Archive for October, 2011

Distill My Heart

I was in Kentucky and Tennessee this past weekend.  My husband had a seminar in Nashville on Monday and since he had to go down on Sunday anyway, we decided to go a day early and see what we could see.  Having never been to either state before it was a new experience for both of us and one we’re likely to repeat.  One reason is Kentucky bourbon.  We’re both fans and so some bourbon tasting was definitely on the agenda.  A friend of his suggested we take the back road to Woodford Reserve so we could see some distillery ruins.  Oh how could I refuse?  Unfortunately (or fortunately since they seemed really decrepit and dangerous) we couldn’t get into one and didn’t have time to trespass in the other.  Here’s the one we couldn’t go into –

Old Crow Distillery –

Old Crow - barrel warehouse on left, distillery on right.

To get all of these shots I had to put the camera on top of the chain link fence between strands of barbed wire.  It was well over my head and I was very thankful for my flip and swivel LCD so I could see to compose.

Old Crow bourbon barrel warehouses flank the distillery itself - now well and truly defunct

Bourbon making evolved out of whiskey making pretty soon after it got started in Kentucky.  Every current bourbon producer has its own story as to how bourbon was created but a few things are consistent.  At first whiskey was a clear liquid made simply from corn mash.  It was drunk all through the colonies and also used as a bartering product in Appalachia (leading right to the Whiskey Rebellion under the contentious administration of Jefferson and Hamilton).  I didn’t get a sense of Kentucky’s participation in it, but here is where true American whiskey was born.  Someone, somehow put whiskey in a barrel that had been burned.  Exactly how it was burned is lost to us, but it was probably an accident.  Shipping whiskey down to New Orleans took a long time; 5-6 months on average and by the time it arrived it had taken on the character, color and flavor of the charring inside the barrel.  After a while people began to prefer it, asking for that whiskey from Bourbon county Kentucky, eventually shortening it to bourbon.

Old Crow barrel warehouses falling in on themselves

Just down the road from the ruins of Old Crow are the ruins of the Old Taylor distillery.  In between are barrel houses upon barrel houses, many of which are used today by the Jim Beam company.  When we got to Old Taylor we could hear voices from people trespassing by the barrel house and further up the sound of some power equipment; like a saw.  There was a new, red pick up truck parked just inside the now open gates.  Eventually someone came out and asked what we were doing there.  He warned us that if we were caught inside the complex or even had our car parked near it, we could be ticketed or towed or both.  Playing the tourist angle and introducing ourselves got us an invitation into what turned out to be a woodworking shop, ironically housed in the old cooperage.  Deputy Sheriff Sandy was working on some plaques for the various law enforcement departments he does work for.  He invited us to sit a spell and talk.  We did.

He told us all about the Old Taylor and Old Crow distilleries and how the Old Taylor brand is being revived by the good people at Buffalo Trace in Frankfort.  It was closed down in the 1970s and left to sit.  Barrel tracks, loading bays, mash cookers – all left behind.  Even the timecards of the last shift workers were left in the clock house by the gates.  Sandy went on to explain that Kentucky bourbon must first be made in the state, contain no less than 51% corn mash, distilled to 160 proof and no higher, be barreled for at least 24 months in new, charred, white oak barrels.  Charring those barrels is a highly individual thing and ranges from just a few seconds to almost half a minute.  Most bourbon spends far longer in those barrels; averaging 7-9 years.

Joshua McQueen - one tough old dude I'll bet.

Well, as much as it pained me to go (since I wanted to tour the ruins legitimately) we had to.  Before we did though, Sandy told us about a soldier who is buried in the cemetery across the street from the distillery gates.  I would have stopped there to shoot anyway (you know me and cemeteries), but knowing about this really old dude made it all the more special.  Here’s his death notice in the  Louisville and Nashville Christian Advocate 1853 –

JOSHUA McQUEEN born Baltimore. Co., Md., Oct. 15, 1746; died Franklin Co., Ky., April 17, 1853 in his 107th year; s/o Thomas and Jane McQueen; firstborn of five children; enlisted in American army and served 7 years during the Revolutionary War; among battles he was in: Germantown, Monmouth, Brandywine. “At Valley Forge, he was one of the sufferers in that memorable winter, when the fidelity of the soldier was thoroughly tested” during which time he was servant to Gen. /Nathanael/Green(e); md Margaret Baxter; had 11 children; about 1790 moved to Madison Co., Ky.; joined MEC 1792/93; wife died and he md Jemima Cornelison d/o John and Elizabeth Cornelison of Ky. who was a Baptist; moved to Franklin Co., Ky. 1832; to three miles below Frankfort, Ky. in 1842 where he died.

Wow.  Just wow.  Sandy himself bought and erected the modern stone you see here.  No one knows exactly where Joshua is buried, but just knowing he’s been commemorated is a good thing.

Oh and before I go, here’s a working distillery – Woodford Reserve –

Woodford Reserve

We got an excellent tour here.  That building houses all their active production; shipping & receiving, bottling, yeast cooker, mash fermenters and 3 copper distillers themselves.  Amazing and very labor intensive.  Small batches is putting it mildly.  The tour guide mentioned a nearby cemetery, so of course I had to go there, too.  It’s directly across the road from the visitor center and had its own fascination –

"Shaw" cemetery

In the back corner there is a stylized representation of what I think is a corn maiden.  Corn being the biggest cash crop around Kentucky and a mandatory ingredient for bourbon, it’s not too surprising that images of corn appear everywhere; signs, gateposts and fences just to name a few.

Anyway, that’s it for now.  Coming up – a Kentucky ghost train just in time for Halloween!



	

Lickable Light – white balance and how it will make your photos their best!

In the course of a day I look at hundreds of photographs.  By participating in Google+, forums, flickr, 500px and other photo communities it’s easy to do.  One thing that has been getting my attention is that people don’t seem to understand white balance and its importance.  Mainly I notice it when there is water involved. Blue waterfalls everywhere.  Is the world running with mouthwash?  Crazy.  I also notice it in woodland shots that are clearly taken in daytime, but look really odd and blue.  Too cold by far.  Mostly it’s white balance which is nothing more than color temperature and can be easily adjusted.  Correct white balance and overall color temperature is the most important thing in making sure your colors are accurate.  Well, that and monitor calibration, but since you can’t correctly calibrate every monitor in the world, just do your own and let it go.

Folks who shoot in raw often don’t care about white balance in camera because they can always fix it later.  To some degree I’m guilty of this, but try to match my wb in the field to what the light actually looks like.  It’s tons easier to do it there than after the fact when you might be too removed from the moment to remember what your eyes saw.  Most cameras have auto-white balance which is a place to start, but be aware that most cameras aren’t accurate.  Here’s an example:

This is my friend Melissa coming down through the Magical Birch Glade in the NH White Mountains.

Out of the camera white balance is too cool.

It was early afternoon and while there weren’t a lot of leaves left on the trees, there were quite a few.  The light in autumn afternoons around here is golden and soft.  At this time of day it’s not as warm as it gets later, but the yellow leaves made it more so.  Take a look at the birch trunks…they appear sort of blueish.  They didn’t really look that way.  To anyone not with us that day, this picture would be fine, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.  For an October day it was warm; in the 80s. Does this picture convey warmth to you at all?  And that golden afternoon light I talked about, don’t you want to see it?

The first thing to do is to check your scene in the field and try to match it in your live view screen to as best you can. Probably you won’t get it exactly, but close is good. Try daylight, cloudy, shade, flash – all of them are different temperatures and you can see their effects in the LCD screen.  When you get your shots into your computer the first thing to do is adjust the white balance.  Many photo editing packages have set their tools in order of precedence, in other words they are in a rough order of how you should use them with white balance at the top of the stack.  So with all other changes being the same between shots and only the white balance changed, here’s the Magical Birch Glade –

Inside the MBG - with the white balance correctly adjusted, it really is magical.

OK, maybe that one was too subtle.  Check this one out.

The Little River with auto white balance. Yuk.

This is the Little River in Twin Mountain where the Twin Mountain north trailhead is.  It was taken just a few hours after the shot in the MBG; farther into that mellow warmth.  You wouldn’t know it from this though, would you?  This is really the bane of my existence when I look at other people’s images.  Blue water.  Blue rocks.  Blue tree trunks.  Come on people.  Pay attention!  Unless these things really were blue, adjust your white balance.

It’s easy to do.  Most editing packages have presets like daylight and cloudy as well as a slider that will let you put the temperature somewhere in the middle.  It’s not hard.  And look what a difference it makes.

The Little River with correct white balance.

Check out the trees, too – the color pops a lot more and the whole scene is more inviting.  Only the white balance is different between the two shots.  Here’s another one that’s even more dramatic.

Drawing to a Close - way too cool. It makes this shot cold and uninviting.

My husband and I went walking in a state park the other day.  Unfortunately it’s been closed due budget constraints, but we jumped the fence (as everyone is free to do, you just can’t drive in anymore).  What have I been banging on about in this whole post besides white balance?

LIGHT!

What are we trying to photograph, folks? Light of course.  And nothing is more wonderful than soft, warm late afternoon light in October.  It’s truly special.  Believe it or not that’s what I saw in the shot here.  But the camera doesn’t see like the brain sees and so it’s off.  Way off.  If you weren’t there of course you wouldn’t know, but the whole point of sharing photos is to bring other people into your world.  To show them a little of what you experience and find delight in.  Personally I don’t find much to delight in with the before picture.  Straight out of the camera be damned.  Now for the correction –

Drawing to a Close - ah now that's a warm, inviting, atmospheric shot I want to just climb into.

Now that’s the scene that made me stop.  The trees and their shadows, the couple and the light all made me stop and shoot.  Look at that light, would you?  It’s lickable.  And isn’t that what it’s all about?


I live in New England

If you didn’t know before, you know now –

Old Jaffrey Meetinghouse in the early morning sun


Daybreak

Here’s some early shots from the last week or so.  I don’t know w hat got into me.

Adams pond and the whole world lit up pink the other day, it was so peaceful and fresh.  I could smell the apples from the orchard nearby, too.

Adams Pond Sunrise

and less than an hour later it looked like this, the fog still hung around which was cool –

Adams Pond Peak Color

A slightly larger body of water the next morning –

Lake Massabesic - Tripping the Far Horizon

on the way home to coffee and breakfast from that last shot, I stopped in a cemetery just down the street because it was so darn beautiful.  The colors just popped big time!  I rested the camera on a granite wall and aimed back toward the road.

Peaceful Passing

Lots more in the hard drive and in my head, so stay tuned.


More Fall Favorites

Some from a nearby apple orchard.  I particularly liked the juxtaposition of these two.  Plus the light was great!

What Might Have Been

NH Apples

Some watery views from my hike up Mt. Hale this past weekend.  The light was direct sun and rather harsh and contrasty, so I did the best I could  –

Little River Window

TSF


Just the Beginning

I’m not going to get all wordy with these posts.  I’m shooting like mad, but can’t process efficiently because this old laptop of mine is just not enough for the new technology.  Luckily a new one should arrive today.  In the mean time, here’s a couple more from recent outings –

Twin Mountain North Trail, White Mountains, NH

Adams Pond, Londonderry, NH


OMG, it’s fall!

Dizzying Heights


Water, Water, Everywhere!

This year has been one of seriously heavy rain here in New England.  Luckily where I live we escaped serious flooding, but still our rivers, brooks and streams are very high.  Good for one thing – waterfalls!!  Recently I took a good friend of mine to see some near me and got some decent shots.  I also went with another friend to see how the mighty Merrimack River is doing and we had a most amazing great blue heron encounter.  So without further ado, here’s what I’ve been up to –

Senter Falls (upper cascades) on Cold Brook, Lyndeborough, NH

Senter Falls (upper cascades) on Cold Brook, Lyndeborough, NH

 

Senter Falls (lower cascades) on Cold Brook, Lyndeborough, NH

Tucker Falls, Tucker Brook, Milford, NH

I also went to Ponemah Bog in Amherst for a sunrise.  I forgot exactly which road to take to get there, so I was a bit late, but I did manage one or two with good light.  The color is amazing in there – all the blueberry bushes and other plants turn first in the area.  Plus there were like 300 geese in the pond making all kinds of noise.  I didn’t get any shots of them for 2 reasons – 1) I had no long lens and 2) the boardwalks were in process of being replaced and weren’t too solid.

Sunrise at Ponemah - I love how the cresting sun just kisses the far trees

It’s a tough time of year for bees.  I found a bunch of bumblebees on some asters the other day. They were chilled, sluggish and probably crabby.  Totally picture worthy even though I had to test my patience waiting for the breeze to die down!

Chilled

I did a little exploring down by the Merrimack River and found a spot where a small brook feeds into it.  I spend some time photographing this little bridge which is about to be swept away in the torrent.  Usually this brook is a trickle this time of year; the amount of rain we’ve had is unusual.

Friction Failure

So while I was photographing this and yelling over the roar of the rushing water to my friend, we had another friend come to join us –

Great Blue Heron (juvenile)

Up this way, GBHes are wicked skittish.  They fly away whenever they hear me and the closest I’ve ever been to one was several dozen feet while hiding behind some trees.  This one though was unconcerned about me or my friend.  It stood and fished about 20 feet from us.  Right before they strike, they stand still as statues which was good since I didn’t have the best light or lens for this kind of thing.  When they do strike it’s so fast you can’t see it.  The next thing you know the bird has a fish.  This little one caught three while we watched.  It was amazing and totally made up for the dead one we saw about 1/2 hour earlier.  Given the currents and the storms we’ve had lately, I think these guys have had a tough time.

Anyway, I hope the weather clears up this week so I can get out and see about foliage and how it’s doing.