How they’re longing for some color. Even more than usual for this time of year. See, we’ve basically had a snowless winter. It hasn’t snowed with accumulation since Halloween. The extended brown stick season has sapped my enthusiasm and induced the need for color in a big way. So, without further ado –
See what I did there? I snuck in a cemetery. It’s a family plot and so wee. I think I’l do a seasonal study of this location. It’s got to be amazing at sunrise with snow. Or in the spring when the foliage has all the tenderest shades of green. And speaking of foliage…autumn’s color peak will be amazing here. That tree to the right in the last shot is one of a few chestnuts and should make for a good specimen. The clouds dispersed much faster than I thought they would when I shot this, but even in the harsh light it has some merit.
Anyway…that’s all I could find for color. Things won’t begin to green up for at least 6 weeks and so the brown stick season continues…I don’t hold out much hope for snow, but you never can tell. Nature is fickle.
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 –
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.
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.
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.
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 –
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 –
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!
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.
and less than an hour later it looked like this, the fog still hung around which was cool –
A slightly larger body of water the next morning –
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.
Lots more in the hard drive and in my head, so stay tuned.
The weather and the hordes of mosquitoes have kept me from doing a lot of shooting, but I have been out. The thing is that the shots don’t really seem to go together. Then I had a morbid thought about some of them. Poison mushrooms and grave stones. Heh. It’s ridiculously me and goes with the Wicked Dark thing. So without further ado –
This was the first place we visited on our way down from Reno. We planned to go there during the trip, but not so soon. However, we found ourselves very near to it so decided to switch up the schedule.
I knew going into it that it would be kind of a zoo, tourist-wise (worse even than Rhyolite), and I only lost my patience once or twice. After that we moved out of the normal flow of people and ran sort of counter to them. It made things easier on me. I hate to be crowded, edged, pushed or otherwise dogged through my travels. Even if it’s not deliberate on the part of other people it bothers me.
Given ideal circumstances, this place would be a delight to visit. It’s supposedly been preserved exactly the way people left it, but I’m not really buying that. Some of the houses are set up like aliens came and took everyone. Things are a bit too artfully arranged if you know what I mean. Even so, it was a fascinating look into a mining town during the boom years.
I won’t go into the whole history of Bodie here since there are many other good websites for that. I’ll talk about the challenges of photographing it instead. I was very disappointed by the available light. I’d been hoping to access the park close to or during civil twilight, but it’s not open anywhere near those times. So I had to deal with harsh, high altitude desert light. Hm. My first mistake was not bringing my tripod for the interior shots. I should have gone to get it, but I was disappointed and cranky and it made things worse than they needed to be. That’s seriously a problem for me, but that’s for another post.
I tried stepping outside of the traditional though and I think I did an ok job. Here’s a shot of a house on the mill side of Main street. It was fenced off as a lot of the area is on that side of town and I couldn’t approach it. So I decided to focus on its isolation.
Post-processing wise I started with a LR preset (I forget which one) that altered the white balance and color hues just a bit. I also used the adjustment brush here and there to focus attention on the house and give the hill some contour. The sky I left as scornful as it looks. For me it helps me envision how difficult life probably was in Bodie. Those patches of white on the hills in the shot below are snow. The town lies at 8300 feet and so it takes a long time for snow to melt. Plus this was a banner accumulation year. Most of the buildings were buried completely, with only the church and similarly tall buildings visible above the snow.
I imaging that if you came upon it from a distance, on another nearby hill looking down at it, you might think it was an oaisis. A refuge of sorts from the unforgiving desert. I think you’d be wrong though. Even with a church, I don’t think it had much of haven about it. California mining towns rarely did.
I spent a little time on Main Street where the farrier, machine shop, hotel and store stand along with the fire station. Later in its life, Bodie had a small gas station as well. You can see it reflected here in the hotel door.
This is my favorite image of Bodie. I was surprised that the lens focused to infinity on the glass; it too fooled by the image presented there, and the door frame was rendered out of focus even though it’s less than an inch from the glass.
I really wish I could have gone into the hotel. Great stuff in there including a pool table and stuffed animal heads over the bar. Mostly though I just waited for people to get out of the shot. If they’d been less garishly dressed, I could have left them in, but as it was they didn’t add anything to the shots, only detracted so I waited.
As you can see the light is really contrasty. Shadows everywhere and I was less and less inspired as I walked through the town. Plus my husband was starving and lunch was in the car.
I did want to visit the cemetery though so we ate quickly and I went up there. By that time though, he was anxious to go and giving me the silent treatment so I rushed through and didn’t really explore it at all. One of the only touchy times for us on this trip. As I said, I have to balance relaxation for him and photography for me. Time to time they don’t coincide exactly and I have to back off. I’d have liked to explore more of the town, but it was near to park closing hour and we didn’t want to get caught in a parade, so we left early. It wasn’t too great a disappointment though.
Here are a few more images that I did manage to produce.
A while back I said I’d report on my progress from time to time. It’s part of my attempt to be more aware of the state of my photography and where I want to take it. Now if I can only remember what they were. Oh right, here they are –
1. Improve composition; read a book or two, podcasts, tutorials, essays etc.
2. Strive for more distinctive images
3. Maintain post-processing workflow discipline
Hm. Will you look at that.
Yes I have read a few articles that deal with composition, but I haven’t done anything really serious about it. No books have been bought. Mostly because I’m still not working full time and what with the internet being free and all… But I am on the trail of a full time job and when that lands (positive thinking all around!) I will buy a book or two. That being said, I have been more conscious of the rules of composition when I’m out in the field. Hardly ever in the past did I deliberately think about composition in my head. It’s always been very gut-level for me. I walk around, frame, pace, line up, but never do I recite mantras to myself. Now I sort of do. One I keep in mind is relationships…creating relationships between objects in my image. Here’s one –
In this one I deliberately set opposing geometries together. Vertical aspect, horizontal wall in foreground, vertical trees in background, that first horizontal row of nearly square headstones, going from short to tall, the tall monument on the left reinforcing the vertical nature of the shot. All sort of clashes, but also flows really well. I did it deliberately. Oh sure I tried other compositions, but none worked so well. I even left out the rather terrific gate because it broke up the flow too drastically. It blocked the flow. Out it went.
On to the next one. Have I striven for distinctive images? Yes and no. In my mind, this means shooting a more typical view in a different way. Lately I haven’t been presented with much that’s typical so my images remain my own take on the world I see. The only one that approaches anything near this is this shot of Mt. Monadnock –
No, it isn’t that great a photograph. The view to the mountain was difficult and narrow. I had to climb on the top of an escarpment to get clear of the trees in the immediate foreground. The lighting wasn’t particularly helpful either, so I decided to try to make the mountain look small by using a lot of sky. If they sky hadn’t been interesting, I wouldn’t have, but I think as a snapshot, this works. Are there other shots of mountains taken this way, I’m sure there are, but most people wouldn’t even try I don’t think. Maybe I’m foolish to have, but I think even a snapshotty image adds to the impression of a place.
And how is my post-processing work-flow these days? Pretty good actually. Using specific folders, tags, labels, ratings and keywords has made it much easier to find stuff even though I haven’t shot much yet. So far, so good.
So there you have it. An update. Crossing my fingers that the weather cooperates for one last major winter shoot this weekend. I’ll be trying to manage #1 and 2 more fully and hopefully #3 will be habit by now and will fall into place automatically.
I’ve always been intrigued by broken-down buildings on the side of the road. In New England they are everywhere. Little shacks. Barns. Garages. Unidentifiable buildings that make you wonder what they used to be and why they were hammered together in the first place. Mostly they’re wooden, but occasionally metal and almost always difficult to reach for any close work. Sometimes the available light isn’t so great either and it makes the shots almost unrecognizable to someone who doesn’t know what she’s looking at.
This is one I’ve passed by probably a hundred times. I’m told it might have been a chicken barn since before electric fans they needed a lot of natural ventilation.
Unless you’d driven by it in winter, you probably wouldn’t notice it at all during other seasons. The leaves obscure it almost completely. They also made it a challenge to find a decent composition, but the light was so yummy that I decided to risk parking on the curve with barely any shoulder and walk up and down while other drivers looked at me like I was crazy.
I’m pretty used to that by now though. This cemetery is one of my mom’s favorites and she’s been asking me to photograph it in winter. So I went out the other day to try, figuring it would be easy. Silly me forgot about the snow. Since this cemetery is right on the side of the road, there was a 6-foot snowbank between me and it. So up I went. People driving past almost crashed craning their necks to look at the lunatic with a camera on the snowbank.
It makes me laugh thinking about it because it was funny. I couldn’t move forwards or backwards because the snow was too soft. I could only move from side to side and even then I sank up to my thigh a couple of times. What else can you do but laugh?
So the next time you see something that jerks your head around on the side of the road, stop and take a chance. You might end up with a gem and a good laugh.
This is a new thing for me, choosing my best photos of the year. I’ve done it with books I’ve read and albums I’ve bought, but not things I made myself. It can be hard to subjectively judge your own work, but I think it’s a worthy exercise for anyone who wants to get better at what they do. I wrote a whole long post about my analysis and its criteria, but I’ve decided not to publish that. It’s boring, and who cares really?
On with the winners, in the order I shot them with some reasons why I chose them.
Even if I had planned this shot and spent a lot of time framing and composing, it couldn’t have been done better. As it was it was a grab-shot that took me only seconds to take. The Piscataquog is a very picturesque river and so it’s hard to get a bad image of it, but I like this one particularly because of the strong S curve of snow framing the dark river that leads your eye right through the frame. The white is almost blinding in spots, but the surrounding trees and sky keep your eyes in the shot. Someone commented that she expected to see a group of barbarians on horseback come bursting through and I love that new perspective.
The picture tells a story and the lighting and composition are in harmony. I was with a couple of friends this day and they were yakking it up to my right. I was looking back into the scene we’d just spent an hour in. Some of my best shots come from a last look back and that’s when I saw this. Because we were all cold and ready for coffee, I couldn’t take a lot of time over this and shot only a few frames. Luckily I had been working in this light and setting for a while and could capture it perfectly. I love the softness of the light and the snowed-over footprints and how they lead you into those mysterious trees. The shadows pick out the texture of the snow and add interest to the foreground. It’s hushed and peaceful and reminds me of every beautiful winter morning.
That whirlpool is awesome and I planned this shot pretty meticulously before I actually took it. Having been through this area before I noticed the whirlpools here and there, I knew I wanted to get a photo of one, but had to wait for better lighting. When that day came I scouted locations until I found this one and then got all excited when I saw that Charlie Brown tree in the foreground. It makes for the perfect element to keep your eyes up on the waterfall and the vortex. It also gives the scene some scale and it’s just plain fun. All around pretty damn great if I do say so myself. It also is a major indication that I was really trying to be a more deliberate photographer – one of my resolutions of 2010.
This photo came out looking very poignant and somehow introspective, as if this oinker knows he’ll end up in a sandwich. It was kind of a grab-shot that spoke volumes after I got it home. It is startling not only for the subject, but for the mood. I didn’t intend to make this a serious picture since pigs are not serious subjects – they’re boisterous and curious and don’t stay still for long at this age. I think it’s a testament to my skills as a photographer that I could bring out such a change of emotion in the final shot. A few years ago, I probably wouldn’t have been able to.
The title really sums up how this shot of the emerging flower feels. As if it’s shy and reticent about showing itself. I love the light and the slight shadows within the leaves. Just look at those leaves – so graceful and elegant. The fresh color and the focus is pretty damn good, too. I had the camera on my front steps cushioned by a bag of barley. So high tech. This is part of my Lily of the Valley project which I undertook to help hone my macro photography skills and it certainly did. For the most part I use a legacy Olympus lens – the 90mm f2 macro and I really needed practice with it and this project helped with that, too. Oh and gave me some excellent images, too.
The framing, the bg and the color of the flower work remarkably well. I remember hunting around for the best composition while my poor husband stood aside patiently waiting for me to photograph yet another flower. The depth-of-field is also right where it needs to be. I didn’t check it, but relied on my experience and knowledge of the lens to give me what I wanted. Not only is the image good in camera, but my post processing skill was coming along pretty well and I could do it justice and make it sing.
This shot is a testament to my skill as a photographer if that doesn’t sound too big-headed. I’m amazed I got it. About a dozen non-photographers were milling around exploring this tiny family burial ground and so when I noticed how a break in the canopy lit up Hannah’s stone, I had only a few seconds in which to compose, set exposure and shoot. Just after I did some people got into the frame and then the light changed and Hannah was no longer spotlit. When I got this image in Lightroom it was almost perfect out of the camera, but I thought a desaturated look with a slight vignette would really bring out the spooky, which it does. I’m very proud of this shot. Even if it is one of my beloved cemetery images, I think it has enough appeal to stand outside of that realm.
This is pretty fab all around. I was with some of my best photographer friends for the first time in months and we always have a great time together. The early morning light is so warm and soft on the background, but the post shades the rest of the gate and provides a contrasting color temperature. Not to mention those great little shadows the vine throws across the post. I also like the way the grass in the immediate foreground is lit up and the kiss of sun on the gate itself. At first I thought the gate was too prominent, but now I realize it isn’t.
It’s a powerful subject the Merrimack river and I worked for some time on the granite shelf of a bank trying to frame this right – particularly that stripe of rough water that leads your eye to the trees. I must have looked funny shuffling around and peering down into my LCD screen over and over again. Longish shutter speed, but not too much that the trees are totally blurry (there was a light wind) and light that is direct, but not too flat or harsh. Finally, it came together. This part of the river is beautiful and easily accessed, but somehow I’d never explored it until this year. It won’t be the last visit.
This one makes me smile. The sunny yellow color and the way the focus falls off gently speak of peace to me. I was on my back deck when I noticed the sun in this birch and went for the camera. I spent several minutes playing in the leaves, framing and shooting. This composition works the best and I love the overall color palette. Sometimes spontaneity produces the best shots.
Technically this photo rocks. The color and the clarity is terrific and I remember hunting around on the bank looking for just the right foreground elements to frame the shot. I think the composition works well and just look how those birch trunks pop. Even though the color is technically past peak (those bare trees were probably red only a week before) I like the deep golden hues; so rich and harmonious.
I also love this shot because I was able to take it. A few months ago I said I’d have to go on forced hiatus. I was emotionally strung out and couldn’t go into detail because it was cancer. Yeah, the Big C. After months of frustrating doctor visits I had surgery in late August and thought for sure my autumn would be ruined either from recovery or because I’d need chemo or radiation therapy. That thought made a depressing situation even worse. In the end I needed neither and I was actively shooting 4 weeks after my operation. The day I shot this image I’d just come from my first post-op appointment with my oncologist. She said everything looked fine and I was healing perfectly and it took such a weight off my shoulders that I felt I could fly. I’m almost crying writing this and remembering how wonderful I felt at this location on this most perfect day.
This is technically pretty great and I love the horizon line with the fog shrouded trees and those red berry bushes that really define the edge. Crisp foreground and hazy background contrast well and add to the mood of the image itself. it really says November to me. Plus I was with my mom having a great time together. We walked all the way up to the point where the little jog in the walkway is when I said we had to go back so I could shoot it. She ended up taking a shot too.
So that’s it then. The best I could do this year. I hope you enjoyed viewing them as much as I did making them. Here’s to 2011!
Some ask if I ever hang out with live people, that’s how often I can be found in a cemetery. I’m just drawn to them. Here’s a round-up of some of the best from the last few months –
There are lots more in the Graven Images Gallery if you can’t get enough.