Archive for the ‘Landscape’ Category

Cormorants   2 comments


Cormorants
~

As I mentioned in my previous post Full Retreat!, not all of our recent trip was a downer. On the one day that we did get to paddle the kayaks, we took a trip up the Silver River to the headwaters of Silver Spring.

Now, Silver Spring is an interesting place. It was the location for the “Tarzan” movies featuring Johnny Weissmuller. “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” was filmed there. The first glass-bottom boats plied the river in the 1870s. “Sea Hunt” with Lloyd Nelson was filmed there. Silver Springs was, and still is, the site of various tourist attractions both active and defunct.

But, we were there to paddle the river. Because Silver River is restricted to paddle boats and idle-speed-only motors, it seems that the wildlife has become accustomed to the presence of humans. This allowed us to get very close to the animals — while still maintaining a respectful distance, of course.

Here, a cormorant dries his wings after diving for sushi lunch. Getting this close let us notice, for the first time, how their feet wrap around and grip the perch. We could see individual patterns of feathers and coloration, each bird a bit different.

This proved to be the case with other wildlife as well, including wild boar, great herons, ibis, and monkeys.

Yes… monkeys.

Here, Susan is doing her impression of a cormorant…

Susan's Cormorant Impression

~

500px | Google+ | Twitter | Purchase a Print

Full Retreat!   4 comments



Full Retreat!



Full Retreat!


~

Okay, I can take a joke, but…

Susan and I had devoted the month of January for a road trip to Florida, camping and kayaking the clear springs across the state. We worked for weeks to get everything ready, eager with anticipation. Finally, a couple of days before the new year, we strapped the boats on top of the truck, loaded all the gear, but then had to hold back for a weekend, as it was raining heavily. (It’s not fun to start a tent camping trip in a puddle.)

Once we made our first stop in Charleston for New Year’s festivities, we checked the weather. More heavy rain was on the way, so we cancelled our next beach camping plan in lieu of a cabin in the Okefenokee Swamp in southern Georgia. While comfortable there, we couldn’t paddle due to high winds and constant rain. I suppose that’s okay, because as it turns out, almost 3/4 of the acreage in the swamp burned badly in 2011. We used to escape to the Okefenokee, as it was the quietest, most primordial-looking place we had ever known. Now it looks like a war zone, with charred sticks that used to be beautiful cypress trees, and it will take many years for it to grow back to its former glory. (That said, fire is a good thing. The Okefenokee is not so much a swamp as it is a peat bog. If the peat doesn’t burn from time to time, the entire area would fill in, with no waterways available.)

We had anticipated staying in the tent in the Okefenokee for a few more days, but weather forecasts indicated that we should move further south for warmth and dryness, so we re-routed to Silver Springs, Florida. More on that wonderful place later.

A full week after leaving the house, we managed to get a paddle in on the Silver River, although it was cool and overcast. When we landed back at the camp and checked the weather, we saw the massive, record-breaking cold front coming down on us. Poring over the forecasts, we decided that rather than enduring 20F cold, we would move down to Jupiter, Florida. Yes, it was much warmer down there, but being at the edge of the cold front, we were inundated with Gulf moisture and high winds. Three days, no paddling.

We had planned to go to the southernmost point of Florida, Flamingo, then to the west coast, but every place we had planned was subject to some of the most rotten camping weather imaginable.

We called a Full Retreat. Enough was enough. Two weeks out on the road living out of the truck; changing plans at every stop; only had one paddle trip; one day of sunshine. Home starts to look pretty good after a while.

On the way back north, we managed to snag this beautiful cabin back in Silver Springs. Surrounded by Live Oak trees draped in Spanish Moss, these “cabins” are more like full-sized houses, with a huge wraparound porch that we enjoyed to the fullest extent. (Yes, it rained that night.)

There were several good moments and highlights along the way; it wasn’t all bad. But as I sat on the porch and contemplated our fortunes, I couldn’t help but think that someone was up there, looking down at me with their thumb on the weather button, and saying, “You know, Rob: You… just… tick… me… off.”

~

500px | Google+ | Twitter | Purchase a Print

Purity of Intention   10 comments


Purity of Intention

~

Across rural North Carolina, old abandoned buildings are either being taken down, or are in an advanced state of decay. Whether they’re removed to make way for one of the new “house farms” that spring up in open fields, or are simply left to melt into the landscape, these testaments to a former, quieter time are becoming much harder to find.

Let me correct that: There are still a number of them out there, but they’re often inaccessible due to being on private property, or sitting in the middle of a vast field with no roads leading up to them.

This one is an exception.

Recently, my friend Jeff Garvey (‘Recycling is for the Birds’ on Facebook) gained unfettered access to this old farmhouse. You may remember my mentioning Jeff, a good man who finds these buildings and with the owner’s permission, dismantles them carefully. He totes the wood and bling back to his workshop where he makes incredible birdhouses using the old materials. Every Saturday morning you can find him at the local farmer’s market with a full display of unique creations. Some of them are truly functional art; others will never see the outdoors because they’re simply too beautiful to give to the birds. (You’ll see one of his better ones soon.)

I spent about four hours alone in and around this beautiful old house. One has to move very carefully… at one point on an upper floor I almost dropped through to the bottom floor. Free access allowed me to spend the necessary time to view, set up, and really soak in what this place is about. From this outside view, we’ll go inside for a few images.

In talking with Jeff about my experience there, I could see the concern on his face as I told him of possible damage done by vandals and pilferers. Some people need to bust brick, I suppose, and others will take glass door knobs, hardware, and insulators so that they can get 50 cents at a flea market. They find little value in these things, and they don’t approach such a place with any sense of respect.

Jeff is different. He loves these old places, and finds a purpose in giving them new life as birdhouses and decorations, so that others can enjoy these relics anew. It’s very important to him; it’s his purpose. There is a purity of intention that I appreciate – I consider it an honor to be able to help him capture the old beauty before it’s gone forever.

Associated Posts:

They Leave The Nest So Early An old school in Arapahoe being dismantled by Jeff.

A Mother’s Kiss One of Jeff’s creations in action “in the wild.”

Grandfather’s Legacy The story of our first visit with Jeff.

~

500px | Google+ | Twitter | Purchase a Print

Cabin in the Cradle   7 comments


Cabin in the Cradle

~

During our recent trip to the Pisgah National Forest, our travels were hobbled by the so-called “government shutdown.” While we were free to travel the roads within the forest – really, how do you close a forest – signs of the shutdown were visible. In some cases, literally signs, such as “Campground Closed.” In other spots near attractions, garbage cans were overflowing with trash, barriers were set up, and restrooms and picnic areas were locked. Utterly ridiculous.

We had to find whatever we could, despite the circumstances, in order to salvage the trip.

Near the Cradle of Forestry location, we found this nice pair of cabins just off the road, set up as an example of early life in this area. Yup… Closed. That didn’t stop us from standing just outside the fence to frame up a photo opportunity.

Given the old nature of the scene, I decided to go with a Wet Plate look (collodion process) after merging and basic processing. Switching back and forth between this and the standard color version, this idea stood above all other attempts, although the color version was compelling in its own right.

~

500px | Google+ | Twitter | Purchase a Print

Lower Falls at Graveyard Fields   6 comments


Lower Falls at Graveyard Fields

~

Now back home from Germany, we decided to take a week to see the foliage in western North Carolina. Normally, we travel to New England at this time of year, camping out of the truck, so we needed a leaf-fix.

Go figure… The U.S. government shut down before we got there, so our usual campgrounds were closed. And it was raining. Pretty much constantly. After a week of this, we headed for home. Yep, you got it: The very day we left the sun came out and the shutdown was over.

Never to be daunted, we found this spot off the Blue Ridge Parkway at a place called Graveyard Fields. It has a beautiful heath meadow that lights up in autumn, and it’s one of the more popular places to pull the car over and peep. If, however, you drop down from the parking lot, there’s a loop trail that takes you to both “Upper Falls” and “Lower Falls.” Pretty imaginative naming convention, eh?

What you don’t see in this picture is Susan (a.k.a. “Lovely Assistant”) perched on the rocks behind me, holding an umbrella over the camera and tripod.

~

500px | Google+ | Twitter | Purchase a Print

O’ Little Town of Hattingen   2 comments


O' Little Town of Hattingen

~

From high up on the tower of Blankenstein Castle, we looked down onto part of the town of Hattingen, Germany. The castle itself was ordered built in 1226, and is a prominent feature on the landscape. (More pictures of the castle soon.) Although these houses don’t show the classic framing style of the old part of town, the place is rather old and adorable.

500px | Google+ | Twitter | Purchase a Print

Lower Falls of Upper Cascades, Hanging Rock State Park, NC   5 comments


Lower Falls of Upper Cascades, Hanging Rock

~

At least I think I have that right. Or, is it the middle of the Upper Lower Falls?

At any rate, we took a few days to check out Hanging Rock State Park in northern central North Carolina… (Ugh! Here we go again.) Traveling mid-week was a blessing, as we encountered very few people in this very popular park. In addition to hiking a number of trails, we made sure to visit most of the waterfalls in the area.

This looks like a perfect spot to hide out on a hot summer day.

~

HDR from three exposures. Merged Photomatix Pro to 32-bit TIFF. Adjustments in ACR and PS CS6.

500px | Google+ | Twitter | Get a Print

Sunset over Somes Sound, Mt Desert Island, Maine   8 comments


Sunset over Somes Sound, Mt Desert Island, Maine

~

Just another sunset from our campsite in Maine, autumn of 2012.

I understand that we should ‘shoot where we live’ – and there are plenty of opportunities to do so – but the Great State of Maine, with its natural beauty, presents a target-rich environment for beautiful shots. Sometimes, you don’t even have to wander out of your campsite, as was the case here. We were just sittin’ around chilling as the sun went down, and the sky lit up as you see here. While snapping the shutter furiously, I had to remind myself to soak it in.

500px | Google+ | Twitter | Purchase a Print

Merged in Photomatix Pro to 32-bit TIFF, pre-processed without tonemapping in ACR, finished in Photoshop CS6 with Nik Color Efex Pro filters.

Challenging Perspectives   10 comments


Challenging Perspectives

~

“Perception is reality,” as the saying goes. I first heard that many years ago in a business environment. The context may be different now, but it’s still something that I ponder frequently.

We assume that the world ‘out there’ is exactly as we perceive it to be, solid and stable, but that is not generally the case. (Just ask Neo, from The Matrix.) Instead, our perceived ‘reality’ has to do with our own internal position, our perspective. There’s a good, digestible article on this from Scientific American Mind, Looks Can Deceive.

Photography can give us an excellent opportunity to challenge our notions about the world around us. While many people think that photography should only capture the world as-it-is, taking an image also presents an excellent opportunity to play around with our most basic assumptions. Some people might look at this image and say things like, “That’s just too weird.” Or, “That’s wrong.”

Is it?

Kids do this all the time. As a child, did you ever hang upside down on the monkey bars? (Are those death-trap monkey bars even still legal?) Did you ever lie on your back in bed and hang your head over the side? Perhaps it’s because the child hasn’t spent decades conditioning their thought processes to match what they perceive with their senses. At any moment children can pretend that they’re a pirate, a Jedi knight, a princess, or anything else that the mind can conjure up, and to their unconditioned minds it seems completely real.

We seem to lose that ability, that playfulness, as we get older.

As I was flipping through the images taken on our recent autumn trip, I ran across this set from Flagstaff Lake, one of my favorite places. I ran it through the usual steps, and when I saw the result, I thought, “Meh. Same as many others I’ve taken there.”

Then, in a fit of playfulness one night, I flipped the image. Bam! Perhaps it was my state of mind at the time, but it completely messed with my well-conditioned perspective of the place I think I know so well. Suddenly the image took on a new dimension and meaning, and I couldn’t neglect to publish it, even though it bears substantial similarity to other images.

Interestingly, I did the same thing on an image of an egret, in Masnavi. I sent that image off to the print lab for a client, and when the print came in, someone at the lab had flipped the image into what they thought was the ‘correct’ orientation! For my purposes, of course, this was a complete “mistake” and I received a re-print from the lab, with the “correct”… no, wait… “incorrect” orientation.

Hell, now I’m confused.

That’s the point.

We’re free to challenge our most basic assumptions. We’re free to play around with the reality that’s presented to us. We can change things by simply altering our perspective a bit.

Why don’t we do that more often?

~

500px | Google+ | Twitter | Get a Print

The Asticou Azalea Gardens, Seal Harbor, Maine   5 comments


The Asticou Azalea Gardens, Seal Harbor, Maine

~

Sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate when we’d like to go hiking. When that happens, we take a road trip around the area, looking for new and interesting spots. On our way to Seal Harbor on the south side of Mt. Desert Island, we passed by the Asticou Azalea Gardens.

The day seemed perfect for a soft, moody rendering of this colorful scene. The overcast skies created a soft and diffused light that really helped to pop the autumn colors in an otherwise gray day.

~

As before, I decided to approach this image as an HDR without tonemapping, preferring to edit in both Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop CS6. I’m really enjoying the result as being more ‘realistic’ than most tonemapping programs would allow. There are times to get creative, and times to let nature stand on its own merits.

~

500px | Google+ | Twitter | Purchase a Print

%d bloggers like this: