Sunday, October 2, 2011

Harvest time!

There are so many wonderful aspects to fall with the spectacular colors and abundant harvests.  It's a great time to take your camera to the farm markets and fields and see what you can find.

New York State apples are awesome!  This time of year I have apples cooking 
almost every Sunday.  But they are fun to photograph as well.

 There are all types of grapes grown in the Finger Lakes area. These particular grapes are at Casa Larga Vineyards in Fairport, NY.  Most of the time the vineyard is fenced to protect from deer grazing, but I was able to get this mid-day shot during the Purple Foot Festival.

Grape stomping at the Purple Foot Festival, an annual celebration at the Casa Larga Vineyards.

Indian Corn is a familiar sight at markets in the fall.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Though there is a shortage of pumpkins in New York State due to the flooding related to Hurricane Irene In early September this year, there is no shortage of pumpkins as subjects of my photos.  Nothing is a more visible sign of Fall in the Northeast than bright orange pumpkins.  Here are some of my favorite sights of the season!

This is a clever way to decorate a door, found in Center City Philly.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

All good things must come to an end

Each year on Canandaigua Lake, in the Finger Lakes Region of Western New York, the end of the summer is celebrated on Labor Day weekend. The lake residents have huge gatherings for a day full of water skiing, sailing, jet skiing, swimming, boating  and old fashioned fun, culminating at 9PM with the Ring of Fire. At the signal, residents light road flares all along their beaches around the 27 mile-long lake.  This gives an eerie red glow to everything up close on the shore line, but also makes the 1.5-3 mile wide lake look like a red ring, at least for the 30 minutes the flares are lit.

So here's my tribute to the end of summer!

Skipping stones at sunset!

About an hour later, the bonfire is lit in anticipation of the 9 o'clock signal.  This summer,
it was hot and humid, so no one crowded around the bonfire.  In fact, there were many people
still swimming beneath the cloudless sky, fireworks and the Big Dipper.

  There is no municipal fireworks show, but you can see displays all around the lake.
The bursts are visible from across the lake long before you can hear the booms.   Those up close are a little hard to photograph as you can see.  You never know where they will be aimed
so it's hard to have the camera in the right place!
It's anticlimactic that the fireworks end and the flares burn out,
but the glow is a fine memory to get us through the winter till next summer,
when the lake comes alive again!
Good-bye summer at Canandaigua Lake!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Menace or Marvel?

My husband and I have an extensive garden of flowers, vegetables, herbs and fruit.   It's always a challenge to keep it watered, weeded and bug free.  Recently, I was doing a weekly assessment of how things were growing, when I came upon several creatures chomping on my dill.

 Now this particular dill re-seeded itself from last year, in places I hadn't chosen but didn't really mind.  I had more dill than I knew what to do with.  However, were these 2" long caterpillars friend or foe?  Judging by the stripped stalks of dill, they were thoroughly enjoying themselves.   The gardener in me was about to pull them off and squish them, but the photographer in me hesitated.  I started thinking about 'the shot' - how I could frame the photo and what it would look like.  Though the light was good, there was a little too much breeze for the long skinny shaft of dill to hold the weight of this very hungry caterpillar.  I fetched my camera and tripod.  While inside, I did a little research.   This very colorful bug was a parsleyworm.  Wikipedia told me that it was one stage of a beautiful swallowtail butterfly.  I'm glad I didn't squish it after all!

The colors of the dill weed seemed to coordinate with the green, black and yellow colors on the caterpillar.  But the composition looked too cluttered. I got down on the ground and looked up.  This was the perspective I liked the best.  Less busy, no other plants, no cinder block walls, more geometric shapes and blue sky.  I spread the legs wide open on my new tripod so that the camera was nearly on the ground, adjusting the swivel ball head to look up to my subject.  I waited for the breeze to stop.  Not too lucky there.  I decided to just start shooting and hope for the best.

The caterpillar didn't stay still, the dill swayed in the breeze and I think the moment passed. But with a bit of editing I think it looks pretty cool!

Here comes the sun!

There are some beautiful lake vistas in the Finger Lakes of upstate New York. My favorite so far is on the west side of Canandaigua Lake.  Since my family's cottage is on the east side of the lake, we get a nightly show of the "great ball of fire sinking into the purple hills" - a quote from a family friend.  But if I want to see the sun rise, I have about a 30 minute drive around the south end of the lake to get to my picturesque spot.

Early one morning I made that trip, and I kept my fingers crossed for something amazing.  With only a few low clouds in the sky, the sunlight didn't have much to play with, but I did play around with some new techniques I'm working on.

Since I don't have a wide angle lens, I decided to stitch the what was probably a 45 degree view together.  Below is the result.  Unfortunately, after I got it all stitched together, I realized the horizon was slightly askew.  Let's call this the first draft!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Barn at Dawn

One of my favorite things to do on a vacation day is take my camera and go play.  I planned to go to a favorite spot of mine on the west side of Canandaigua Lake, in the Finger Lakes of upstate New York, and wait for a beautiful sunrise.  Though the sunrise wasn't as awesome as it could have been, I did turn around and see the way dawn's light played out on the barn.

 This particular barn is a favorite of mine. My daughter even had some of her wedding photos next to it! Notice how the sunrise across the lake is reflected in the windows.

With a polarizing filter on, the sun glare was minimized, but the light almost seemed to change the red barn into a sepia tone.  I'm not sure what function these triangles have above the barn door (perhaps to keep ice from freezing the sliding door mechanism) but that sure added interest to this early morning photo.

 With the sun barely over the horizon, the barn is still tinged with purple and the windows catch the cloud formations. All the imperfections of a 100+ year old barn, the broken pane of glass and the loose board,  give it a rustic charm.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Photographer's Paradise - The Smokies Part VI - Sunset

This is my last installment on the Smoky Mountains, at least until I return in the fall some time.  Though May was beautiful there with wildflowers in bloom and the bright green of springtime, I can't imagine the flame reds, yellows and oranges that must make these mountains glow in autumn.  I will return some day.

I was a bit disappointed that the sunsets weren't more dynamic while I was there.  I had seen amazing photos that played with the light on the mountains.  The one night during our stay that we didn't climb to the top of the mountains due to a thunderstorm it was reported by other photographers to have been an amazingly dramatic sky.  Of course!

But it's like the fish that got away, I guess.  A good photographer works with the subject and finds its best attributes, so this is what I tried to do.   They are still beautiful, but in a different way than I had hoped.

I may have mentioned in an early post that I don't have a wide angle lens.  The panoramic vistas of this park really needed a wide, wide angle.  So I did the next best thing I could do.  With my camera mounted on a tripod (did I tell you that almost all these photos are tripod-mounted?), I took 4 photos spanning the scene, with the plan to stitch them together with Photoshop when I returned home. Here is the result of that effort:

What do you think? It's not going to fit in a traditional frame, but I love it! 

A Photographer's Paradise - the Smokies Part V - Structures

At one time, what now is the Smoky Mountain National Park, was the mountain home of hardy folks who lived without electricity and running water till the late 1930s. When the land was designated as a park, the families were 'invited' to leave, but the structures still remain and are visited each year by millions of people.  Most are nestled into a clearing, near running water, and not far from a road.  They were hand crafted with primitive tools, and though you can see daylight through the walls, and the snakes now call them home, they are preserved for all to see. 

This two story log cabin was actually in a museum in Oconoluftee Village, 
with several farm buildings, an outhouse, and a well maintained garden.

This cabin had "running water", which was a sluice that ran to the back porch from 
the nearby stream. There was a well worn wooden sink on the back porch.

 This visitor to the barn didn't seem to mind that I was already there.  I had my tripod set up and 
had been watching him in the grass beyond the barn when he wandered in to join me.

A two story structure with a fenced perimeter, with two other barns with farm implements across the road seemed to be a sign of wealth compared to the more primitive cabins found elsewhere in the park.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Photographer's Paradise - The Smokies Part IV - Babbling Brooks

It's hard to find a trail in the Smokies that doesn't have the sound of rushing water nearby.  Often, the settlers built their cabins near the running water, created sluices to their mills, or 'piped' the water from the stream down a hollowed-out log to their back porch to give the family "running water".  When the snow melts each spring at the top of the mountain, or when the rain comes in near-tropical amounts throughout the summer, the creeks are full and loud.  We were there in May, a rather dry May according to the locals, but the creeks were full enough for some dramatic shots.  I couldn't tell you what path I was on, or what part of the park they were in because they all begin to look alike after a while.   But here are a few of my favorite photos in my 'moving water' collection:
Rhododrendron  is past bloom at the lower elevations
I like to shoot moving water with the camera mounted on a tripod, and I usually shoot it at a shutter speed of 3 seconds.  I put the camera on self-timer, press the button and move carefully away so as not to effect the shot.  Make sure that the stationery parts of the shot (here it's the rocks) are in clear focus, and when the water has motion, also called a cotton candy effect, it will look great.  I know some photographers like to shoot it at 5 or 6 seconds, so try a few different shutter speeds and see what you like.
Horizontal vs. vertical.  You'll be able to tell from your subject which is better.  If you want the entire waterfall, you might choose to turn your camera and catch the whole thing vertically.  In this case, I couldn't fit the whole photo into my shot (I don't have a wide angle lens :( ). I opted to shoot this smaller, wider section so horizontal was a better choice.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Photographer's Paradise - The Smokies Part III - Wheels

Sometimes you don't know why a particular theme pops out at you when you're out photographing.  But while I was in the Smoky Mountains, my normal sense of perception vanished, and I tuned into the sights and sounds around me.  I purposefully began to look for recurrences of patterns.  You may have just seen my blog about roots.  On this particular day, wheels seems to be around every corner.  These weren't the sleek, shiny metal wheels of today.  These were functional, hard working wheels that helped residents of these rugged mountains with farm work or as transportation.  Nothing like the good old wheel.

You may notice a little area behind the wheel where the wood looks a little newer.  We were told that a bear broke into this mill because of the residual corn left in the millstone. They are much more careful not to leave any hint of cornmeal there now.

This barnyard had a sign saying not to go in because snakes liked to nest.  So I kept my distance, but was still able to capture a photo of this old plow. These primitive farming tools helped most of the families in the Smoky Mountains to be self-sufficient, except for sugar, coffee and salt.

The old farm cart wasn't going anywhere because all the wheels weren't in tact.  However, I loved the reflection of the wheel in the puddle.  Also, this photo is an HDR image.  That is High Dynamic Range.  I took 3 photos using my Auto Exposure Bracket setting on my camera.  One photo was one full stop underexposed, one was right on, and one was overexposed.  Then, using software, I combined all three of these images.  What you get with that is the best of all three exposures.  What do you think?

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Photographer's Paradise - The Smokies Part II - Roots

"For a tree to become tall, it must grow tough roots among the rocks."                                                  Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 – 1900         

While walking among the tall trees in the woods of the Smoky Mountains, you see how right Nietzsche was.  Here are some examples of the resilience of tree roots in the forests of the Smoky Mountains:

 This tree seems to rest on a bed of boulders, growing outward in search of the earth.  I could have taken this shot in so many places throughout the park - rocks and roots were everywhere.

 The river hasn't thwarted this tree's growth.  It has extended its reach beyond the shore 
and supplies it steadily with needed moisture. I shot this photograph with the camera mounted on a tripod and a slow shutter speed.  It's almost hard to tell the roots are surrounded by water - it looks like it could be ice.

 Thousands of visitors to the park climb this trail each year to reach the waterfall at the top, wearing away the soil that once covered these roots.  The tree still stands straight and tall.  These roots attracted my attention because because of their texture.  Even though they weren't going to be moving, I still used a tripod mounted camera because of the low light in the deep woods.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Photographer's Paradise - The Smokies Part I - Sunrise

The Smoky Mountain National Park is a vast region of gorgeous scenery, incredible overlooks, varied wildlife and plants. I spent a week there recently and had some great photo opportunities.  First of all, you should know that I'm not a morning person by my husband's standards.  He's up at 4:00AM most days, and I sleep till 7:30 whenever I get a chance.  But when there are sunrise photos to be taken, I'll get up and be ready to go to be on sight for first light.  In the Smokies, it's about 45 minutes to the top of the mountain from the nearest lodging. But it was worth it! 

Sunrise from Clingman's Dome overlook tower.  We drove 45 minutes predawn, and then had to climb .5 mile uphill to reach this tower.  Unfortunately, I wasn't set up with my tripod when the sun poked through this cloud layer.  So I quickly snapped this, even though I had not yet mounted my camera on my tripod and finished the climb up to the top of the tower.  By the time I got there, the sun had ducked behind the cloud layer, not to be seen again.  Good thing I stopped for that 1/2 second to take a breath before finishing the hike up to the top!
 Cades Cover before the fog totally lifted.  What you can't see in this picture is the amazing quiet of this cove.  The occasional wild turkey call, the buzzing of bees and birds chirping was the only thing breaking the peacefulness of this scene.
 First light at the Oconaluftee Overlook.  The mountains layer one behind another, with the foggy "smoke" these mountains are named after.  Once again, the predawn peacefulness is amazing here.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Right under my nose!

Sometimes I think I need to travel to a far away place to find something to photograph.  But when I can't fly away to an exotic location and my creative juices are flowing, just walking around my yard can yield  wonderful textures, beautiful colors, and serendipitous moments.   Here are some memorable moments that happened right in my yard.

A milk weed pod about to burst forth.  The textures within this one place amaze me.  There are the soft, almost metallic strands on the seeds themselves, the prickly pod itself, and the deep colored seed so orderly and tightly packed inside the pod.  Mother Nature at her finest.

A purple balloon flower with a backdrop of green.  My granddaughter asked me to take this picture.  I love the dark green background which makes the purple just pop! I also love the deep purple veining throughout the petals on this flower.

A dramatic and vivid rainbow appeared across the field from my front yard.  This was a double rainbow for a while, and lasted for nearly 1/2 hour.  I was able to take a series of photos, one of which had deer grazing in the golden wheat near the red barn. It almost looked like they found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Digital darkroom or not?

Every now and then there is a photo taken so often that even though it's a nice photo of a beautiful location, it's too cliche.  I haven't been to this site when the stars aligned for the perfect shot or the sky was doing something magical, even though I've photographed this local landmark many, many times.  So I thought I would take the image into the digital darkroom and play with it a little.  I tried a few different manipulations, but I'm still wondering which one is the most appealing to the crowd out there.

 So please take a look, and help me by voting on which image you prefer.

                         This image of Honeoye Creek at Honeoye Falls has not been altered.

                                                          I had a little fun with this image.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A gallery of doors

My wall gallery of doors wasn't an overnight project.  In fact, I think it took several years to get to the current design.  I had been collecting pictures of doors for several decades.  My first group was the doors from my childhood neighborhood. I knew each house and knew who lived there when I was a kid.    I decided I wanted to hang them on my wall in a group.  However, the cost of having them professionally matted and framed seemed a little out of my budget, especially since I was originally looking for individual frames.  While at Michael's I found some existing artwork in a cellophane wrapped 3-opening double mat for $12.  I knew I could put my 5x7 photos on top of the existing art and the matting would be perfect!  I bought a sectional black metal frame 10" x 20" that fit the multi-opening mat.  For under $30 I had my first group of doors! A few years later I grouped my favorite doors from our small upstate New York town.  And after a whirlwind trip to Italy, three Roman arched doors were the last piece of wall to be filled. Luckily I could find the same mats and frames at Michaels.  I get so many compliments on my wall of doors! You could do this with any grouping of photos for less than you think!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Is it spring yet?

 I don't know about where you live, but here in Upstate New York we've had a long, cold, snowy winter and I'm going to THINK SPRING!  Though the snow is mostly melted, the flowers haven't had a chance in this cold weather to begin to show any color.  So while I wait for Mother Nature to do her thing and warm up, I'm going to surround myself with some photos of springs past.  I hope it lifts your spirits as well!  My camera and I can't wait for the mud brown and dirty snow to be replaced by the wonderful greens, yellows, oranges, purples and red of spring flowers!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Looking for French country kitchen ideas?

 Are you planning to remodel your kitchen with a French Country look?  Perhaps some photos of mouth watering fruits and neatly displayed navettes will bring the sights of Provence into your decor.  These photos were taken around the market square at a weekday market in the town of Aix-en-Provence,  the capital city in Provence in the south of France.  There is something about the simple presentation of the produce in the French market square that shows a design elegance. The baskets, the signage, and the colors all bring to mind the sounds and smells of a fresh air market square.   Frame them together, or frame each separately and group them on a wall.  Bring a little of France into your kitchen!  Open a bottle of wine, gather around the table for a fashionably late dinner with friends and family, and enjoy! 

Saturday, March 19, 2011


 Foggy Trees at Mendon Ponds Park, NY

 Mendon Ponds fence

Snow fence

 Frozen branches

Footprints in the snow

 Wagon in the snow, Mendon Ponds Park, NY

 Fishers Park bridge

Canandaigua Lake