Sunrise In The Tobacco Field.

Dawn was rubbing against the windshield of my ancient RAV 4 as I negotiated a seldom used, overgrown path next to a corn field.  A very angry thunderstorm had slowly snailed across the area overnight dumping biblical amounts of rain.  I had stopped just short of an almost washed out causeway over a drainage ditch that had not drained.  I decided not to chance it.  Getting old slowly robs you of your confidence.  I grabbed my cameras and legged it the rest of the way. I was sure that just around the corner of the treeline on the left was the goose that laid the golden egg, or, in this case, a golden sunrise amidst a cloudy sky over a large tobacco field.  I was not disappointed.

I’ve always dreamed about living within driving distance of Yellowstone or the Grand Tetons,  but one plays the cards they are dealt.  My hand, such as it is,  “ain’t” too bad.  The picturesque North Carolina Coast is nearby, but on this particular day, tobacco fields were on the to-do list.  I’ve had good luck licensing shots to various tobacco foundations and branding firms over the years, the great majority of which are overseas. Smoking, I suppose, is still very much in vogue there.  Mind you, I’m no great fan of tobacco. One of the hardest things I ever did was kick the smoking addiction.  My wife grew up on a small tobacco farm and says you would be hard pressed to find a more miserable way to earn a living.  Having said that, I submit that tobacco has a certain artistic quality to it.  The huge green leaves which slowly morph to a golden brown as the plant ripens along with the pink flowers make for a very pleasing scene.

FAA

I donned a long sleeved shirt before venturing down the row.   Skin coming in contact with tobacco, particularly when it is wet after rain, is a must to avoid.  My wife has many stories about nicotine poisoning when she was a young girl. Those memories led us to get out of the tobacco growing business more than a decade ago when I retired from broadcast news.   Our crop this year will be cotton; to my mind, one of the more picturesque of farm crops.  There is just something about a field covered in white at sunrise. Stay tuned.

I apologize for being AWOL last week.  I suffer from Pudendal Neuralgia. I’ll spare you the details.  Suffice to say, there are good days and bad days.  Last weekend was not good. As I’ve learned in my old age, learn to enjoy your struggles.  As always, thanks for the look and have a good week ahead.  See you next time.

Quiet Shadows; Subtle Abstraction; Finding pleasure in the Ordinary

Photography is very much an individual piece of business.   For many of us who are drawn to it,  we each mine our own little niche. For me it is the beach in the off season. The solace of isolation it offers brings me peace that no other place does.  When I plan a visit, fortunately a rather short drive for me.  I feel the vertigo of anticipation even though I have visited thousands of times over my 72 years.

There are usually a few fellow travelers out and about  when I am, all no doubt lured by the perfume of the slightly salty air that shows all who visit the same affection but who, I suspect, are primarily charmed by the solace  that allows us to get reacquainted with ourselves.  The constant rhythm of the ocean, the soft rush of the wind and, of course, the constantly changing dance of the sky,  all combine to reawaken one’s spirits.  As we age, I think we tend to start piling more and more of life into a box of sameness.  Our senses dull and more of the world becomes mundane, ordinary.  It’s a very slippery slope and one which photography helps me avoid.  See you next time.

The Last Weekend Before The Great Migration

It was my last chance to shoot some pictures on a vacant beach and my back had finally decided to cooperate, agreeing to get itself back in sync.  I was on the beach road by 4AM and on the point at Lands End within a hour.  My timing could not have been better.  The tidal flats were laid out in front of me as the dawn reached its zenith.  I got low, stretched out the screen on the D800E allowing me the live view you see above.  The fellow dawn watchers far up the beach were a bonus.  They gave the scene scale.

The forecast had been partly sunny meaning a few clouds and that is exactly how it was.  A perfect morning for shooting a sunrise scene.  I used my usual formula” Spot Metering taking the exposure reading away from the sun and locking the exposure, iso 400, manual exposure, and an aperture of f/16.  I took three shots.  This one utilized a # 6 graduated neutral density filter shade the glaring sun while leaving the ocean and beach in natural light.  I don’t use this filter much but it was the right choice for this situation.  Certainly worth having one in your bag.

In addition to the D800E, I was carrying my D750 fitted with a 70-300mm Nikkor lens.  If you have two DSLR’s, I suggest fitting one with the requisite wide angle and a telephoto on the second. You never know what will come up without warning like the council of shore birds further up the beach which decided to head south.   I grabbed the 750 and caught them in the southeast sky.  complimenting that marvelous pink cloud that looked like the famous Nike Swoosh (trademark).  In all that morning, I grabbed more than 140 keepers.  I’ll share more with you over the coming weeks and leave the beach to the refugees from the North who need more Vitamin D than I.  Have a great holiday weekend everybody.

An Atlantic Dawn

Atlantic Dawn I

 

Atlantic Dawn II

A couple of pre-sunrise shots taken at Southern Shores, North Carolina.  I didn’t have far to walk to the beach so when I saw the cloudy sky, I grabbed my bag and headed out.   These scenes come early so if you have trouble getting out of bed, you will miss them.   Be there and you’ll be rewarded with some fabulous sky colors.  These two shots were taken on the same morning.  A complete makeover that occurred within just a few minutes before sunrise.  Both shots were handheld. The second a tad longer exposure.  Both shot with a Nikon D800e camera and an 18-35 Nikkor lens.  If you’re heading for a beach this spring or summer, take along an alarm clock.  It’s worth the agony of getting up early.  Have a good week.  See you next time.

Street Photography; Eastern NC Part II

Methodist Warehouse

The Queen Street United Methodist Church dominates what there is of a skyline in the small city of Kinston. Beautifully maintained, the church has been the focal point of countless photographs of the downtown area. This shot captures the Church’s Bell Tower as well as the rich brick texture of one of the ancient warehouses nearby.

Great BlueThe 

The side wall of another of the old warehouses that have been or are in the process of being re-purposed as shops, galleries, upscale loft apartments, etc  by the hipster  entrepreneur-developers who are giving the city new life.  The huge mural of the Great Blue Heron is testament to Kinston’s artistic renaissance.

These cast cement facades of tobacco barns are a salute to tobacco which drove the area economy for more than a century.  Tobacco is still an important crop in Eastern North Carolina but not to the degree that it was.  Next time, back to the coast.  Thanks for the look and have a good week ahead.  All shots taken with a Nikon D750 Camera and a 24-120 f/4 lens.

Street Photography, Kinston, North Carolina

The Boiler Room

“The Boiler Room” is the second restaurant founded and operated by acclaimed chef Vivian Howard and her husband, Ben Knight. Their first, “The Chef and the Farmer” was the catalyst that has led to the rebirth of Kinston, a small city in southeastern North Carolina. The entrance to “The Boiler Room” is via the alley shown above. It gives the restaurant a gritty, blue collar feel.  Howard’s Peabody Award Winning television series,  “A Chef’s Life”, is on PBS.

Mother Earth Brewing Tap Room

Mother Earth is another major player in Kinston’s second coming.  Entrepreneur Stephen Hill has turned Mother Earth into a powerhouse in the craft brewing industry.  He’s also behind the second coming of a major section of Kinston with two hotels, a motel and several homes to his credit.  The rub off has been amazing with an array of eateries, shops, galleries and now in the works, a vodka distillery.

I do a fair amount of street photography in Eastern North Carolina, most of it is stock for Getty Images.  My usual practice is to shoot street scenes in black and white ,  but I decided on color for this batch because of the richness of the textures, tones, and hues involved.  I used a Nikon D800E and a D750.  More next time.  Thanks for the look and have a great week ahead.

Reprocessing old RAW Files

I wrenched my lower back this past week.  I wasn’t trying to lift a car or anything, just bending over in a chair to tie my shoe.  I was greeted with the awful muted pop!  I knew what happened as soon as I felt it.  I’ve had the problem with my lower back for a long time.  I won’t bore you with all the whys etc.  It all  comes down to sitting….. too long!  Sitting too long at the computer processing photographs and writing….another book.   Any orthopedist will tell you, sitting is never good for the back. Ever!

I had to stop sitting so much.  It required some lifestyle changes.  I got my old oak, adjustable drafting table out of the barn here on the farm and refinished it.  It now serves as my desk.  And,  I bought one of those standing pads and a good  pair of walking shoes with a large “toe box.”  Mine are New Balance 877’s. They are working wonders for me.  ( I am not paid by New Balance to endorse their shoes.)   I wear a back brace often during the day and I am doing lower lumbar exercises every morning and afternoon and my wife and I bought a new firm mattress.  I have good days and bad days but overall, I get the idea things are improving.

I know this is a photography blog.  Stay with me.  I’m getting to it.

So what to do when you can’t go roaming for that perfect shot?  You work on old files.  Since I converted to digital photography in 2009, I have shot everything in RAW.  Nikon’s version of that is called NEF. Raw is, for lack of a better term, a digital negative.  It captures everything the camera sees.  It does not condense or compress any of the data.  The downside is, shooting and keeping raw files requires an enormous amount of space.  These files are BIG.  I have five external drives devoted to storing these things as well as on line storage in the so-called cloud.  These files require processing or conversion before posting or printing.  It’s sort of like developing  film in the old days.  I use the conversion program in Photoshop Elements.

Going back and reworking old gems allowed me to take advantage of software tools that either were not around or I did not know about about at the time of the original conversion.  This past week, I’ve been reprocessing shots are from the summer of 2011 taken on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, one of my favorite places for photography.

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Sea Oates at Duck Posted to Flickr August 9, 2014  Blogged. Facebook

My reason for going back and reworking these shots was to remove camera shake (I had taken these handheld with no tripod. Now I know better) and to use the haze reduction tool.  You’ll have to take my word for it that the sharpness and clarity of these two views are remarkable improvements over the originals.

So if you don’t shoot your images in the RAW format your camera has, think about it.  External drives and on-line storage are  pretty cheap. Flickr is free!   You’ll have the benefit of seeing just about everything your camera has recorded and, you’ll have something to take your mind off an aching back….for a while.   Thanks for the read, have a good week and stop sitting so much!