Thursday, August 23, 2012


June and I get to spend a good deal of time in the woods, on mountain trails, and beside streams.   We are blessed with an abundance of beautiful wild places within a short drive of our home.   Each time we go out to one of these places we discover something new.  Sometimes it's a great view from high on a mountain top, other times is a quiet place beside a stream.   Occasionally, it's just a new trail that we have not hiked before that is full of new beauty to take in.

Back on July 4 we were hiking in the Smokies in an area of the park we had not been to before.   Along the way we were treated to a cool mountain stream, abundant Rosebay Rhododendrons, overlooks and quiet places.   Something we didn't expect to see was Turks Cap Lilies along the trail.  

That's a  beautiful flower with a beautiful verse from the New Testament.   We could stop there and be blessed with the beauty and encouraging words, but there is more in the verses that follow.

28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. 

We're all guilty of worrying about the material world.  How am I going to get that job or raise?  Can I buy that new car?   How big of a flat screen TV can I fit in the den?  For some the worries are even more basic - Where are my children and I going to sleep tonight or when will we get to a decent meal? 

There are people in our area are more concerned with the basic needs such as food, shelter, and safety.   We don't always see them, but the homeless are with us.  There are many more homeless in the Tri-Cities than most people realize.   God is providing for their needs through a number of organizations that provide food, shelter, safety, and the opportunity to get back on their feet.  One of these is Hope Haven Ministries in Kingsport.   June and I have supported this organization for many years and right now I'm serving on the Board of Directors.   

These organizations rely on support from the community to provide services to the homeless in our region.  You can give through time and service.  You can also support Hope Haven financially by donating online.   

During September I will donate 100% of my profit from the sale of any of my prints at Star Trails Downtown Gallery to Hope Haven Ministry.  Take some time during September to visit the gallery and pick something out.  You will go home with a beautiful print and be Helping The Homeless Help Themselves.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

We Just Think We Have A Plan

The forecast for this past Saturday was for clearing skies and less humidity.  My friend and photographer buddy Jim Rigsby and I decided we were going to head to the mountains to take pictures of the sunrise.  We made plans to meet at 5 AM and drive up to Beauty Spot in Unicoi County TN.  Beauty Spot is one of the high mountain grassy balds similar to Roan Mountain and Max Patch.  At 4,400 feet above sea level we expected to see a great sunrise with some patchy clouds.  By 5 AM we were on the road and executing our plan.

On the way we noticed you could not see any stars in the sky.  A little while later it started to sprinkle, then rain, then we saw lightning ahead.   By the time we hit Johnson City it was raining hard and when we got to Unicoi it was still raining, maybe even harder.   Being outdoor photographers with nothing else to do at 5:30 AM on a Saturday we kept going.  When we started up Unaka Mountain Road it had gotten so foggy it was difficult to see to drive up the single lane dirt road to Beauty Spot.  We arrived to find several people camping and a few others sitting in their cars.  Obviously we weren't the only nuts on a quest for a sunrise this foggy wet Saturday.

We hung out there for a while waiting and wondering what we were going to do.  I had been through there the day before with another photography buddy Harold Ross and knew there was a second bald a little ways up the road called Deep Gap.  I remembered lots of wildflowers along the road and some interesting looking trees in the grassy field.  We decided that we weren't going to see the sun come up and we might be able to find something to shoot up there.

By the time we got to Deep Gap it was light enough to walk around without a flashlight.  It was still very foggy and raining off and on.   These turned out to be the best conditions for photography we could have had!  I think we spent two hours wandering around the bald and along the road taking pictures of trees and flowers in the fog.  The fog gives everything a soft even light with no harsh shadows to deal with.  The color of flowers and green leaves viewed close up were vibrant when compared to the muted colors that faded to white in the distance.

There were Black-Eyed Susans, Pale Touch-Me-Nots, Spiderwort, Tall Ironweed, Goldenrod, and lots of ferns.  It was a pleasant surprise to find so many wildflowers this late in the season.  Harold and I had seen many others along the road the day before.  We decided it was all the rain we have been having for the past 5 weeks that resulted in a bumper crop of summer wildflowers.

At one point the sun broke through the clouds and for the first time we saw that there was a high ridge above us.  With visibility at about 100 yards we had no idea it was there.  We were hoping for some sunbeams shining through fog in the woods but these clearing skies only lasted a few minutes then we were socked in again.

After a couple hours we went on down the Unaka Mountain Road to Red Fork Falls.  We stopped at this great little cascade along the way before getting to the falls.

Foggy overcast days are the best conditions for taking pictures of waterfalls.  Unfortunately, it also results in wet slippery rocks.   We made our way down to Red Fork Falls and then on down a ways further to a couple smaller falls.   The really tall falls are exciting to see but it's the smaller ones that make better photographs.

It took a while to climb down and back out and we were muddy, sweaty, tired and very hungry by the time we got back to the car.  It was time to call it quits and head to Unicoi for burgers.

Saturday didn't work out the way we planned.  We didn't see the sun at all, let alone the sunrise.  What we got was even better than we had planned.  Perhaps God was saying, don't let the rain discourage you.  Go on up the mountain and see what I have in store.  It will be beyond your plans!  That's the way life is.  We think we're in control but in reality we're not.  All it takes is a little rain to derail our best plans.  Sometimes it's something much bigger, discouraging, and more than we can handle on our own.  But, God has a plan and all we have to do is trust and keep heading up the mountain to see what he has in store for us.

Here's a shot of Red Fork Falls from Friday afternoon with Harold. 

I want to thank Harold Ross for taking me up to Red Fork Falls and across Unaka Mountain on Friday and Jim Rigsby for going with me on Saturday.  I had two of my best days in less than 24 hours.

All of these photos are available for purchase in my Unaka Mountain Gallery.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The New Old Stuff

I continue to go back and pick out photos from past years to see how they might look different with new editing tools. It's kind of fun to compare the old versions to the new versions. Here's some old and new comparisions of an old photo of old stuff.
First - this is how the photo came out of the camera with no processing at all. I shoot in RAW format, which means the camera does no processing of the image. By default digital cameras adjust the contrast, color, sharpness and other things before you ever see the image. This image suffered from being shot through dirty window glass which cut down the contrast and details.
Second this is the result of my editing a little over two years ago. Now when I look at this I think BLAH!
Finally, here's what I came up with tonight. I used Nik Color Efex 4 to pull some of the details out and bump up the contrast. I then used Nik Silver Efex 2 to create this black & white with the color of the rusty parts showing through and add a boarder. I'm not a big fan of selective colorization in B&W, but in this case it seemed to work OK. What do you think? Which do you prefer? If you click on one of the images you will be able to flip back and forth to compare. The second image is probably more realistic but the third seems to be more interesting.

"Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." - Ephesians 4:21-24 We are called to be made new and put on a new self. This is an inner throwing off of old ways and becoming more Christ like. Our old bodies may be dressed up to look new or at least more interesting like this old bottle, but it's the inner self that is important. Let's work on the inside.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Welcome to my friends across the pond in Morriston.

While checking the stats on my website I noticed some people have come to my site from The Morriston Camera Club in the UK. Curious I went to their club website and found The Siggins Photography is the website of the month for August 2011! How cool is that! Not sure how they found me but I'm sure glad they like my site and photography.

Morriston is on the west coast of of the UK about 200 miles west of my birthplace in Arrington, Cambridgeshire. Browsing through their member galleries I see that they have some talented members in their club. They live in a great and I'd love to join them to go shooting one day.

So in honor of the Morriston Camera Club here's a photo I've been working on.

This is a HDR photo of Echo Lake on the north side of Franconia Notch in New Hampshire just north of the town of Lincoln taken last fall (thanks to Miles Smith who's memory is better than mine). It was taken before the sun was high enough to light up this lake or the hills around it but the warm sunlight was reflecting off clouds and giving everything a nice warm color. Because the hills were already yellow, orange, and red with fall color it made for a very warm image. I took a lot of shots similar to this one and never liked any of them. I just could not get the image to look natural or anything like what it really looked like.

I recently upgraded my HDR Efex Pro software from Nik Software to version 2. It is a much more powerful tool than version 1 and can create a more natural finished image. I decided to try it out on one of my problem photos from the past and this was the one I picked to try.

I am much happier with this version than any other I was able to come up with last year.

I am a big fan of all the Nik software and really like the new HDR Efex Pro 2. I encourage you to check it out.

I have uploaded this photo to my website and it is available for purchase. Just click here.