Tobacco Road

It never occurred to me that I would be sending photos of North Carolina tobacco fields to Getty Images, but times change. Tobacco Road has been repaved.  The thousands of small tobacco growers who sold off their allotments during the government buyout, have been replaced by big operators who bought up allotments and put them together creating huge tobacco fields that conjure up the days when tobacco was king.

Actually, despite it’s very deserved reputation as the deadly weed, tobacco is quite photogenic, particularly when it sprouts pretty pink flowers.  These shots wound up at branding and marketing outfits and foundations along with public relations firms, most, if not all of them, overseas where tobacco is still a big seller.


The flowers will be “topped” ie, cut off as the plant ripens and the leaves harvested from the bottom up.  Fields of stalks of tobacco plants are not exactly pleasing to look at so,  if you are considering taking a few shots and trying your luck, be there when the plants flower.  Sunrise is another good time to shoot tobacco fields and I’ll get to that next time.

A final note. Our family farm got out of the tobacco growing business decades ago to go into cut flowers, and we’ve never regretted it.  These shots were taken on a neighboring farm.

Thanks for the look.  Have a good week ahead.  See you next time.

The P.G’s Return

A large, showy shrub, the PG Hydrangea was sent to the USA from Japan in 1961.   They thrive in Eastern North Carolina from mid summer through early fall, seemingly immune to the severe weather conditions that usually accompany summers here.  When it comes to hydrangeas, PG’s are the strongest of all.  The huge flower clusters open as pure white blooms from 18 inches long and nearly a foot wide.

The show continues throughout the summer.  In late summer, the cones turn a pretty pink and when Autumn arrives, the blooms morph into a beautiful shade of rust with gray-green leaves.  Easy to grow, PG’s like moist, rich, well drained soil and grow to an average height of six to eight feet. They prefer full sun to partial shade.  Great fun to photograph, they are one of the few blooms that last throughout the summer.  Thanks for the visit and have a great week ahead. See you next time.

Bird Photography from the comfort of home

Bird photography is pretty much a cold weather thing with me.  For one thing, aside from the beach which is nearby, there’s not a lot of competition for subject matter during the winter.  And, of course, finding and photographing birds is far easier when the trees are pretty much devoid of their foliage.  So why now?  Well, the jet stream decided to detour to the far north leaving us and much of the country in the throes of super heat we don’t usually see until late July and August.   Tromping outside in 100 plus heat and dripping humidity is not my idea of  fun.   So for this little “outing” I set up my rig in  the air conditioned comfort of my house.   We have a large single pane window in our bathroom that offers a wide view of the backyard and woods beyond.  I cleaned the window outside and in and got to business.  I used a Nikon D750 and a Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 lens mounted on a tripod with no UV filter.  I decided to forego another piece of glass to preserve a little clarity.  The time of the shooting was between 3 and 4:30pm.  Here’s a sample of what I came away with.

This female House Finch was perched in a Sycamore tree about 20 feet from the window.   I used my usual settings for bird photography.  Spot metering, Aperture Priority set to f/8  and  lowest Iso I can get away with.  In the shade that was about 160.

This male Northern Cardinal was eyeballing a platform feeder about 10 feet away from his perch in a River Birch Tree.  His mate was on a nearby limb preening after a shower earlier in the afternoon.

Aside from shooting out an airplane window years ago which yielded mixed results, this was my first attempt from inside the house and judging from these results, it won’t be the last.  Thanks for the look. Feed the birds!  See you next time.

“New” Nikon 70-200mm f/4 G VR Lens

It’s  used glass, but in all respects it could be called brand new.  Not a scratch on it.  I bought it from MPB in New York.  I’ve been dealing with them for some time and never been misled.   To each his own but to me, it just seems kinda crazy to spend 16 hundred dollars for a lens when I can pick one up in like new condition for half the price from a reputable dealer. Suffice to say there were no exploding cigars.  I clicked it on my Nikon D750 and screwed on a 67mm uv filter from my collection, and headed for the cut flower beds here on the farm where the pink cone flowers were just coming around.

All shots were hand held with VR (vibration reduction) on.  Camera settings: manual mode, custom white balance.  ISO 400, center weight metering, exposure time 1/500th of a second.  The lens,  which like all of Nikon’s high end glass, is built like a bank vault, was fully extended to 200 mm.


As the light began to break through the clouds, things began getting crowded on the cone flowers and I called it a day.   The 70-200 joins the 18-35 f/3.5-4.5,  24-120mm f/4, the 70-300 mm f4.5-5.6 and the 200-500mm f/5.6 in my camera bag.  The zoom collection is all done…..for now.   Thanks for the look.  See you next time.

Shooting Amaryllis

“Of all the flowering bulbs,” I read online, “the easiest to bring to bloom” is the Amaryllis.  So why in the world was  it so difficult for me to get a decent shot of one.  We’ve grown them seemingly forever here and I’ve always had difficulty coming up with a shot that really catches the eye to the point of perhaps enticing someone to buy one.  It sounds like a “no- brainer”!  An Amaryllis in full bloom is a sight to behold.  Gorgeous flowers, they  really bring a room or a garden to life.  But for some reason, I’ve never been satisfied with my photographs of them.   I’ve done close-ups and macros; I’ve gotten on my back and shot them from underneath; I’ve gotten behind them, over them, by the side of one.  I’ve shot them from every conceivable angle; in morning light, late afternoon light and once even at midday.  Desperate people do desperate things!  Then one of the “Arrangers” here said in passing to me,  “why not shoot a close mass of them, all  growing at different angles from one another but none facing directly into the camera. ”  This was my first attempt.

Of course, the leaf just left of center is a huge distraction but I was close.  I decided to move in tighter and search for a similar view without any leaves nosing into the frame.  I wound up moving around the entire bed but eventually I got what I thought would work.

Even the “Arrangers” who are very prickly about putting flowers “in their proper perspective” approved of this one.   “Worthy of your web site, John, ” said one, adding “perhaps  someone might be moved to buy a print of it.”   Perhaps! Thanks for the look and have a great week ahead. See you next time.

The Cloud

The sky was like a character in Joseph Heller’s classic novel “Catch 22”.  It seemed to know the difference between the makings of a pretty day and one that was just plain ugly but was trapped in the middle.  A front had floated across the coast during the night and at daybreak, things looked very iffy.   

As I trudged westward along the dune line  (a reminder that the Bogue Banks is pretty much situated East-West) the sky began to brighten and it became rather obvious that the clouds were all merging into one huge, magnificent cloud that was teasing the rooftops of the oceanfront “cottages.”

A platoon of pickup trucks with over-sized tires and front bumpers fitted with cylinders loaded with huge salt water fishing rigs, came roaring up the beach; a half dozen anglers jumped out and staked their claim on the beach by pounding their rod holders into the sand.

The big cloud began to darken to an ominous shade of indigo and I felt the first sprinkles of rain. I grabbed one of the giant sized  freezer bags out of my bag and zipped up my camera and lens and headed back to my truck.  By the time I was back on the beach road home, the downpour came.  The day had indeed turned ugly.  Thanks for the look.  See you next time. .

Springtime Blues

The hydrangeas are staging their annual color show.  They run through their color parade quickly;  from a pale to brilliant yellow then to a soft blue ripening to a deep blue.

The color of hydrangeas is determined by the soil.  The more acidic the soil is, the more blue they will become.  This particular hydrangea bed lives under a tribe of tall Lob Lolly Pines which makes for acid soil.

I use spot metering for most of my flower shots, taking the light reading from the flower itself.  It puts the bloom in the spotlight darkening the background.

It takes several days, depending on the light, for the blooms to go all blue and another day or so to reach their prime color which is of couse Deep Blue.  Nikon D700 Camera with a 70-200mm f/4 lens set at 200mm. Thanks for the visit and have a good week ahead.  See you next time. .