to intrude further.

I worked my way down the hill to a fallen tree that I have shot many times before.  It was still looking really nice, but the sky wasn't really working on any level for a picture.  I continued on to the parking lot and was about to load up the 4Runner when I looked over on the other side of the parking lot.  The Bluff Mountain Trail was really standing out in the low sun, and there was a small tree that looked like a great visual anchor.  I decided to give it a shot or two.

Bluff Mountain Trail
I swapped in my 70-200mm lens because I needed the elevation from the parking lot to get the composition I wanted.  That meant that I needed a lot more reach than my other lens could deliver.  I started framing up compositions and trying them out.  The sky was horrible, and ultimately I decided to omit it from the composition.  I focused on the trail and the tree more than anything else.  The contrast appeared to be great with the low sun, and since the colors were all about the same, the textures were what really made this image.  It also has a certain dreamy quality to it.

With that composition done, I started to work on a panorama, but I really didn't like how it was coming together.  By the time I got home and stitched the seven shots I found very little interest in it.  I ended up trashing it along with nearly 60 frames from the morning.

I drove back the long way through Wilkesboro in hopes of finding a barn or old car to work with, but the light was just too harsh for anything else.  I went ahead and pointed towards home and got home hours before I intended.  Looking through the images from the day, I was less than happy with the final outcome, but I was happy to have been to the mountains and tried once again to find some more fall color.

This fall season had started out so well, but ended so weak.  The temperatures were just too high, and we had gone through a very dry period at the crucial time for the change of colors.  I'm hoping to have another chance to get some fall color here at home in the next week or so, but I'm afraid that the trend started in the mountains will continue here as well.  At least I really like winter photography.  LOL!

Kissed by the Sun  in B&W