Thursday, November 9, 2017

Yates Mill Pond: A visit proving to be serene, memorable ... and picturesque

On Oct. 25, I took a short drive from home to Yates Mill Pond, a 174-acre park in Wake County, N.C., which operates as a wildlife refuge developed around a fully restored 18th-century grist mill and -- as the park's name suggests -- a 20-acre lake.

The water-powered grist mill is the only remaining one left in the county, which is home to North Carolina's capital city, Raleigh, the state's second largest city (behind only Charlotte).

Raleigh is Wake County's only city, but the county of 857 square miles is home to several incorporated towns -- Cary, Apex, Holly Springs, Garner, Fuquay-Varina, Zebulon, Wendell, Knightdale, Rolesville and most of Morrisville and Wake Forest.

Despite all of that urban development, there are plenty of open, rural/rustic areas -- and county parks, not to mention one state park and portions of two others (I had visited, William B. Umstead State Park -- the one wholly inside Wake County -- in December 2014 and did a post about my shoot there in this blog).

Yates is the third county park I've visited; I didn't do any photography during previous stops (both short) at Lake Wheeler and Lake Benson parks, but those are on my list. They, too, are relatively short trips from my home.

I've mentioned the grist mill and lake at Yates Mill, but not the water falls, which doesn't get a lot of mention in official writeups of the attraction. The falls, positioned alongside the mill, is the most fascinating of the park's features. One view of the falls is depicted in the photo leading off the post.

As usual, click on any photo to pull up a larger, sharper version. This is particularly helpful when accessing the blog while using a mobile device. A full gallery of images from my shoot there Oct. 25 can be found at my site at

Photo geek stuff: I shot photos during my visit with my Canon 6D equipped with a Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di PZD VC lens. The lens was capped with a B+W polarizing filter. I bracketed all compositions for three exposures to allow me options to use single frames or meld all three exposures into a single shot using Photomatix high-dynamic (HDR) software in post-processing. I used a mixture of single-frame and HDR photos for this post.

Above and below are a couple shots (there will be others in this post) where bracketing my exposures and processing them through Photomatix software saved the pictures because of the back-lighting I was battling. I visited the park in the early afternoon -- not ideal by any means -- for dramatic landscape images -- but on this day, it was a necessity because of time management that day. The wall you see above, which flanks a path descending to the falls area (see pictures below), came out dark in all three of the exposures, showing a hint of detail in the +2 version. That hint of detail in the +2 image (along with a little help with the shadow slider in Photoshop Elements) catapulted me to recover the detail you see above. Same situation with the "front" side of the mill below. It was almost all dark on the individual images except for a hint of detail in the +2 exposure. Again, the melding and shadow slider boost in PE enabled me to get to this. 

Above: This is a single-frame shot of a building near the mill. I was pretty pleased with it, although it helped that the sun lighting angle was ideal in this case.

The grist mill (above) from the side of the power-generating wheel and waterfall. Next three shots below are various looks and/or detail cuts of the waterfall, followed by a shot of the mill from the trail that circles the lake.

Above: On the path leading to the mill from the parking lot, you come across these antique turbines. I recalled seeing similar implements at the grist mill that is a hallmark feature at Indiana's town of Metamora.

Above: A look at the lake, or pond, from the start of the circular trail not far from the mill. On Oct. 25, you were seeing only a hint of leaves changing color at Yates Mill.  

Above: I can't say I've ever seen a waterfowl feeding station in water like this before. Could be because I haven't been to enough wildlife preserves. But I liked the reflection it gave me for this composition. 

Above: At just about the halfway point around the lake along the circular trail, one comes across this structure, identified by signage as an instruction center. I'm guessing guests (many of which might be schoolchildren) who take tours of the grounds stop here for a short spell to learn things from their tour guides. I would not have been able to pick up the detail -- and color -- in the roof that you see here without processing it in HDR software. A couple other angles of this building can be found in the full gallery. 

Above: I photographed this long pedestrian bridge -- from which visitors can start their trip around the lake (I chose the opposite the direction, ending the trip at the bridge) -- from several perspectives, all of which you can see in the full gallery. I present this one in the post, taken through brush along the lake on the circular trail opposite the bridge, because of its (attempted?) artsy effect. 

I suppose the highlights of my shoot can be found in the photos above and next two below, where having the reach of a 300mm lens enabled me to get close enough to photograph the blue heron and turtle sharing space on a branch (above), a swan (and its reflection) appearing to guard its nest (first below) and a different log on which three turtles were resting (second below). I shared info on where to find the heron and swan with two women I met on the trail right after I photographed them (but before I got to the log shown in the third photo below). In return, they told me about the turtles log ... and said the log at one point had been loaded with turtles until another individual came by, made a noise and scared them all away. By the time I got there (quietly so), three of the turtles had climbed back on.  

Above: I'm about three-quarters around the lake at this point. You can see a small bit of the mill on the far right ... and some of the tree reflections in the lake. 

This tree, which I came across while crossing the wooden pedestrian bridge, jumped out at me. 

Above: I photographed the park's modest amphitheater from several angles (all of which you can find in the gallery), including several showing the whole facility. I liked this the best because you get a neat grouping of trees in the background with a slice of amphitheater seating.

Above: If you start the trail from the start of the pedestrian bridge not far from the parking lot and amphitheater, you began with this view of the park. Again, I encircled the lake from the opposite direction, and came upon this by turning around at the end of my journey. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Autumn in North Carolina:
Finding the colors resplendent
without even leaving the yard

Since the beginning of October, I'd been looking forward to doing my first autumn colors shoot since moving to North Carolina.

I knew that the change of colors here starts later than it does north of the Mason-Dixon line. My experience in my years in Indiana was that the prime autumn colors there usually displayed themselves by mid-October.

On Oct. 25, I roamed Yates Mill Pond Park not far from my home in North Carolina, and there was only a hint of color changing going on there. (A post on that shoot is forth-coming). Then just the other day, while tackling a deck project behind the house, I stopped to catch my breath and noticed so many colored leaves right in front of me.

I figured it was time for a break anyway, so I ran into the house, grabbed my camera, put on my Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L lens and hurried back outside to start shooting. When I started, it was heavily overcast, but I still bracketed my shots to allow for three different exposures of each composition so I'd have some options during post-processing.

For a few years now, I've reduced the number of autumn shoots I do because I got to thinking that they are all looking the same. Well, perhaps I needed to change my locale more often. On Nov. 6, on my own property, I kept finding new things to compose. I think it helps to look everywhere, including (and this might seem obvious, but I get a feeling some shooters forget) looking up and down. The collection of images below should reflect some examples of doing both.

As always, click on any image to view a larger, sharper version. This is particularly helpful when accessing the blog while using a mobile device. To view a gallery of all my shots from Nov. 6, click on the link in this sentence.

Photo geek stuff: All shots were taken with my Canon 6D camera equipped with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L lens. Each composition was bracketed for three exposures to allow for possible processing through Photomatix high-dynamic range (HDR) software in post-processing. As it turned out, all images in this post reflect HDR processing.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Return trips to Duplin Winery and Wrightsville Beach ... with a giant frying pan thrown in for good measure

Even before moving to North Carolina this summer, Lee Ann and I were acquainted with Duplin Winery in Rose Hill, which sits almost halfway between both Raleigh and Wilmington.

We'd stopped there a couple years ago en route to Cary from Wrightsville Beach (which is near Wilmington) and enjoyed our visit. We also visited Duplin's sister location in South Myrtle Beach, S.C., earlier this year during out East Coast trip that included stops in Savannah, Charleston and the Myrtle Beach area. And we've bought Duplin wines from the shelves of local grocery stores.

Duplin is North Carolina's oldest winery, dating to 1976. It is known for its expansive selection of sweet wines, a good number of which are distributed to retail outlets in the state and a few adjacent states. T
he original site in Rose Hill also has a bistro that serves food during lunch hours.

For  several months, we promised each other we'd pull away for a short trip (a two-hour drive) to the ocean with a stop at Duplin in between, but the arduous task of unpacking compounded by necessary return trips to Indianapolis to tidy up loose ends on the move there, not even one trip ever happened.

But on Oct. 24, shortly after returning from our most recent trip to Indy, we decided to do the day trip to the ocean. We stopped at the winery on the way, joined the winery's Heritage Club while there, then proceeded further south to Wrightsville Beach before returning home at dusk.

We tasted 12 wines at Duplin, only one or two of which we remembered from our tasting there two years ago. The winery is also festooned for the holidays (and I don't mean Thanksgiving -- see photos at left and below), and tickets to the dozen or so performances of its annual Country Christmas Revue, which begin next weekend, were nearly sold out already.

One of the wines available in the first batch of wines we received with our membership was called "Forty," a limited-edition white sweet wine produced to mark the winery's 40th anniversary -- and priced at $40 a bottle. It is undoubtedly one of the best sweet whites I've ever had; we each had a glass of it, which came free as another perk of our membership (members get one free glass with each visit). Those are our glass of "Forty" you see in the photo leading off the post. Below is a photo of the main area with tasting bar. This is where club members meet for the quarterly wine-release pickups, we're told.

While in Rose Hill, which boasts on its roadside welcome signs that it is home to the largest frying pan in the world, we pulled off the highway to briefly check out the frying pan. It was mostly covered under a pavilion in a town park, apparently exposed only during special community celebrations. That's the pavilion in the first photo below, and a closeup of the "frying pan" (the handle is closest to the camera) in the second photo below.

I had been eager to return to the Fish House Grill in Wrightsville Beach, where a couple years ago I enjoyed what I considered the best fish and chips meal I've ever had. You can imagine our disappointment when we got to Fish House and looked through the menu only to find that the fish and chips was no longer there.

We asked our server about it, and he said it had been removed in June. He said the meal was very popular, "but it wasn't cost-effective."

Lee Ann and I talked about what that could possibly mean, and the only thing we could think of was that the price of the wonderful fish they used had gone up and they couldn't justify passing along the cost increase to customers. I ended up getting a blackened mahi mahi, but it wasn't the same.

Because we so enjoyed the trip to Duplin, we made another visit there on Nov. 2, this time to dine at the bistro. The bistro's special of the day was a fried pork chop, which I've never had before. So I was game. Unfortunately, it was not as good as I had hoped it would be.

All of the photos in this post were taken with my iPhone 6s Plus.

Above: A portion of the seating area at Duplin's bistro.

Above: My fried pork chip, served with sliced zucchini and squash and rice topped with gravy.  

Above: Lee Ann's pulled pork topped with coleslaw and served with french fries.

At the Fish House Grill in Wrightsville Beach, we started with some fried calamari (above). My entree, the blackened mahi mahi, is below. Lee Ann's order of crab cakes is second below.

Above: The Fish House is along the intracoastal waterway, and on this day, the blue table umbrellas (which protect against seagulls diving in to grab food from your table) made for a pattern composition, I thought.

Above and below: Shots from Wrightsville Beach.