Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The View from the Top

I thought you might enjoy a photograph of my office, the great outdoors. I took this one earlier this week at the flagpole/cell tower off of Route 220. Anyone who's driven to Hot Springs from Covington (or vice versa) has seen this. It's private property instead of a public overlook, but one of the joys of surveying is tramping around people's property while your working for them. Occasionally you get a view like this.

This is looking generally south toward Covington. Typically you can see the MeadWestvaco paper mill over the ridge on the left, but the fog laying in the valley is covering everything. I've never been in an airplane but I imagine that this is something similar to what it must look like when you have that window seat and can look down on top of the clouds.

I experienced this view a few times before, notably at the Dan Ingalls Overlook on the other end of Warm Springs Mountain. I was much closer to the valley that day and the view was breathtaking, but I only had my cell phone to serve as a camera. Since then I've been hoping to capture this kind of photo and this is my second attempt. The previous attempt was accidentally erased. This time around I used the polarizer, which brought out some much needed contrast and color in a photo that lacks a great deal of both.

My job literally has its ups and downs. We've spent the last two days running a little more than a mile of property line that adjoins a National Forest tract and it was pretty steep in places. There are moments of hard, physical work in climbing, but those moments tend to pay off in the end. It's kind of neat to climb around and survey around places that no one has been since the 1930s and find monuments that have been untouched and unseen by humans for decades and, on rare occasions, a century. So while my job can be a workout, especially since I'm not in the athletic trim I once enjoyed, it most definitely is worth it (even the complicated math part).

I've always enjoyed being outside and being in the woods. Surveying has opened up a new appreciation for both as I've learned to be more independent and more self sufficient away from the comforts at home. I'm not saying I'm Daniel Boone or anything, but I feel pretty confident about my abilities to get out and get around to places and navigate through the occasional brier patch. I've haven't gotten lost in at least a couple of months.

Monday, September 28, 2009

First Photos of the Fall Season

Ah, a little field work on a beautiful fall morning gave me the opportunity to snap a few pics for some fresh blog material.

I'm sure many of my readers have visited Falling Spring Falls, located on Rt. 220 as you travel north toward Hot Springs, just ten minutes or so from Covington. Thomas Jefferson once raved about its beauty. It's fed by a warm water spring and the water temperature is in the 70s year round. Now, the picture above isn't off the falls. Rather this is a photograph of some cascades upstream from the falls. I've been fortunate to have worked on a survey crew nearly all the way around the falls and I've even seen the point where the spring comes out of the ground to feed this famous fall. In the course of my job I've been able to see some sights that not very many people have the opportunity to see, so I thought I'd pass this one along.

Now this photo is of Falling Spring Falls taken from the overlook. At some point I'd love to work my way down to the bottom and shoot close ups of those little cascades down at the bottom. This photo was taken as an experiment with the black and white setting on my Rebel XT with the Yellow K2 filter attached. I'm pretty pleased with the results and have used the filter quite a bit since this photo.

It was a beautiful fall morning and I even caught a glimpse of some of the first foliage to change. It was a maple and it was a glorious red and it gave me my first opportunity to use my brand new polarizer. As promised, I'm posting the result here and I'm pretty excited about it. I bought it, among other things, for fall foliage because it brings out the colors and takes the glare of the sun off the leaves.

Now that I've shown you the first of fall's color show I'm going to show you something from the world of macro photography. As a little introduction, you should know that a macro lens can reproduce something small at a 1:1 ratio onto your camera sensor (film). What that means is that when you make a 4x6 print, that image is reproduced at 9 times life size. It makes for some really neat photographs, such as the one shown below.

Wow, I thought I'd get a week's worth of blogging material out of today's shoot, but I got excited and wanted to get them all posted. Guess I'll just have to go wandering about in search of more photographs.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Rambling Around

So it's been a rainy kind of weekend with a steady, soaking rain falling since I woke up Friday morning. The yard work didn't get done Friday, as planned, so it was put off for this coming week. Something has zapped our router, which tanks the connection to my desktop, which has all my photos stored, so I've been running without photos the last two blog posts. Hopefully I'll be able to correct this technical difficulty tomorrow.

In the meantime, I've been working on Edwin McCain's Holy City and polishing Brisingr and Post Captain off my reading list. I think it's time to turn my attention back to Star Trek and by the time I've gotten past that, we should be into October and in the mood for Bradbury's The Halloween Tree.

Brisingr wasn't quite the exciting read I was hoping it was going to be and in fact it was left over from last fall's reading list. Oddly enough, I actually was more interested in Eragon's cousin, Roran, than I was following Eragon's tale. I think Paolini created a very impressive secondary character that nearly steals the show. Even though I wasn't the biggest fan of Brisingr, I admire Paolini's world and will definitely pick up the concluding volume of the Inheritance Cycle.

My polarizer filter arrived in the mail Saturday, giving me plenty of time to practice with it before the fall colors really set in. Of course I'll post results of those tests on the blog here. Cool weather is expected to set in this week and I'm hoping that the fall colors will really start to take hold around here. With Douthat State Park just up the road and Roaring Run a twenty minute drive from the house, I'll have plenty of opportunities for catching fall at its best.

Work on Blood and Steel continues slowly, as is sometimes the case with the written word. I've found at times all I can do is put one word down after another until I find the rhythm of what I'm trying to say and it takes care of itself. Other times it's all I can do to move my hand fast enough because what I want to say comes pouring out.

The Crownless King and Blood and Steel represents a pretty big shift in my writing and my focus. I was, for a time, caught up in the world of fantasy and all massive volumes of literature that entails. My library is broken down into three main areas: SciFi (Star Trek and Star Wars) Fantasy (assorted authors and series) and Fiction and Literary Fiction. As of late I've lost a bit of my enthusiasm for fantasy and find myself drawn to more thought provoking and deep literature. Pat Conroy was the first to introduce me to this and L.E. Modesitt Jr., though a fantasy author, hooked me in permanently with his Recluse Saga. The thing these have in common is that they both write in first person and both have a way of making their characters very real and very human. I feel like I could easily step into the roles of their characters at any given point.

They led me, through their writings, to shift into a first person style and really take the time to try to develop my characters before throwing them into the fire. And while it can certainly be done in a fantasy world, as Modesitt has proved, the technique is much more effective in a more realistic world. Even Modesitt's world of Recluse is tame when compared to what is considered to be high fantasy. I've been searching for authors who share some of the same talents and I've hit upon a very good one in David Liss. So while I will always have an interest in certain authors and in Star Trek and Star Wars, my interest in fantasy as a whole is waning.

And as the day is waning now, I think I'm going to go see what I can stir up for dinner. I hope to be able to get photos back up on the blog at a steady pace beginning tomorrow or Tuesday, so we'll see how that goes.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Rainy Friday

Wow, I've fallen behind on the ol' blogging, haven't I? Well, I have been busy with some other projects. In the last week or so I've focused pretty heavily on the guitar, at one point sitting for four hours working out different tunings for Broken and some Goo Goo Dolls tunes.

More importantly I've started working on Blood and Steel, the sequel to the as-yet-unpublished The Crownless King. It picks up not long after where King leaves off and reveals more of Ben's story and motives and forces Sam to come full circle and take responsibility for his actions. It sounds a bit vague, I know, but I don't want to put too many details out there before The Crownless King gets out there for fear of ruining readers on that novel. I sometimes struggle to remember that my readers aren't seeing what's in my head and don't know what's coming in future projects the way I do. It hampers discussion, at times, but not work.

I did spend some time this week preparing the manuscript of The Crownless King for shipping to CreateSpace and I've got to photograph one more illustration and assemble the cover exactly how I want it before it's all said and done. It's more of a challenge than I thought it was going to be, but still worth the effort.

The Fall Festival is coming up in Clifton Forge in October and with the festival comes the Alleghany Highlands Arts and Crafts Center's 37th Annual Fall Festival Art Show. It's a surprisingly good show for a small town festival and draws many entries from outside the area. I've got two prints ready to go, A Splash of Color and an unnamed shot of Roaring Run, both of which have been posted here. I've never so much as placed in an art show before, but I feel good about this year's entries. That's not saying I'm going to place, but rather that I feel better about giving a good competition. Art shows are a wonderful opportunity to learn about composition and preparing your pieces for show. There's always quality work to be found in these galleries and it's just exciting to have your work hanging in an art gallery for a little while.

And with fall, as I've blogged about before, comes the wonderful reading list. I've read about half of David Liss' works and they've been a joy. I recently finished Post Captain, the second of Patrick O'Brian's Napoleonic War novels. I've got some Star Trek piling up and I think that the newest Voyager novel, Full Circle, came out on Tuesday so it's probably time to start wading through the Trek novels. Salvatore will be coming out with the next Drizzt novel in October, which is a perfect fall classic. At some point when the season really sets in I'll read The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin and The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury, two beloved classics introduced to me in elementary school. Around Christmas time I may actually read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.

I had big plans for the day, yard work and a trip to the dump and getting the outside of the house together for the fall, but Mother Nature and The Weather Channel had other plans. So I think that I'll spend the day reading, packing to go to West Virginia, doing what few chores there are to do inside and writing.

It's a good life.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Guitars and Food

My blogging hasn't quite been on schedule this week, but life has had other plans. But I didn't start this blog to whine, so I'm going to move on to joyfulness.

It has been a hectic couple of days, but today was a nice chance at relaxation. Bryan, a friend from way back in the day at high school, brought his wife and newborn son up to the house for dinner and we made an excellent shrimp Alfredo. It's pretty cool to have the opportunity to just relax with an old friend and catch up on what has passed by in life with no other pressing demands stealing away minutes. Those opportunities are rare and should be cherished when they are presented.

I've been working at the guitar the last few days as well, as time allows, and I'm making a little progress. I've got the intro and first verse of Broken down pretty well and I'm ready to move on to the chorus. I've also found lessons to study for Slide and Black Balloon by The Goo Goo Dolls. I'm going to have to do some work on learning the open tunings for them, but in the end I think it'll be worth it. I've been told it's a truer sound if you can tune to the key instead of using a capo. It's decently easy to tune down and I've already set it down a half step for Broken. Tuning up can be a little more dicey because eventually the tension is too much and you'll break a string. But all things come in time.

Tomorrow is a rare Friday in which Bethany and I have a rare day off together. And while the afternoon may eventually bring chores, we're are, at the very least, sleeping in late and having lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, Jason's Pizza & Subs in Bath County. I can't say enough good things about the quality of food and service in that little mom & pop restaurant, but I will drive the better part of an hour to enjoy both.

The photo above is of Patrick's guitar and hand. It was taken soon after I purchased my Rebel XT, so it's an older photo. It was also an early attempt at using the black and white setting on the XT. I've since gained a better understanding of the setting and of music in general. His guitar is a Takamine, as is mine, and on my next posting I'll share a close up of my guitar. Exciting stuff, I know, but hey, it's my blog and I think it's interesting.

And on that happy note, I think I shall depart for the evening and spend some time on deck of Jack Aubrey's man o' war before finally calling it a day.

Monday, September 14, 2009

To The Moon

So a busy day or two has passed since my last posting and I wish I could say they were filled with football and relaxing, but that's just not the way it goes sometimes.

I have, however, been able to work out tuning my guitar down a half-step and I'm working on figuring out Broken by Seether. It's decently complex but not impossible and I'm starting to get the intro and first verse smoothed out. Once I have it down I'll moved on to the chorus. I actually miss taking lessons, though I was playing pieces I wasn't as interested in for them. There is so much basic stuff that I'm sure I'm missing that more lessons would make clear and I hope to get to start them again soon.

Bethany starts practice with the Greenbrier Valley Chorale tonight and that will mean weekly trips to Lewisburg and then on to Rupert to hang out with my family for a couple hours. I really enjoy being back early to pick her up at Carnegie Hall because the campus is beautiful, there's an old stone church across the street that will be photographed at some point and at 9 o'clock the church bells chime the hour. It's almost like being back in time a few decades in a sleepy, safe and small little town.

I have hopes of working on The Crownless King this week, but housework will have to take priority as we're still working on the remodeling before the new floors are put down. The hall and bathroom are next up, though the bathroom is not near as pressing as the hall. These should be simple changes, though, since the areas areas are small and should just require some fresh paint and perhaps new paneling in the bathroom.

Sadly, the movie theaters are mostly empty of films I want to see. District 9 is still high on my list of must see movies and the long awaited sequel to The Boondock Saints, titled All Saints Day, will be out October 30 and I will definitely see that in theaters somewhere. There may be a few people out there who haven't heard of The Boondock Saints and if you haven't you need to watch it. It's a cult classic that on the surface is a shallow shoot 'em up, but in reality there are many, many layers to the film and many hidden "Easter eggs", so to speak, that really show off a deeper meaning. Be warned that the language is a bit strong and the violence can get graphic, but it's one of those rare films of that type that actually is worth your time.

I guess I should eventually explain the picture, shouldn't I? I took it earlier in the summer, late one evening, mostly because the cloud shaped reminded me of the pictures you see of the exhaust plume dissipating after a shuttle or rocket launch. The fact that the Moon can be seen in the upper portion of the picture was an added bonus for me since I've always been a student of the Apollo era missions. I hope we go back to the Moon again in my lifetime. Being an astronaut on a trip to the Moon would be a dream job for me, but I'd happily enjoy it vicariously if we go back.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Little Literary Musing

Ah, it's been an exhausting Saturday. After driving nearly all the way to Bedford for my little cousin's birthday party we stopped by Lowe's on the way home for some supplies and spent the rest of the day moving couches, painting and wallpapering. Bethany and I put the last piece on the wall sometime after midnight.

So this morning we slept in, got some much needed laundry underway and put the kitchen back in as much order as we can with cement floors. At the moment there are potatoes baking in my oven. One of the highlights of yesterday for me was stopping at the Paperback Exchange on Williamson Road, which rarely fails to having something I want to read. I walked out with O'Brian's Post Captain, and though I wanted the next three in that series I settled on The Lando Calrissian Adventures, A King's Trade and The Dwarves. I'm discovering lately that I'm really enjoying historical fiction, particularly anything in the era of the Revolutionary War and naval adventures of the Napoleonic Wars. C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower introduced me to the adventures of the British Navy during the war and O'Brien continues to have me hooked, though to date I still prefer Forester's series. I've even delved into a little alternate history with the Temeraire series.

Fantasy as a genre is not losing it's appeal, but it's not drawing me in as it once did. There are some authors and worlds I follow closely, but lately my mind is bending more toward the historical with a dash of Star Wars and Star Trek thrown in. Beginning with the New Jedi Order, the Star Wars novels are amazingly dramatic and unpredictable and the current series, Fate of the Jedi, is living up to its predecessors. The Star Trek world has been revolutionized a bit in that the novels are picking up exactly where the TV shows and movies left off and taking them in entirely new, deeper directions. They tend to come out at a bit slower pace than the Star Wars books, but there is one or two novels in every series out at least every month. I'm building a stockpile of unread Trek against the day the mood hits me and I can settle in by the fire with some hot chocolate for a voyage to a strange new world.

In all this mess, my fall reading has continued to grow ever deeper. I have even rediscovered my love of used bookstores. For a long time, starting sometime during my college career, I wanted the books in my library to be all new and in pristine condition. And while I still do my best to keep them in good shape, I've rediscovered the love of used books at half price that allow me to get twice the bang for my buck. After all, books should be cherished and loved, regardless of the condition. I once had a copy of Jurassic Park that was so well read that I could tell you what page numbers were bent. I had a copy of The Hunt For Red October that fit my hands perfectly and I read until it fell apart. So instead of a new and pristine library full of hardbacks, I'm going to build it into a library stocked full of well worn and well loved stories that are as familiar as old friends. After all, I cry every time I read Flint's death in Dragons of Spring Dawning. My library needs to reflect those moments a little better.

So...yea...the picture I posted before all this literary rambling. It was taken Friday and it's of Roaring Run Creek. As a matter of fact this is the last picture I took before packing it because, to get it, I had to wade out into the creek and set my tripod up. It's an eleven minute exposure, which is ridiculously long, especially when you're standing calf-deep in cold water. The long exposure time was due to an almost closed canopy above me and a sun that was determined to hide behind what cloud cover there was as along as possible. There was abundant light to see by, but we all know cameras need more light than most of us realize.

Well it's at least two hours before dinner and I think I shall clean the ol' library a bit and see what Jack Aubrey, Master and Commander in His Majesty's Royal Navy, is doing to bedevil Napoleon's navy.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Napping Beside A Creek

Finally, some fresh material.

Friday is my usual day off and after delivering some wedding photos and spending the better part of the morning and a chunk of the early afternoon stripping wallpaper I was able to sneak up to Roaring Run for some outdoor photography work. I spent two and a half hours up there and came back with 11 images. Now that may not seem like a lot of pictures for a long trip, but there's a reason for that.

Photography is a slow hobby, particularly in the landscape category. I like to take my time, climb around a bit and see what there is to see and imagine how I can capture it and take it home with me. I took every opportunity I could to slow down and study what was before me and really try to find the photo I was looking for instead of taking a bunch of photos and hoping I came across one that made me happy.

This time around the slow approach definitely paid off. Not only did it produce great images, but it gave me the chance to try out a new technique of stacking filters. I stacked my ND400x (which my wife finally found for me) on top of my Yellow K2 filter. With my lens closed as tightly as I could and my ISO at 100, I was racking up exposure times between four and five minutes. As the cloud cover deepened I stretched it all the way to ten and eleven minutes. A little tweaking in Photoshop and I've got pictures I'm very proud of.

I used the Canon EF 50mm Macro for my lens of choice, though I did switch to my 28mm wide angle for the second shot. The 50mm gives me a f/stop of 32 and the 28mm only gives me f/22, but I love having the lens closed all the way. I could have opened up and had a shorter exposure with less noise (and therefore less processing) but I had all the time in the world and I love the tremendous depth of field I gain by closing the lens down all the way.

I actually enjoyed the long exposure time. Once or twice I stretched out on a rock, set the alarm on my phone and closed my eyes. Talk about peaceful...the occasional chirping bird against a gurgling Roaring Run Creek...I could have slept there all day. For the final shot of the day I waded out into the creek and took a vertical shot looking upstream. It was worth the cold water and risking the camera to get it and I'll share it with you in tomorrow's post, which may come a bit later in the evening since tomorrow has a full schedule.

Tonight I'm off to nearby Lexington to do a little shopping. We need paint for the dining room and I've got to get an Etch-A-Sketch for my little cousin's birthday. Somewhere in all that running will be a good dinner, I hope.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Little Rain Must Fall

Water as a subject for photography fascinates me. You may, over time, notice it tends to be a subject that I focus on quite a bit. Water is the most powerful force on Earth and so few people see it that way. If you freeze it, water can split a boulder. During the course of years it will wear a stone in a stream down smooth. It covers 2/3 of the world and we humans can't survive more than three days without it.

I could spend the rest of my photography career photographing streams and waterfalls and ocean vistas and never tire of the job. Disney had it right in Pocahontas when she spoke of never being able to step in the same river twice. You can't even photograph the same spot twice and get the same picture.

I was sitting on my front porch on a cool, later summer eve, working on learning Sympathy by the Goo Goo Dolls on my guitar when thunder started rolling in on a cool and steady breeze. It hasn't started raining yet but the thunder is still rumbling enough to let me know it's coming. It was perfect weather for sitting and playing and enjoying the buildup to a storm. We haven't had much in the way of strong thunderstorms this summer. It's a blessing, I'm sure, because severe weather can't help but have consequences to the people it rolls over, but I enjoy a good thunderstorm. So I've been a little disappointed in the lack of thunder and lightning, particularly since I haven't had the opportunity this summer to photograph nature's greatest light show.

Instead, I'll post this photo of a puddle. It sounds less than glorious, but it's one of my favorite photos. I took it in the alley beside our office on day two of a three day rain spell last year. Surveying is, by it's very a nature, an outdoor job and after two days of rain there's only so much work left to do in the office. So I stuck my head out the window for this picture and it worked out much better than I expected it to. I really enjoy looking at all the ripples and how they distort the surface of the water without ever breaking it.

And as much as I enjoy the rain I hope that it holds off Friday. I've got a photo excursion of sorts planned for Friday that I'm looking forward to. It will be a much needed chance to relax and chase photos that aren't wedding related. I'll cover the highlights of two counties on a day of running, so with any luck the rain won't mess that up.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Meanderings on a Tuesday Night

I thought I'd show off just a little tonight with a mixed color and black and white photograph that I took just last fall about two weeks before I got married. It was a rainy, dreary fall afternoon, but any photographer will tell you that inclement weather sometimes makes for great photography. Unfortunately, on that day the rainy weather made the roads slick and I was involved in a minor fender bender at a stop sign. But, I digress.

When I opened my mailbox today I was looking for my copy of Patrick O'Brian's Post Captain. Instead I found an application for the upcoming Fall Festival Art Show at the Alleghany Highlands Arts and Crafts Center. I didn't enter last year as I had other priorities and haven't entered much in the local shows lately, but I think it is time for me to get back in to the loop of competitive shooting. I've studied composition a bit more since my last entry, as well as presentation, so I think I'll stand a better chance at placing. Art shows are all objectively judged, however, and it varies from show to show, but they tend to be good learning experiences for a photographer at any stage of development.

As I've mentioned before, the water heater flooded a good portion of my house, ruining quite a bit of floor. We're down to the concrete slab in three rooms and the hallway and it will be two weeks before everything is processed along and the new floor is installed. The house, however, is in a good enough condition to live in, thanks to some hard work by both the contractors and my family, so I'm thankfully blogging from home again tonight.

It was a stressful weekend and now that things are more or less in order I'm looking forward to a little relaxation. I've processed the last wedding I had waiting and all that remains is the delivery. I have one wedding in just about a month to shoot, but there's no use in borrowing trouble. For now I can finally concentrate on getting the format down for The Crownless King and getting that shipped off to CreateSpace for publishing and focus my photography efforts toward Off the Beaten Path for a while. I'm also going to have to put some serious consideration into what I will enter into the art show. I think the photograph above is in strong contention for the show, as is my favorite motion blur, my first and most successful, that was taken on the Potomac River late last summer.

For now, I'll wind this posting up and head toward my own bed for the first time since Thursday night. I can't wait for a good night's sleep.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Rainy Evening

Well I did manage to get a few pictures after all. We had a break in the madness of having a flooded house to go up to my uncle's farm for a little grilling, a location that never fails to pay off in pictures. We left as the rain was setting in for the evening, but I managed to snap about 30 shots, two of which I'm sharing here. I may post some panoramas later if I can steal my sister's laptop.
I wish I could say that I had some profound pearl of wisdom to impart to my loyal readers, but I'm too tired for philosophical meandering. I much closer to a nap than any hard thinking. So for now I'm going to find a chair where I can hear the rain hit the roof and a good book and wile away the evening before tomorrow brings more progress and hard work aimed toward putting the house back together.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Water is Wet and Sawdust Itches

So...I had big plans for the weekend. Really, I did. But they all went down the drain about 1 o'clock Friday afternoon when the water heater decided to give up the ghost all over my floors. It managed to flood out two utility rooms, a closet, the hallway, the kitchen, the dining room, a bedroom...and right now that's the total floodage. When the contractors get the last of the hallway floor up tomorrow morning we'll know for sure if it got into the bathroom or the other bedroom and library. So needless to say the house is a wreck. Even the subflooring is coming up and once the floor is dried it'll be a minimum of two weeks before we get new flooring in. It's been a rough couple of days.

We spent the evening putting a roof on the new shed Mom and Dad are building behind their house, and naturally that means my clothes were filled with sawdust. Which itches. In a way that only sawdust in your clothes can. You have to experience it to understand. I don't recommend it.

So there's no picture to go with this posting. Sorry folks. There may not be for a couple of days until we can get the house straightened out and back in a liveable condition. And it happened as we were finishing up the processing on the last wedding we had waiting, so we're having to dig our way back to that soon.

For now, it's definitely time for a little football here at the parents' house and then some much needed sleep. I have an hour drive at 7 a.m. to meet the contractors at the house again.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Morning Glories & Tater Tots

It's Friday and I'm off on the start of a four day weekend with a paycheck in my hand. As I stepped outside into the wonderfully cool morning air I noticed yet another sign of the impending fall season. My Morning Glories have shrunken in size. In the middle of summer they can be huge, spreading out to two to three inches (I think, though I've never really measured). Now that the nights and mornings are cooler they are noticeably smaller and the vines are starting to wither. If this trend continues, I'll be pulling them off the porch by the end of next week.

So to commemorate these beautiful flowers that offer me no end of enjoyment, I offer up the above photo, which I call Glorious Bumbling. I had thought about posting a different photo without the bee showing a macro close up of the water droplets, but the bee was just too much fun to resist. Photos that you'll see on this blog that are similar to this one will be taken with a Canon EF 50mm macro lens. It has the capability of reproducing an image at a 1:1 ratio, which means that a 4x6 print of a photo taken at that ration will be 9 times life size when printed. Pretty cool, isn't it?

It is with sadness and a partially empty stomach that I must report the passing of the Hardee's Country Potatoes. As I made it to my computer after stopping for breakfast I discovered that Hardee's has switched back to the venerable tater tot in their combos. Personally, I much prefer the country potatoes. I was so disappointed that I didn't even eat my tater tots. They always seem too greasy anyway, and the Country Potatoes had a wonderful flavor. They will be missed.

As I mentioned, it is a four day weekend in honor of Labor Day and there will be a cookout out our house on Monday. I'm going to try my hand at some different foods this time around, specifically on some slow cooker jambalaya and some barbecue grilled chicken drumsticks that should spice up the otherwise normal cookout fare. Naturally this means extra house cleaning and mowing, but fortunately there isn't much left to do on the house other than just sprucing the place up a bit.

Mowing. ::Sigh:: I hate mowing. Whenever I see these happy people on real estate commercials buying their first home I quietly laugh because they never show them happily mowing the grass. There are people in this world who enjoy it, but I'm definitely not one of them. Yard work is a chore, not a hobby. I love flowers and gardening, but mowing and all the assorted trimming and landscaping is definitely not my cup of Pepsi (I know it's supposed to be tea. I don't like tea so I'm changing it to Pepsi).

And speaking of these assorted chores, I'd better get to it. I hope to keep daily posting up on Saturday and perhaps even later today, but I'm heading to West Virginia and access to my photo library will be limited. However I'm heading west with the intention and hope of making some new images, so keep an eye open for something fun.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Feelin' A Lil' Jazzy

I purchased a jazz album today, something I haven't done in a while. Of course, it was on iTunes so it wasn't like I went out and bought a big record, though jazz puts me in a mind to do it. I downloaded Vince Guaraldi's "Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus", a record most of you probably haven't heard of. Then again, most of you probably haven't heard of Vince Guaraldi either.

If you've ever watched a Peanuts animated special, then you've heard his music. He, along with Dave Koz, gave the world "Linus and Lucy" and forever matched Charles Schultz's beloved Snoopy with the jazzy theme that fit him so well. Jazz is an elegant, sophisticated style of music I've loved for a long time. I was introduced to it by one Bill Weed, my elementary school music and band instructor. Mr. Weed was the first to open my mind to the possibilities of music and tried to expose his students to everything from Italian opera, classical composers and the Eagles. I fell in love with jazz easily, though I didn't have the funds to start any kind of a collection back then.

What appeals to me the most is the sense of easy confidence that pervades jazz music. That's something you don't find in most other forms. Country has a set mold it fits in and it seems insecure and at times a bit whiny. Rock and Roll tends to be over the top, full of heavy drama and melodramatic lyrics. Pop music is far too drum heavy and repetitive and rap...well with the exception of Will Smith, the less said about rap music, the better. Jazz, however, is simply jazz. You can try to break it down into different categories, label artists as classical or contemporary, but it doesn't change what it is. It goes from one riff to another, effortlessly flowing between songs so that it sometimes seems like the entire album is one long song rolled into one. A jazz tune has its own unique story written among the trumpets and wailing saxophones. My favorites are instrumental simply because my mind finds the melody and flows along with it to wherever it wants me to go. Jazz is in no hurry to be somewhere, feels no need to prove itself or try to be something. It is what it is and that's a beautiful, simple stance in a complex world.

And sometimes, the right jazz tune will remind me of a waterfall. In fact, I was listening to Guaraldi earlier and I started thinking about water and how it flows through a creek, rolling gently from stone to stone, tumbling over the large drops...It's so similar to how he rolls the melody along the piano while the drummer lays down the beat that is the heart of the tune. And as I bounced around the kitchen doing the odds and ends bit of chores I had to do, I realized Guaraldi had reached through time and put me in a better mood. And I wanted to see a waterfall.

So naturally my thoughts went to this blog and my collection of photos. My photo of Roaring Run is a mainstay of the page and while I haven't yet posted a shot of Falling Spring Falls, I realized that wasn't quite what I was in the mood for either. The two photos above are exactly what the pianist asked for, though.

The first one is a cascade outside a small hunting camp on Big Lick Creek. I was part of a three-man survey crew that surveyed a 3,000 acre camp situated on Lake Moomaw back in March of 2008. The scenery was beautiful and remote. In fact, it was a six mile drive across the property just to reach the cabin. The stream had trout in it, but I was more interested in photos at that point. Waterfalls don't have to be big and steep to be enjoyable and this little cascade is a friendly reminder that even the smaller things in life can be beautiful if you take the time to look a little closer.

But I was also in the mood for a waterfall more dominating and expressive. Hence the second photo taken at Blackwater Falls. I made two trips to the falls that time and this photo is from the second trip after a heavy rain. The first photos just didn't quite work because: 1. It was raining and I wasn't acclimated to the ND400 filter yet; and B. There was something on the filter that I didn't discover until later and it ruined the photo. Incidentally, the discoloration of the water isn't from mud in the water, but rather from the tannic acid that builds up further upstream from all the pine trees that drop their needles into the water.

I mentioned in a previous blog how a photograph could remind me of something seemingly unrelated, but music is an entirely different Muse. I write to music and get inspired by it. As much as it sounded like I maligned Rock and Roll earlier, I find very poignant scenes in those guitars. Believe it or not, I've written entire prologues to Queen's "Princes of the Universe" and a grand finale to metal band Saliva's "Raise Up". Inspiration for me tends to be quite a varied part of my life and there's no telling what form it will come in or where it will take me next.

At times I lead an interesting and, more often than not, amusing life. But as one of my favorite bands, Sister Hazel, writes: " know me, I live and die nearly every day. Insanity is havin' its way with me..."

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I Just Can't Figure Out Wednesdays

Anyone out there ever read anything by Douglas Adams? Specifically the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? If you have, then you know that the meaning of life is 42, The Question is what is 7x9? and that Arthur could never get the hang of Thursdays.

Well, I can't figure out Wednesdays. It's an irritating day in the middle of the week. True, since I only work four days a week, it means my work week is three-fourths over, but it just seems to me as if Wednesdays never quite flow right, as if they're the boulder in the middle of a river that's just hidden beneath the surface and you have to drag your raft over it to pass on. But it's hard to imagine a nicer Wednesday morning than this. I stumbled out of bed after hitting the snooze button too many times, staggered into the shower and then managed to dress myself. I step outside to take the trash down to the road and I'm hit by a blast of cold, clean air. Dew is laying heavily on the world and my morning glories, despite the chill, are wide open for the world to see.

Fall isn't here yet, but it is fast approaching and this morning's forty-five degree temperature outside my door was a perfect harbinger. It was enough to put me in a better mood, wake me up a bit and send me on the way to Subway for a little steak & egg before heading on to the office. Now I can't remember the old superstition for sure about woolly worms, but I think the darker they are in the fall, the harsher the winter will be. I saw one this morning that was pitch black. I'm not looking to skip fall, but I am hoping for some heavy snows this winter.

In honor of fall, I've posted the above picture. I took it about two years ago now toward the end of summer near Seneca Rocks, W.Va. It's a sycamore leaf that's fallen early and as a matter of fact I so elegantly and mysteriously named this image First Fall. It's one of my favorites simply because of how the wet rocks seem so vivid against the pale underside of that leaf. The leaf itself is actually bigger than my hand and I remember thinking of The Land Before Time when a tremendous leaf fell on Littlefoot. Oddly enough, this picture always makes me think of dinosaurs and a time long ago when gigantic creatures like dinosaurs and dragonflies with a six-foot wingspan ruled the earth. It would have been something to see...

Isn't it amazing how a single photograph can make a person think of something that seems so unrelated? I think that that is one of, if not the most important thing, that draws people to photography. With literature, ultimately you have what the writer wants you to read and learn. And while some may argue that it's open to interpretation, I think that the things that can be debated about literature are trifles and that the bigger picture of the overall work is what the author intended and nothing more.

But photography is so easy to relate to on personal level and every photograph can take people somewhere different. Yes, it's a picture of a leaf on some wet river stones. But tell me, where does it take you? What thoughts does it bring to mind? I guarantee you it's different from where I end up. After all, I have the memory of making the image, of actually seeing the size of the leaf and looking up at the mighty sycamore it fell from and hearing it whisper to me of giants of old.

What does it whisper to you?