Saturday, October 28, 2017

It's Important To Plan Ahead

On a recent two week trip, I ran into a problem with the memory cards I use in my camera.  The problem was I made too many photos and ran out of cards!  That shouldn't be a problem.  SD cards are available in Target, Walmart, and most any store that sells electronics.  My problem was I was in the town of Munising Michigan.  Munising is a city of fewer than 3,000 people on the southern shore of Lake Superior on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This is the best place to go to see Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.  It's not the best place to find an SD card.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

The best option we found was a Dollar Store that said they had good SD cards.  When we got there we found they were
micro-SD cards for a smartphone.  Low capacity, slow, and expensive.  Then we learned that Munising had something that few other places have -- a Radio Shack store.  Really!  They are not all gone.  We did have a hard time finding this one because it was in the back corner of a local pharmacy. Once we found them I bought the best card they had in the store - a SanDisk 64GB XC I card. Now I'm back in business and heading down the road to the next beautiful photo destination with my new card.

I soon learned why getting the right card for your camera is so important.  My Fuji X-T2 camera makes really large photos really fast.  When I got the camera I did a little research and found the Transcend Ultimate UHS-II SDHC U3 was a good match for my camera.  That's what I have been using since I got the camera.  I now know how important a fast card is.
Shooting Fast on Lake Michigan

The Radio Shack SDXC card has a write speed of 4 MB per second. My Transcend cards have a write speed of 180 MB per second, 45 times faster!  But, what does this mean in the real world?

Most of the time I make five different exposures of the same shot, starting at - 2 EV and going to +2 EV.  When I get home I then either pick the best exposure out of the five or blend some combination of the five together on the PC.  The Fuji camera can make those 5 shots in less than a second and write them to the card in the time it takes me to take a breath.  That is if I have a high-speed card in the camera.  What I found was what appears instantaneous with a high-speed card takes about a minute with the low-speed card.  I would take the five shots then wait a minute while the camera saved those photos to the card.  That's a pretty frustrating experience. 

When shopping for memory cards for your camera I suggest doing a little research first.  Find out what the manufacturer recommends.  Then see if there is any additional information available online. I also found a few good sites with information that helped me decide which cards to buy. 

Camera Memory Speed - Performance Tests for Digital Cameras

Fuji X-T2

Canon DSLRs

All my troubles could have been avoided if I had planned ahead and brought enough memory cards with me.  I've since solved that problem and am ready for the next big adventure.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A Journey's Beginning - West Virginia

“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.”
― Pat Conroy

In the last week of September, we started out on a journey north.  We didn't have a destination as much as we had a path.  Our path took us through Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and back to Kingsport Tennessee.  We had a list of places to stop along the way and enough time to stop at the unexpected roadside scenes. I'm replaying our journey in several blog posts over the next couple of weeks. I'll share photos from our trip and at least one thing I learned along the way.

We used a new app called Roadtrippers to plan this trip.  There is a website and mobile apps to help the traveler find interesting places to see along the way.  You start at a location and add a destination.  You can visually find and add things to the trip along the map creates.  We found several of our planned stops along the 2,428-mile route.  You can see our planned trip here.  We didn't hit all the sites along the way and added some using the mobile app.  The Roadtrippers app is useful for planning a trip and you will definitely find more than you could ever do along the way.  It relies on people providing reviews of the different points of interest and suffers from a lack of reviews.  If it lasts and gets more users/reviews then it can be a very useful tool.

Bush Creek Falls
Our first stop on our first day was an unplanned trip down a narrow winding road to Bush Creek Falls in West Virginia, which June found using the Roadtrippers app.  This was a nice find and we will go back in the spring when there is more water going over the falls.

On our first day out I learned that you can't trust websites that predict fall color.  According to the experts, the West Virginia hillsides should have been ablaze with reds, yellows, and oranges. What we saw was either more green or brown drought-stricken leaves on the ground.  We thought the leaf colors would be past peak as we moved further north but we mostly found only patches of call color.
Above Pipestem Lodge. Photo by June

Above The Bluestone River Gorge
We made a stop at Pipestem State Park and hiked out to a rock outcrop to gaze down into the gorge.  With no fall color, the most interesting photo was of June's hiking pole hanging on an old tree at the edge.

One of the most photographed spots in West Virginia is the Glade Creek Grist Mill at Babcock State Park. The mill sits above some large rock slabs where Glade Creek cascades over to create beautiful waterfalls below the mill.  This year has been dry all over the East and there was very little water flowing just on one side of the rocks.
Glade Creek Grist Mill
Glade Creek

When nature doesn't provide grand waterfalls to photograph, the photographer must look closer to find subjects of interest. Sometimes it might require artistic rearranging of leaves.

While I was climbing around the rocks looking for waterfall photos, June was making beautiful photos of flowers and bees.

Photo by June

Reflections on Boley Lake
Less than a mile upstream from the Mill is a small man-made lake.  We did find a little fall color here.  Thinking we will see a lot of trees with fall colors later on in our trip, I choose to photograph the reflections of the trees instead of the trees themselves.

We also stopped at the New River Bridge and the caught a disappointing sunset when we crossed the Ohio River at Ravenswood, WV.  Ravenswood sits on land once owned by George Washington and the town streets and lots were laid out in their current pattern by descendants of George Washington in 1835. By this time we were running late and needed to get moving along down the road.

The next day we spent several hours exploring Hocking Hills State Park on the way to Michigan to visit our son and daughter-in-law. More about that park in the next installment of our travels.

“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you.
You must travel it by yourself.
It is not far. It is within reach.
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know.
Perhaps it is everywhere - on water and land.”
― Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Finding Art

I had an early appointment in downtown Kingsport this morning and thought about heading up to Bays Mountain to make some photos of fall foliage. The morning skies were clear and bright, which is not great light for landscape photos so I decided to skip the park.  As I was driving through town I came across this massive mountain of ladders on the lawn of the Kingsport Renaissance Center.

I had my camera in the car and couldn't resist stopping.  This massive collection of ladders, all tied together at multiple heights and angles is a community art project called Rise Together Kingsport.  What I found is a sculpture celebrating the combined hopes and dreams that are the community of Kingsport.  It is a project by the City of Kingsport Office of Cultural Arts, the Tennessee Arts Commission and artist Charlie Brouwer. The project provides an opportunity for anyone in the community to participate in creating a sculpture signifying the combined hopes and dreams that depend on, build upon and support each other in Kingsport.  People and organizations came together to loan or donate ladders.  Some were obviously used, others were made just for this purpose.  There were really long extension ladders, step ladders, stools, and even ladders made of cloth and pipe cleaners.

Photographing this sculpture was a little challenging.  First, it is BIG, stretching across the lawn and a couple stories high.  Second, it appears to be very random with no central point to capture a viewers interest.  Photos of the entire web of ladders can show the massive size, but don't give the viewer a point of interest to focus on.

At first, I shot up from what is more or less the center, trying to capture the height.

I also tried playing with the sunlight.  Bright contrasty sunlight is not good for landscape photography but it can help a subject that is made up of high contrast elements.

As I walked around within the sculpture, I found individual pieces of art donated by the community. 

I was talking with one of the ladder donors while I was there.  He showed me the ladder he made, what he called "An Asian Kingsport Ladder". It was made of bamboo grown in Colonial Heights and boards broken by his daughter in her Tae Kwon Do class. He compared it to another bamboo ladder made by a friend that was similar, yet unique pieces of art.

DB HIgh School Art & Design Classes
It is these details that help tell the story behind the sculpture.  In fact, there are many stories from the community hidden in the apparent randomness.  I wonder what the story is behind the ladder made of walking canes or the multi-colored fabric.

Walking Canes Reaching Higher

Community Climbing Ladders
Someone had taken time to create a string of pipe cleaner people that snaked in and through the entire mountain of ladders.

Inspire, Believe, Celebrate!

A Ladder of Colors
As photographers, we are storytellers. Our photos need to help people understand and want to know more about the subject in our photos.  Sometimes we need to get up close to find the stories hidden right in front of us.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

It's Past Time...

As I have done for several years, I will be selling a  2018 Wall Calendar to raise money for Hope Haven Ministries.  Due to some recent travels, I am already behind schedule and will need to work quickly to get the calendars out in time for Christmas.
Will This One Make The Cut?

I still cannot pick the photos to go on the calendar and will rely on you to help me. I am in the process of picking candidate photos to be voted on by you.  I'll let you know when the voting starts. For now, please consider ordering one or more 2018 calendars. I'll be happy to ship calendars again this year.

All the profit will go to Hope Haven Ministries, Christian based homeless shelters in Kingsport.  I'm currently working with the printer to minimize costs and hopefully keep the same low low price of $15 each.