Anniversary in the Mountains

Wednesday, Jan 10-Sunday, Jan 14, 2018

Winter Flurries
Each year, Toni and I try to get to the mountains for an anniversary trip.  During these trips I usually try to get out for a bit and get some pictures.  While we were in Jefferson for three full days, the weather didn't do us any favors at all.  I'm actually happy that I was able to get anything at all, and most of these are from the back deck of the cabin that we stayed at.

So, here is how it all went down.  First of all, we started off at the cabin that we had originally selected called Creekside Waterfalls.  Hmmm, sounds like something a photographer might enjoy, right?  Well, that wasn't the reason that we selected the cabin.  We wanted something smaller than we had been used to in the past, and wanted something in a slightly different area.  Turned out the area wasn't all that much different, and when we got to the cabin, it was a bit smaller than we were expecting.  There were some other small issues that were there as well, but nothing too terrible that we would be opposed to staying.  However, we have a great relationship with High Mountain Cabin Rentals, and they came through in stellar form.  Within the hour, we were actually upgraded to another cabin that they had available.  Off we went, and found that the new cabin, although a bit more expensive, was off the charts nicer.  We had found our new home away from home.

Of course, by the time we got the accommodations figured out it was too dark to do any photography.  That was no problem since I had the rest of the trip to play with the camera.

I checked on the weather for the following day and saw that there was going to be rain on and off for most of the day, and that there was not going to be much of a sunrise.  That meant that we got to sleep in a bit which was nice.  After we got up, we saw that it was raining pretty good.  Toni still wanted to out and do some shopping so we packed the camera up and headed out to see what we could see.

Clouded Ridge
We did a good bit of driving around and found a few things of interest, but the lighting was not right, and the rain was a little too hard for me to do much with.  After we did our shopping, we headed out to the Blue Ridge Parkway for a quick drive.  The rain kept fluctuating in intensity, but it would never completely stop.  I had pretty much given up all hopes of getting any pictures from this drive and was just enjoying the scenery as we drove through the mist and fog.  Then I saw it.

Wait, what did I see just past the Grandview overlook?  I'm pretty sure it was a very prominent tree standing out in the fog.  Could I be that lucky?  I got the car turned around to go check it out.  As I came up on the scene the tree looked awesome, and the lighting was just right.  I had a great composition in mind already.  The only was still raining pretty hard.  The composition that I wanted was going to necessitate my 24-70mm lens which has a fairly shallow lens hood on it.  This would not protect the front element nearly as well as the one that I have for my long lens.  I about gave up on the shot until Toni reminded me that she was a Mom.  No....that's not what I meant.  I know she is a Mom, but part of being a Mom is she is always prepared for anything from a runny nose, to a ballistic missile.  She reminded me that she had an umbrella in the trunk.

Being a guy, I'm not a big fan of using an umbrella, so I don't ever think about them at all.  Since she brought it up though...  I figured the composition was good enough to give it a try.  I got out of the car and felt the rain pelting me in the face.  This was going to be interesting for sure.  I built the camera under the hatch of the car with the 24-70mm lens.  I didn't use a polarizer because I didn't see glare being much of an issue, and I wanted simplicity more than anything.  I got into position, and deployed the umbrella before removing the lens cap.  I had to have looked funny standing on the side of the road fully in the rain while my camera was under the cover of the umbrella.  I got the composition framed just as I had previsualized it, and released the shutter.

Commanding Presence
The exposure was a little off with some highlights that I didn't want.  I reevaluated the composition and framed it ever so slightly differently, and fired it off again.  This time, the exposure was spot on, and I had all the information that I needed to have according to the histogram.  Just in case, I did a few extra exposures just in case I had anything blowing in front of the camera at the time.  I was satisfied that I had what I wanted, and saw that rain was starting to blow under the umbrella onto the lens.  That was my sign to hit the road.

I had a total of five frames from this one tree, but knew that I had a winner out of that group.  There were no more pictures that day because the rain was just getting harder and harder.  I decided that Friday was going to be the best day for going out to get more pictures since the forecast was for off and on rain with clouds and fog.  I was excited about the prospects for the next trek.

Well, Friday came and it was pretty much a steady rain all day long.  There was no fog to speak of, and the lighting was just flat and lifeless.  I don't think the camera moved in the cabin all day long.  When we finally left for dinner, I didn't even take it with us.  By that time, the rain was so hard we could hardly see in front of the car driving.  I still had my tree picture so I was happy though.

Saturday was a completely different story all the way around.  It was single digit cold.  It was hold onto the railing windy.  But it wasn't raining.  It was flurrying, and there was some accumulation to be seen.  By this point, Toni was tired of me (I think I'm kidding) and wanted me to go out on my own to get some pictures while she stayed in the cabin to relax.  Ok, I'll give it a go.

I spent the next two hours driving around in a heavy flurry with gusty winds of near 40mph.  I wasn't having any luck at all finding anything to photograph.  The few things that I found fell into two categories.  First of all, the out in the open scene where I couldn't keep the camera steady, or grit from blowing all over the lens.  This was just too dangerous to try, and the subjects I found were not worth the hassle honestly.  The second category was the more intimate scenes where I had protection from the wind.  However, due to the nature of the area I was in, there was nowhere to pull the car over where it would be out of traffic.  Again, the scenes were not quite good enough for me to get creative with my parking.  In short, I spent two hours driving around to find basically nothing.  I still had my tree though.

Give Me Serenity
I returned to the cabin empty handed.  I was a little disappointed honestly, but it was no big deal.  I was there to spend time with Toni, and since she was staying at the cabin I didn't want to be out driving aimlessly alone.  It wasn't long after I got back that we had to deal with that ballistic missile I mentioned before.  It was then we realized that her cell phone wasn't able to make outgoing calls.  After we found out that the missile was a erroneous alert and a lot of fuss for nothing, she spent the next couple of hours on the phone with our cell provider.  While she was on the phone, I was looking out the back door at the mountains behind the cabin.  They had caught my eye as the clouds cleared from them earlier, but now the light was doing some nice things on the ridge.  The day long flurries had created snow capped mountains that made for a nice contrast to the bare trees in the foreground.

Since Toni was on the phone, I decided to put the camera together and see if I could work the scene a bit.  I wasn't thinking apparently and only put a jacket on.  I left the 70-200mm lens fitted to the camera and used no filters since the sun was to my back anyway.  This allowed me to use the lens hood which was a good thing since the snow was still coming down.  I started to pick out compositions as the light moved across the mountains.  After just a few minutes I remembered something.  It was cold!  No two ways around it, I was freezing my arse off.  I had grabbed a few shots and figured that I had enough so I went inside.

As I was about to break down the camera, I looked and saw that the light was doing other things, and I wanted to try a panorama shot of the ridge.  It was too clod to go back out there though.  I added a hoodie, and a pair of gloves and went back out in the shade to try this again.  I got the camera set up and did a mock sweep of the scene before setting the focus and exposure.  I fired off five vertical images at 143mm that would be later stitched together in Lightroom to create the opening image of this entry.  There was more depth than I had expected with the bare trees in the foreground blending into the more distant, softer textures of the mountain.  It was a nicer picture than I had though, and I was very glad that I had gone and tried this shot despite being very cold.

Snow Capped
Did I mention that I was cold?  Yeah, my skin isn't near as thick as it used to be.  But I still managed to stay outside for about 15 minutes and shot a few more images as the light danced across the mountain.  I even shot this one minimalist picture that showed three distinct textures with very little context.  Each section did have a blending element to the next which was one of those interesting things that drew me to the shot.  The mountains faded into snow which transitioned into cloud.  The thick cloud gradually blended with the blue in the sky to which it changed over to.  Each section has its own visual weight in the image that seems to work.

At this point, I was so cold I couldn't think anymore.  It was time to come inside and start cussing at the cold.  Well, Toni was still on the phone with the cell provider and all of a sudden I realized that me being cold wasn't so bad.  As I thawed out, I got the camera stowed away to warm gradually.  I had shot 20 some new images, and was hoping that a couple of them would come out well enough to keep.

When we got home, I started to cull the image, 33 in all.  I found that a good portion of the deck shots were actually pretty good considering.  They do hold a special place in my heart, so I was a little easier on the delete button than I normally would be.  The panorama worked out very well, and that would have been enough to make it worth my while.  However, there were a few others that showed decent potential.  While editing, I was really impressed with the tree I shot in the rain on the Parkway, and it is by far my favorite from the trip.  I couldn't help but think that it would be a great study in monochrome as well.

Commanding Presence in B&W
The black and white version captured everything that the color version did and then some.  I'm not sure which I like better, but I like them both enough, and I think they both stand on their own enough to include them both here.  The fog did an amazing job at allowing the tree to stand out from the crowd.  The element that drew me to the scene in the first place is so evident as well.  This tree is the only one with prominent branches that do diagonally.  The background trees are all quite vertical and boring.  This tree demands your attention whether in color or monochrome.

I've had more successful treks over the years, but this one was still one of the more enjoyable ones.  We had adventure, we had just about every weather pattern as the days went by, and had a lot of fun in the mountains!  We are already looking to go back, and I'm going to have to suck up my pride, and start carrying a small umbrella which made my favorite shot possible.

New Year, Old Cars

Monday, January 8, 2018

Impressive Stance
We are eight days into the new year and I have not been out with the camera since last year.  I would like to come up with a really good reason why that is, but mainly it is because I am a wuss.  It has been really cold for the last couple of weeks now.  I have just not wanted to go out and be miserable for no good reason, so I've stayed inside for the most part.  With all of this cold, it seems that everyone I know is out photographing frozen waterfalls.  The thought crossed my mind, but after the initial impact of seeing waterfalls frozen, they left me completely empty.  There was just not much that I really wanted to photograph with the frozen falls.  I'll leave it to the hundreds of other photographers doing just that for the past couple of weeks.

I decided to spend the first warm day (just above freezing temperatures) out with the camera, but what to photograph?  The forecast was for cloudy skies with freezing rain starting after lunch.  We know how I was feeling about waterfall photography, so that was out.  I was still having a lot of fun with photographing old cars, and I thought that I might go out and hunt a few of them down.  With the threat of bad weather after lunch, I decided that I needed to have a bit more guarantee of subjects since I was only going to have a few hours to work with.  It only seemed natural to head out to White's Service Station in Germanton for the morning.  I know that they have a bunch of vintage iron in the yard that I can play with.

Motley Ford
I got there about thirty minutes before they opened and the weather was great with solid overcast skies.  I was wishing there was a bit more texture in the clouds, but at least I didn't have to worry about high contrast sunlight as I was walking through the yard.  Since I know that the owner likes for photographers to "check in" with him, I waited until they opened to let them know that I was there and make sure it was still ok for me to walk the yard.  As I was waiting, I could see that the sky was opening up a little bit and the sun was starting to shine through.  This was not a big deal as it would add a little depth to my images to have some sun in the scene.  When 9am approached, I got out of the car and went to the shop.  It was still closed.

Hollow Scowl
I didn't have to wait long before somebody rolled up.  The few minutes that I was there though, I got cold.  I was already losing feeling in my fingers and was considering putting on my gloves.  I had a quick exchange with the guy who rolled in, and he checked with the owner to make sure that it was ok for me to take a scenic walk through the property.  He said that it was fine, and requested a card from me.  With that, I was on my way.  I grabbed my gear from the car and started walking.  It didn't take long before I started to warm up.  Unfortunately, that was because the clouds were gone.  I mean there was not a cloud in the sky.  This was no good.  Everywhere I looked, the lighting was all wrong.  I looked for cars in the shade which might have emblems to photograph.  There were very few of those around, and most of them didn't have good enough emblems to worry with.

Fender Jewel
I did come across one car where the sun actually made a great picture.  There was a fender ornament that had an opaque "V" in it.  The sun was back lighting the ornament and the graphic inside really stood out.  I worked with this for a good little while to get the right angle on it.  For some reason, I didn't want to fill the whole frame with this bit of chrome.  Instead, I wanted to place it within the frame and give some abstract clues as to what was being seen.  The end result was much more dynamic than just a straight on photograph of the main feature.  This was just one of the quirky images that I got from the day.

Honestly, I was really wondering if I was going to get anything worth while since the sky was staying pretty much crystal clear as I walked from one end of the yard to the other.  There were a bunch of really interesting cars to be seen, but the problems I was running into was the lighting, and the proximity of the cars to other cars.  In the cases where cars were grouped around other cars of a similar era I was good.  However, far too often, I was finding great cars surrounded by some late model vehicle, usually import.  This became very problematic, and with the light dictating the direction that I could shoot, I was really starting to lose hope.

Low Beams
In order to try and make the best of the situation, I spent a lot of time searching out compositions that I could do where these problems would not be an issue.  I've found that photographing headlights have been very rewarding when shooting intimate compositions of cars.  I did happen to find one that had a nice twin headlight arrangement under a sculpted fender that had a good deal of patina on it.  I struggled with how best to photograph this, and found that going high and shooting down made for the best composition.  I was able to anchor the image with the lights and use the spine of the fender as a bisecting element.  The sun was strong on the left side, while the right side was in the shadows from the body lines.  A nice tight crop with the camera and I was in good shape to include only what I wanted in the frame.

In an odd turn of events, I found a car that had no emblems left on it.  However, where the hood emblems had been, there was a nice ghost image cut into the patina.  Of course, this is an easily recognizable shape and for those who are familiar with the older cars, it is an image that you will understand.  For me, I love the textures of the rust and the hint of old paint where the emblems had protected the metal for decades.  Again, it was a quirky image, but one that I think turned out really well.

Sun Spots
In some cases it was the emblems that caught my eye.  In other cases it was the lack of emblems that caught my eye.  On this particular Buick, I found that the interplay between the emblem and the weathered trunk lid were the ideal subject to photograph.  I'm not sure how the trunk turned out like this, but the green on the car had faded off to one side, and within that area was a lot of surface rust.  The sun was hitting the trunk lid pretty hard, and that made the faded paint really change color.  There was a hard shadow from the emblem that gave it depth, and a little rusty runoff from the tail that gave it life.  The faded paint with the orange rust looked like a sun with some sort of winged ship headed for it.  I know, very geeky thing to see, but that was the image in my head after seeing this.  With a little careful use of the polarizer, I was able to capture this specific interplay between the ornament, paint, and rust.  Oh, and I had to shield the front element of the camera with my had to keep any lens flare from happening at that angle.

I had been out here for about 2 hours at this point waiting on the clouds to show up.  I was really starting to think that they were going to be a no show at this rate.  I continued to shoot for the conditions and looked for compositions that would work using the sun.  I found this old Ford which I have photographed before and it seemed to work with the sun.  I went ahead and started to look for compositions.  Because of all of the cars around it, I had to get in close and crop tight to the car.  At first I was not happy that the door was open, but after working on the composition, I realized that the door was blocking a '90's model Hyundai from my view.  I figured that the door was just fine where it was.  Because the sun was so bright, I didn't have to worry about my exposure with the sky.  Everything actually went very well without the need for any filters other than the polarizer.  I got down nice and low to avoid any of the cars that were in the background, and fired off some frames.

Light Textures
When I got done with the overall view, I started to look for intimate views of the car that I could shoot.  Of course, since this car had its headlights, that became a focal point for me almost immediately.  I got in nice and close and chose to focus on the pitted rust which was a nice contrast to the smooth glass of the headlight, and the marker light below was a nice contrast in tone that balanced out the tone of the headlight.  There was just a hint of paint visible which told the story of the car.  It was a simple image, but darned if didn't turn out nice!

Custom Patina
Speaking of patina...This car might have been pretty much completely rusted on the front, but the passenger side was still in pretty good shape.  There were even emblems still in place on the fender.  With that wonderful mint paint and vivid rust developing, I couldn't help but try for a shot.  I embraced the fact that the door was open, and used the curve of the skin as a geometric element to compliment the bit of wheel arch.  The rust provided a diagonal element that helped to frame the emblems.  It was a fun image to shoot!

Under the Shade Tree
The clouds were actually starting to roll in at this point.  I started to retrace my steps going back to compositions that I wanted to shoot earlier but had been unable to because of the sun.  The funny thing was, it was about 11am at this point, and the freezing rain was supposed to be starting in an hour.  Looking up at the sky, I was pretty sure that there was going to be no freezing rain falling today.  I was still rather skeptical about the density of the clouds as they were just starting to come in very thin.  It did give me the chance to shoot a few images with some blue sky interest which played well with the warm tones of the rust on the cars.  

Long Forgotten
Eventually, the clouds did come in as they were supposed to hours before.  This opened up lots of possibilities due to the diffused lighting.  That didn't mean that it was going to be easy though.  In this image of the same Ford I had been shooting from the front, I wanted to include the sky which had some nice texture to it.  The exposure latitude was too much for the camera though since the sun was actually behind the clouds just above the frame.  I opted to shoot one of two HDR photographs for the day to deal with that exposure latitude.  The other one that I shot was the opening image for this entry.  With four images, I was able to capture all of the information that I needed in order to create the image that my eyes were able to see.

Derelict Row
Now that the lighting was working for me, I was able to go and work some of the areas that I had wanted to before.  There is a trio of cars from the '40's that I have photographed before, but not quite this close in before.  I composed images that showed them all, and some that just captured the front clips of each.  That was the composition that I found most appealing for these cars because it gave a lot of visual weight to the Chrysler in the foreground, which still sharing the scene with the other two cars.  In the past, I would have stopped here, but today, I decided to work on these cars individually as well.

Mint to Be
I got down low to the ground to capture the front quarter of the Chrysler which was resting on the bumper.  It seems that the mint green that is on this car was a very popular color in the day.  Fortunately, it does look good with rust.  There are a lot of stories behind this fascia.  I can only imagine what it looked like rolling off of the assembly line some 70 years ago.  The chrome all shiny, and the mint green paint resplendent as it was on display in a showroom.  These days, it rests on its bumper because the wheels are long since gone.

As I continued to work around this trio of cars, I found that the backs of the cars could be accessed by climbing a short (and very loose) embankment.  I did just that and got into position to shoot the trunk of a (imagine this...) mint green Plymouth.  The rust on it looked as though it had been painted on by hand.  It was one of the more interesting patterns that I had seen in a while.  The nameplate stood out rather subtle in comparison to the chrome light housing over the tag mount.  It all worked together very nicely though.

Brushed Rust
Not wanting to stop photographing the rear of this vehicle, I moved over to the side to capture what I am starting to recognize as a genetic link to Plymouths of this era.  They all seem to have these same body lines that work so nicely in a photograph.  Of course, the hand painted rust under the mint green paint is always a treat for my eyes.  The hardest part here was keeping the camera steady on the loose dirt as I was slowly sliding back down the embankment.  Fortunately, I was able to hold everything together in order to make a few exposures on the back of this car.  While I was working it, the black car next to me really started to grab my attention.  The rust just looked amazing under the fuel filler neck.

Caustic Residuals
Before I slid down the embankment, I had to grab a photograph of this pattern.  It took a little doing to find a composition that worked well with the rear of this car.  There were so many complex lines and shapes.  I found that doing a close crop, anchoring on the bumper and the fuel filler made for the best composition.  There is still a great abstract quality with the image, and the patina is the star of the show.  We can file this one under the quirky images that I have been shooting today, but sometimes it pays to step outside of the box occasionally.

Mint Crackle
Since I was in a quirky mood, I went back to the car that had taken the spotlight with the group shot and started to look for abstract images to shoot on it.  In addition to the mint green paint, I was drawn to the lines created by the window trim, and the way that the paint was cracking.  I decided to focus on those elements for a while.  I tried both the portrait view which kept everything nice and compact, and then stretched it out to a horizontal composition that showed the swooping lines of the car.

Chrome Lines
There is just something magical about cars from this era.  They all have so much personality which just spills out into the camera.  They are just so much fun to photograph, and I just honestly can't get enough of them.  The patina on most of these cars just adds to the whole composition.  So many different textures to see on these old cars!

At the Yard
As the clouds came in thicker, I started to look for other images that I could shoot that included the clouds.  I found this beautiful old Buick (I think) sitting off to the side of the yard.  Of course, the grille was well over the top, and turned into a great focal point for several photographs.  One of the compositions that I worked on was a shot that highlighted just the grill as it looked over a row of cars from the early 60's.  The tree above the hood provided some much needed balance to the composition and this one turned out to be one of my favorites from this car.  However, the HDR image that opened this entry takes the prize as my favorite of all.

Earth Tones
One of the things that drew my attention to the car in addition to the grill was the embellishments on the fenders.  This was so upscale back in the day, but these days just screams "I want to put crap on my car to make it look faster".  The design of these old cars was just spectacular, and I hate that the current generation is cheapening the design elements.  This is what these are supposed to look like.  You can tell it was designed into the car from the beginning and they still look the part.  The deep green paint with the rusted patina work great together in stark contrast to the chrome that is still holding on all these years later.

Hood Scoop
Another testament to the design of the car can be found on the hood.  The original scoop is still there, although I have a sneaking suspicion that the 8 has fallen off at some point, leaving just the "V".  Either way, this was a pretty classy hood ornament that was recessed into the hood with an emblem below.  The deep surface rust around the chrome helps it to stand out in the picture.

Chrome Rows
At about 1pm, I decided to call it a day.  Looking at the weather, there was ice headed my way, and more rain after that.  Since I was about 30 minutes from home, I decided that I had better get home before the roads got bad.  I had about 80 frames in the camera so I was feeling pretty good about the day.  Despite the fact that the first half of the day was spent trying to wish the sun away, I had made the best out of the lighting situation.  I was expecting to have about ten images or so from the day.  You can only imagine my surprise when I got done culling and editing my images and found that I had 23 that I deemed worth keeping for the collection.  Yes, it was a great day, and not too bad for a first trek of the year.