Tuesday, January 23, 2018

A N.C. country church and graveyard

If there is one thing not lacking in either North or South Carolina, it is churches.

On our East Coast trip in to Myrtle Beach in 2016, we made a point to travel the two-lane highways instead of the interstates, just so we could capture the flavor of those states' countryside. It seemed as if we came upon a church every other mile or so along the way.

At the time, I told myself I would start photographing some churches I'd come upon when I got a chance, even though at the time, my trips through the Carolinas were merely as a vacationer. That situation changed in July, and even though I've come across scores of churches since the move, I hadn't followed through on that photo idea.

Then yesterday, I was out for a walk, and a mile or so from my home, I came across South Raleigh Bible Church and its graveyard, something I'd passed in the car scores of times in my commuting over the past six months. I didn't have my DSLR with me, but I did have my iPhone X, so I paused my walk to take these photos.

Most of the photos you see here is self-explanatory. The church window you see in the second photo below struck me as unusual. I couldn't tell if that was painted glass or a colored board. I hope the former. One thing that jumped out at me -- as a church graveyard, I expected many of the monuments would represent people who had passed many years ago. While there were a few of those, there also were several who were interred there recently. I found at least one who was buried in 2014, and another in 2010, for example. 

The third photo down is the backside of the church, a play around and outdoor pavilion.

Another round of white stuff ... in N.C.

Just 13 days after our first snow of the year -- a "dusting" of an inch and a half -- the Raleigh area of  North Carolina saw a much larger snowfall last week -- 5 inches. People in these parts say that doesn't happen very often.

Five inches of snow wasn't considered too dramatic in Indiana, where I had lived for 39+ years before coming to North Carolina in July. But to illustrate how unusual it is here, consider that all of the local television stations pre-empted network programming the whole day last Wednesday to report non-stop (except for commercial breaks) on the weather -- road conditions, accidents, accumulation, the forecast, etc. The snow started Wednesday and continued most of the day.

I grabbed my iPhone and DSLR cameras at three points to go out and record the event. The first was in the morning, when I shot with the iPhone. A few hours later, when about 2 inches was on the ground, I took my Canon 6D and Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L lens, mounted on a tripod, and circled our property to get the snowfall in action.

The sunny morning after, Thursday, I was out again -- this time with the 6D and Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di PZD VC lens equipped with a polarizing filter. The filter, I thought, would help me avoid glare and add detail to the sunny, bright snow on the landscapes I would capture.

I started on Thursday with scenes that appealed to me on our own property; the photo leading off the post is one of those. But I ventured out into and throughout the neighborhood as well. As always, to view a larger and sharper version of an image, just click on the image. This is particularly helpful if you access the blog from a mobile device. To view a full gallery of images from this shoot, simply click on the link in this sentence.

Looking out toward the neighborhood (above) from near the bottom of my driveway, you couldn't find the street. Trees blocked sunshine from doing any serious melt yet. But farther up the street, there was plenty of pavement visible (below) ... and a tapestry left behind.

Above: The neighborhood is blessed with lots of mature, tall trees. Looking up into one of them, I came across this nest that stands out in contrast to the snow stuck to branches in front of the blue skies.

Above and next three below: The different volumes of snow sticking to the branches of the array of trees made for fascinating compositions. In some cases, I was fortunate to capture details of snow being blown off the branches when short gusts came through, such as in the first and second below. In the first, you can spot the spraying flakes against the blue sky. In the second, a strong gust created a billow of snow as it dropped to the ground.  

A well and bridge helped made the composition (above) worth doing. The well and small evergreen -- with the owners' house in the background -- are seen below from a different angle. 

Above: This way out, but the thoroughfare behind the sign wasn't in the greatest shape to traverse.

Above: To do this shadow composition, I struggled to keep my own shadow from getting into the picture.

Above: A multi-tree (and shrub) frame of this house's entryway.

Above: An obligatory closeup ... 

I thought the shot above helped illustrate the height of the trees. The leafless deciduous trees below collected more snow than the tall conifers, making them a striking post-storm spectacle.  

Above and below: A couple of framing endeavors using the same home's front door as the subject.

Above: I can't say for the sure the weight of the snow bent this evergreen out of shape (I don't think so), but ... it caught my eye, and that's all that mattered to me at the time.

Above: Tire tracks on a different section of the street where the melting had just started. 

Above: A flash of color other that white or blue.

Above: For this image pointing only marginally away from the sun, in addition to the original color, I experimented with the "vivid" choice of monochrome conversion on my Photoshop Elements 15 software. I'm not sure it works, but ... I tried. If you look closely at the sky, you can see more flying flakes floating by. 

Above: Going for the tree shadow lines here ... 

Above: This bird of prey hovered as I walked home. I took a dozen or so hurried shots (darn bird wouldn't sit still for me), and this was the only one in focus. I included the few branches on the left to offer some perspective.

Above: A mailbox and ornamentation. 

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Pics from the office window ... Episode 1

The room where my desktop computer is located, and where I work when I process my photos from various shoots, is on the upper level of the house and faces the backyard.

Immediately next to the four office windows overlooking the yard is the slanted roof over the sunroom. The roofs blocks my view of any yard immediately adjacent to the house, but I can see some of the rear yard and all of the wooded area beyond the property line. I also can see our detached garage, and the next-door neighbor's backyard.

Four days ago, while I was working on the computer, a cardinal stopped on the aforementioned roof -- about 10 feet from where I was sitting. I scrambled to get my camera and attach a lens with a long focal range (I chose the Canon 20-700mm f/2.8L). By the time I got back to the desk chair to shoot, the cardinal had disappeared.

I decided to keep the camera ready nearby in case the cardinal returned. It hasn't come back while I've been here, but a thought occurred to me two days ago while I was composing the post about the snow pictures. I happened to look over to my neighbor's backyard and the saw the chair on the hill as shown in the photo leading off the post. I liked its framing by the tree on the left and the neighbor's shed on the right.

The camera was still equipped with the 70-200mm lens, so I grabbed it and took the picture. Then I noticed snow formations on the roof ... and a striking shadow of a tree against the garage roof. And I started firing some more shots. I came back to the original shot -- the neighbor's chair -- and changed the orientation to vertical and focused on the lone leaf remaining on the tree in the foreground.

I got the idea to come back to this idea from time to time -- finding things of interest while looking through the office window --- presuming I won't run out of ideas ... or won't quickly become repetitive. We'll see.

All of the shots in today's post were taken with my Canon 6D and the aforementioned 70-200mm lens. I bracketed exposures for processing images through Photomatix high-dynamic range (HDR) software.

Above: A large sack of garden soil left out in the yard that I used as a marker last month. I'm going to have to remember to drag it into the garage at some point soon.

Above and next five below: Various slices of the sunroom roof and sunlight windows in various snow cover or reflection. The first shot below was intended as an exercise in exploiting depth of field.

The angular shadow of a tree on the side and roof of the detached garage (above), and a second frame to compose just the roof portion below. 

Above: Back to the direction of the original composition (the neighbor's backyard chair this time in the background), changing the orientation to vertical and focusing on the orange leaf from a deciduous tree stuck in the conifer in the foreground.  

Friday, January 5, 2018

A sunrise to toast first NC snowfall photos

One of the reasons I moved to North Carolina last summer was the allure of a slightly warmer climate than what I had experienced for almost 40 years in Indianapolis.

In Indiana, winters were not nearly as long as and/or brutal as those I remember when living in Wisconsin and, briefly, Iowa. There were about a half-dozen winters in Indy when snowfall for the season was what I would term "negligible," although Indy always got its fair share of cold temperatures. I think there was only one winter in all my years there when the lowest temperature failed to hit single digits.

Lee Ann and I both knew North Carolina and parts south of us weren't impervious to all winter weather; in fact, I'd already told myself I'd have no problem being reminded of the change of seasons from time to time. We just were counting on seeing a lot less of it ... and certainly not so soon after moving here.

So you can imagine my dismay when, in the very first winter in North Carolina, have we not only experienced low temperatures in the teens on several occasions (tonight it's possible the thermometer could even dip below 10 degrees), but the other day, we also experienced our first snowfall. Fortunately, it was nothing to lose any sleep over.

You may have heard or read about the so-called weather "bomb cyclone" that crushed the East Coast yesterday, particularly those people living on the northern end of it. The system hit North Carolina on its way north, and we were on the far western fringe of it. We received only an inch and half of snow, and it all came after dark Wednesday evening. I made a point to grab my iPhone before walking out to retrieve my newspaper Thursday morning so I could record anything picturesque.

It was picturesque, indeed ... and cold. I wasn't dressed with many layers to deliberate much with my compositions, so I snapped as many shots as I could as quickly as I could while circling the house to record our first-ever snowfall in North Carolina.

Just after I started, I was treated to the orange and yellow burst of rays from the rising sun slipping through trees in the yards of neighbors across the street, so I worked to integrate the sun into my compositions. The image leading off the post was taken from my driveway looking across the street. I liked the way the rays fall on and color the snow-covered pavement.

When I got back into the house and noticed that the majority of pictures were quite dark (again, it was just before and after sunrise), a thought occurred to me. I remembered that my version of Photomatix -- software that melds up to three different exposures of the same composition to form a singular, high-dynamic range (HDR) image -- allows me to make copies of a single image then designate exposures of two of three images to be adjusted as if they had been shot at various increments (of my choosing). Essentially, it's an artificial way to meld three "different" exposures of the same composition if you only have one exposure to work with.

I had never used Photomatix to do that with a full shoot before because I normally use my digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera when I compose extensive landscape photos. I prefer to make my own multiple exposures at the point of shoot. I delved into this feature of the software for the first time Thursday morning with my single-frame iPhone X shots of the snowfall, and the images you see in this post are the result.

I did very little other editing of the photos; I boosted all of the "green" color saturations in each image (Photomatix allows users to adjust the strength of various colors at the end of processing), and I occasionally increased lighting (but only slightly), but that's about it. Photomatix did the rest.

Above and below: The same neighbor's house taken from different angles. Above, you can spot the colored burst of sun rays behind the home. Moving down the road a bit, there's nothing blocking the sun anymore, not even the trees. 

 Above and below are two slightly different angles of my street, looking up a hill.

Above: Sun rays hit the top portion of the trunk of this tree in my backyard.

Elsewhere in my backyard, my big-people swing looks chillingly isolated (above). The fence you see in the background above is pictured below at much closer range. If you look closely at the left side of the fence in the image below, you can catch spots of orange sun rays bouncing against it.  

Shots integrating the sun or its rays, or the sun's reflections and shadows on the snow were my favorites in the shoot from Wednesday morning. Above, you can see the sun peeking thinly through a couple trees, casting the tapestry of lines, brightness, color and shadows on the driveway. A closeup of the driveway appears below.  

Above: A spot of light and color splashing the midsection of a house front.