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. .

Shooting in the Fog

The forecast was good, partly sunny with only a very slight chance of rain.  It wasn’t to be.  The wisps of fog began showing up on the highway when I was about 25 miles from home.  When I got to the tiny town of Maysville a short time later, the fog was getting serious.  I thought about turning back, but  overhead, I could see the first quarter moon moving in and out of the clouds.  Besides, I figured, while I had ventured out on many a foggy morning back on the farm and gotten some decent shots, I could not remember shooting in the fog while on the beach. Suffice to say, I wasn’t disappointed.

At first light, I saw the first quarter moon and I started to think that maybe, the fog would clear off revealing a decent day, but less than 5 minutes later, the fog had gobbled up the moon. Below, was the scene at sunrise.

Any hope of a glorious sunrise on the beach was dashed.  I decided to see what i could do with some shots of the barrier dunes and that’s when I discovered I wasn’t alone on the beach.

I rather liked the shot and immediately thought of a title, “Solitary Refinement.”  As the morning wore on, the sky began to brighten and I worked on a few artistic views of the dune grass.  This was my favorite of the morning:

The light was coming on fast and by 9:30 the shadows were begging to wane. I decided to  head to Beaufort 16 miles up the coast to grab some shots along the Front Street Docks.  By the time I arrived, it was a gorgeous day.  I’ll post some of those views next time. See you then. Have a great weekend and a good week ahead.

The “Willet”

If you frequent the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, you’ve probably seen this large, sandpiper-like shore bird patrolling the surf line but paid no attention because of his rather drab markings.  Until, that is,  you see him in flight and hear his piercing call.  A bold white and black stripe that runs the length of both wings is a definite eye catcher. So is his call: “pill-will-Willet” he screams while flying up and down the beac

Willets were almost hunted to extinction in the 19th century because of their size and juicy taste.  They’ve made a huge comeback and now,  it’s almost impossible to visit the Atlantic Coast from Maine to Florida, including the Gulf Coast, and not see them.  Seen above in his mottled brown breeding plumage, they’re a regular sight on the beach foraging for tiny Sand Crabs.

They can be very entertaining to watch as they drill their long beaks into the sand when they see the tell tale bubble of a Sand Crab burrowing in the sand.  The one seen below along the Outer Banks of North Carolina at Duck, seemed to be spending more time dodging the incoming breakers and globs of sea foam than looking for a snack.

The foam, by the way, is churned up by agitated sea water particularly when it contains dissolved organic elements like protein from offshore algae.

I’m posting early this week because I’ll be away over the weekend to, where else, the Atlantic Coast. Thanks for the visit. Have a good week ahead. See you next time.

Vanity or ?

I did a photography book. A very expensive photography book.

Its a hardback with a glossy dust jacket as above.  And it’s big:  13 x 11 inches and 102 pages. Well, just 51 individual pages, but the outfit I used to put it together, Blurb.com, counts the reverse side of a page as a separate page. Cost? $130.00, which includes a 15 dollar profit for yours truly.  (Never, ever, ever, give your work away for nothing!)  The cost of the high grade premium weight paper alone took my breath away.  I paid far less for my one and only copy thanks to a 35 percent discount. Blurb constantly doles out discounts to get you into the fold as a book author. Buyers of the book get no discount, and the price does not include shipping.  Standard shipping is pretty cheap and it’s also snail- like. It’s very, very, very slow.

I spent weeks working on it.  The software at Blurb has a pretty quick learning curve.  If you are computer minded you can grasp it rather quickly. Most of my time was spent sorting through the zillions of photographs I have taken over the decades: film – slides and prints, and digital. Anything uploaded has to be 300 dpi if you care anything about the quality of the photograph on the printed page.  A number of elderly slides didn’t make the cut, nor did some of the very early digital shots done on small sensor  cameras. Getting my pile down to 500 pictures was painful.  Getting it down to 105 (some pages in the book feature more than one photograph) was pure torture.  But if 30+ years in journalism (broadcast news-mostly radio) taught me anything, its that whatever you do will be better the second and third time around.

So, why do it, particularly at that price? Well, you don’t have to do a book that large. Smaller is cheaper, but to me, if you are going to do a book of mostly landscape photography, do a big book and big books are enormously expensive.  But, again,  why do it?  I’m well into my 70’s now and the thought of all those thousands of photographs living on internet servers and external drives etc, just going away when the eternal snooze kicks in bothered me. Those of us who worked in broadcast news hate to admit it, but the cold truth is, seeing your work in print gives it a degree of permanence. Digital photography is the same. There’s just something about a matted and framed photograph hanging on the wall and one on your computer monitor.  One thing is for sure,  I didn’t do it for the money.  The number of books I have sold can be counted on two hands and the majority of those are longtime supporters.  So, in the final analysis, I guess its a vanity thing.

For a preview of the book online, click on this link:  http://www.blurb.com/b/8685495-down-east-north-carolina-rural-and-coastal-photogr

 

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

 

A Rush to Bloom

It seemed far too quick. Everything just decided to bloom at once.  It was as though the stage manager for the big spring show just packed up and walked off the job.  Perhaps all the spring bloomers went into a panic after three hard freezes in almost as many days iced the camellia blooms. Whatever, the daffodils, wild dogwoods, pink and red azaleas all decided to come on stage at once, quickly followed it seems, by the white azaleas, rhododendrons and pink dogwoods. Now everything has peaked, the blooms are dropping, and the temperatures are zooming up to near summer territory. The humidity will soon ramp up and before we know it, the high heat of summer will be back.

I know, everything has its time.   Its just that this time around, all the plants got the same wake up call. It was so quick I missed the crab apple blooms. I didn’t even realize it until one of my flickr buddies in Raleigh posted some on his site.  I ran over to the crab apple here on the farm and there were all the blooms on the ground.  I was too late.

But not too late to grab the Rhododendrons which are even now nearing their pink.

I got lucky with the pink dogwoods. They were all in full bloom when I got out to take a look.  It isn’t often that I’ve seen the pinks blooming at the same time as the wild white dogwoods but in this topsy-turvey spring, there they were.

Experience has taught me that photographs of flowers and blooms are a dime a dozen,  and I dare say most people are more turned on to landscapes.  The visitors to my flickr site confirm that. I just love color and something in me demands I give the blooms and flowers their due. I just wish they would space out the big show a bit and stay on stage a little longer. .

An aside about flickr.  The week brought news that the photo sharing site is under new ownership: Smug Mug!  I never thought Yahoo knew exactly what to do with flickr.  They weren’t photo people. Smug Mug is. Perhaps better times are coming.  Thanks for the read and have a good week ahead.  See you next time.