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.