Tuesday, October 9, 2018

View from the office window:
Photographing elusive cardinal

For a couple months, I've seen a cardinal or two foraging for food or nest-making material on the roof of my sun room as I've looked out the windows while working in an upstairs office.

Of course, each time I saw a cardinal I immediately thought "pictures!" but this colorful bird can see me through the same window I saw him, and the moment he saw movement inside the office -- i.e., me dashing across the room to grab my camera -- he made himself scarce.

The more I saw the cardinal(s), the more I wanted to photograph them. So about two weeks ago, I decided to set up my camera with the appropriate long-range lens and keep it on my desktop at all times unless I was using it out on a shoot. Several days passed without any luck.

It finally paid off early the morning of Oct. 1 -- a few hours before I would leave the house to do the Lake Benson photo shoot (see previous post). The pictures in this post are the result.

Photo geek stuff: I had to make some quick adjustments on the camera's shutter speed and ISO to make things work on my Canon 6D and Tamron 28-300mm Di VC PZD lens set at the maximum focal range (300mm) and an ISO of 4000 (remember, it was very early morning, just a couple hours after dawn). So there is some noise in the images, and at 300mm, and because of that -- and because I had to shoot through a window, I had so-so luck with optimum sharpness.

Monday, October 8, 2018

It's a beautiful day ... at Lake Benson

About the headline ... any baby boomers out there remember the San Francisco band called It's a Beautiful Day? The band's signature tune, released in 1968, was "White Bird." No? (sigh)

When I made my visit to Lake Benson Park on Oct. 1, it was, as the headline conveys, a beautiful day. As mentioned in my previous post, Lake Benson Park is located about 6 miles due east of Lake Wheeler Park in Wake County, N.C. Each has walking trails, boating, fishing, playgrounds and picnicking facilities.

Lake Benson also has the Garner Veterans Memorial, a nicely landscaped collection of stone monuments to military veterans situated near the park's entrance on Buffaloe Road.

Unlike the Lake Wheeler shoot, which I did under heavy overcast skies, I had sunshine and some picturesque cloud patterns at Lake Benson on Oct. 1. Because of the sunshine and the fact that I'd be dealing with glare on the water, I the Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di VC PZD lens (on my Canon 6D camera) with a B+W polarizing filter. I'm sure it had much to do with the rich sky and water colors -- and the detail in the lake surface, including and especially with reflections. The photo leading off this post is a good example of that.

I had thought I'd be shooting most of my full-range lake shots from the main beach and lake access area close to the main pedestrian walk. But there were people sitting on benches there, and rather than disturb their relaxation and/or meditation, I decided to explore a dirt trail I saw heading northwest of the main beach access.

About a quarter- to a half-mile into the trail, I came upon a modest opening in the shoreline brush. The opening wasn't huge, but it was pretty easy to reach ... and plenty wide to enable me to get the lead-off photo. I took two versions of this scene. The first was taken with the lens set at 37 millimeters; for the second, I pulled back to the widest focal range -- 28 millimeters, which enabled me to incorporate more of the shoreline foliage (on the bottom).

As always, to view a larger, sharper image, click on the image. To see a full gallery of my shoot at Lake Benson, click on the link in this sentence.

Photo geek stuff: I took three exposures of every composition to meld later in high-dynamic range (HDR) Photomatix software during post-processing. I set the camera on aperture priority and adjusted my ISO levels in dark conditions to allow for optimum shutter speeds so as not to blur images.

Because of the limited open access to the lake from the trail I was on, I decided to explore the kinds of shots I could get integrating the interfering brush and foliage. Some of my results appear in the next six photos. I probably had more "misses" than "hits," but ... I present them anyway in the spirit of at least trying ...  

One of the park residents spotted me when I took the photo above. I was quite a distance -- at least 40 yards or so, with my lens at maximum focal range (300 millimeters). But that wasn't safe enough for this guy. Within a minute or two, he was in the water with a companion and swimming away from shore (below). 

Above: In this composition, I was interested in seeing how the shallow, rusty-colored soil bottom near the shoreline would appear juxtaposed with the regular depth lake water.  

Before I reached any of the openings where I could shoot decent lake pictures, I came across some photogenic scenes along the trail. Above, the reflection on a small pond near the trail. Below, a viceroy butterfly that had just dropped onto this foliage.

Above, an insect (spider) on the edge of the aluminum rim you see below the bird feeder in the photo below. The second photo below is a closeup of the barn-like structure in the background of the first photo below.  

A portion of the playground area (above) and a long-range view of one of the shelters in the park (below). 

Above and next two photos below are scenes from the Garner Veterans Memorial near the front of the park. 

Sunday, October 7, 2018

A lake, a pond and other things
at Wake County's Lake Wheeler Park

In southern Wake County, N.C., there are two lakes, Wheeler and Benson, that are about 6 miles apart as the crow flies. Three major north-south thoroughfares are between them -- Lake Wheeler Road on the far west (which goes right by the lake of the same name), Fayetteville Road in the middle, and Old Stage Road on the east (although technically Old Stage runs along Lake Benson's western border).

On maps, they look to be almost the same size -- big enough to support recreational boating, fishing, and parks that allow for trails and hiking, playgrounds, and picnicking -- but not anywhere close to the size of, say, Lake Winnebago (which I include for my Wisconsin friends and readers!).

Both lakes happen to be within reasonable traveling distance to where I live, so I decided to visit each recently to indulge some photography -- finally -- after months of putting it off. Ideally, I should have waited until the autumn colors changed, but there's nothing that would prevent me from going back at some point.

I use today's post for the first of the lake parks that I visited recently, Lake Wheeler, the one after which a major road has been named. It has 800 total acres, of which 650 are water.

On the day I was there, Sept. 25, it was overcast the whole time, so I did not use my polarizing filter for any of the shots. I like using the polarizing filter when I do any shooting involving bodies of water because it helps cut through glare and does a beautiful job bringing detail to water reflection and enriching the blue in skies. The reverse would be true when I made it to Lake Benson six days later; it was sunny the whole time, so the polarizing filter came out for that shoot.

I came upon a surprise when I started strolling through Lake Wheeler Park; there is a picturesque 8-acre pond, surrounded by forest, within the grounds. Yes, this is in addition to the lake. The smaller body of water is called Simpkins Pond, which flipped on a light bulb to explain the origin of nearby Simpkins Road that I'd traveled on quite a bit in my 18 months living in North Carolina.

One of my favorite shots of the say came from an opportunity I had to photograph the lake's spillway, a slice of which can be seen in the photo leading off the post. Motorists on Lake Wheeler Road catch a glimpse of the spillway, but a glimpse has never been long enough for me. There isn't really a place to pull off the road there to take it in the way I'd wanted to until the day of this shoot, when I got to this point by foot after parking inside the park.

While I was there, I enjoyed a serendipitous moment when a man navigating a bright red canoe paddled by. A gaggle of geese positioned along the spillway's uppermost crease served as spectators.

A portion of the lake's size is illustrated in the first two photos below. It also underscores the overcast skies I mentioned previously.

As always, click on any photo to pull up a larger, sharper version, which is particularly helpful when accessing the blog from a mobile device. To view a full gallery of images from my shoot at Lake Wheeler, follow the link in this sentence.

The late summer foliage is beginning to make its color transition as evidence by these photos of the lake. The shot below was taken from the end point of a very lengthy pier near the boat launch ramps. So I'm "on" the water, looking back toward the shore.  

I liked the tree's role in framing this couple sitting on a bench along the shore (above). The only motored boat I saw on the water when I was there was this one (below). 

Above is a pedestrian walk leading to a modest overlook along the shore. Below is the paved trail back to the park that one sees while leaving the above overlook.

Above: About 60 yards down the same shore from the couple pictured above were these two geese. The one on the left is keeping an eye on the couple.  

 Above: Another natural framing composition. 

Above: If you've been following Photo Potpourri for a while or checking out full galleries of my shoots via links I drop into my posts, you've noticed how much lately I've been exploring the composition concept of shooting through meshed foregrounds like this for artistic effect. I don't contend that it's a great idea or even suggest that it ought to be done more often or on a regular basis. I just like exploring it ... and seeing what I get from it. 

If there was a real "find" at Lake Wheeler Park, it was Simpkins Pond, the wooded area surrounding it and the creeks intersecting the woods near the eastern portion of the park. Two views of a creek are shown above and below. 

An a smaller, interior body of water, I saw Simpkins Pond in "still waters" mode, as exhibited by the views shown above and below. 

The park has playground (above) and picnic facilities and a sand volleyball court (below) in an open meadow along the access drive (second below). 

Next up: Lake Benson Park

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Methodist, Baptist churches help
round out historic downtown Apex

Much like downtowns in Cary and Garner, the downtown in Apex, N.C,. has a couple of nearby churches that round out its compliment of buildings.

Apex Baptist Church, 110 N. Salem St., is right at the north end of the main business district. One can easily see Anna's Pizzeria kitty-corner from the front door of the church. A couple blocks away, just across the railroad tracks, is Apex United Methodist Church and Noah's Ark Childcare Services, 110 S. Hughes St.

Like a lot of growing churches I'm coming across in my travels in North Carolina, Apex UMC is a mix of old and new structures. The church dates to 1870, and the current sanctuary -- the third in its history -- was built at the corner of Hughes and Chatham streets after land for it was acquired in 1917, according to a history of the church. In the years that followed, more land was purchased and structural additions were built to house a parsonage, a music and education building and a Christian Life Center.

As always, to view a larger, sharper image, click on the image. This is especially helpful when accessing the blog from a mobile device. To see a full gallery of my shoot of Apex United Methodist Churchclick on the link in this sentence.

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Back toward downtown, at Chatham and Salem, is Apex Baptist, where a photographer has to look hard to find angles to photograph the front facade without utility cables getting in the way. I got low to the ground to get the first shot you see below. And for the second photo below, the one straight out in front, I had the lens at the widest angle -- 28 millimeters.

Apex Baptist's grounds are pretty sizable for a church near the core of downtown. All of its buildings are in red brick.

Like Apex UMC, Apex Baptist dates to the 1870s and claims to be the first "permanently established church" in the then-new community, according to a history at its website. The currenet sanctuary was built in 1987, and the brick additions housing the fellowship hall and education center were completed in 2000.

To see a full gallery of my shoot of Apex Baptist Church, follow the link in this sentence.

Photo geek stuff: I handled the entire shoot with my Canon 6D and Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3
Di VC PZD lens. I took three exposures of every composition to meld later in high-dynamic range (HDR) Photomatix software during post-processing. I set the camera shooting mode to aperture priority (f/8.0) and adjusted my ISO levels in dark conditions to allow for optimum shutter speeds so as not to blur images.