Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Balsam Mountain Road

Henry and I make a practice of driving all possible roads when we are in a National Park.  However, sometimes roads are "hidden" and off the beaten path. On our 2008 trip to the Great Smokies we discovered the Balsam Mountain Road.  It is a one way, gravel road and we took our time stopping for photographs and in camera motion shots.

I loved the way the sun was highlighting the yellows in the background, HDR processing helped even out the exposure.

 On our fall trip this year, we went back to Balsam Mountain Road, but even though we were taking it a  couple of days earlier in October than in 2008, the foliage was more advanced. More leaves were on the ground.  Even so, this road is quiet and peaceful.  While we are not the only ones who drive it, we have the road to ourselves most of the drive.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Sunset at Klingman's Dome - Practicing Patience

Discipline is a part of every professional photographer's habit. One of my disciplines is to get myself into position at the right time of day, hoping that the lighting will be "magical."  One evening a couple of years ago, I headed up to Clingman's Dome. The sky was mostly cloudy and not promising. But because my time on location is limited, I put myself into place.

I saw a number of other people in cars, photographers I was assuming. Since it was cold and the sky was uninviting, we were just there, waiting, hoping that as the sun traveled below the horizon, that a slit would open in the clouds.  Truthfully, I wasn't hopeful, but discipline had me out with camera and tripod, just in case.

The time for sunset was past, but there it was, the beginnings of an afterglow, lighting the colors a subtle pink.  All of a sudden the photographers in the cars were leaping out, grabbing their equipment and trying to find their spot.

The color started spreading across the sky.

The colors got brighter and brighter, filling the sky with a beautiful crimson glow.  The sidewalk was filled with photographers trying to capture this magic moment.

As I worked the images later, I put multiple exposures together to try to recreate the beauty of that sunset with the amazing sky color and the beautiful ridges of the Great Smokies.

While I am not always rewarded when I wait out a dull looking sky, it is always peaceful and tranquil to be on location.  And, many times, it is worth practicing patience when the sunset or sunrise exceeds your expectations.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Sunset at Clingmans Dome

A favorite sunset place for photographers in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the summit of Clingman's Dome. Photographers begin to gather and line up to get the "best" spot an hour or more before sunset.  It is the tallest peak in the park, the tallest peak in Tennessee, and the third highest peak east of the Mississippi.  At 6,643 ft on a clear day you can see for 100 miles!  It is a wonderful place to catch the multiple ridges.  When I visit the Great Smokies I try to be there at sunset at least once.  

Each evening will be different depending upon the clouds, the natural haze or air polution.  

This pair was shot the same evening, seconds apart but with different compositions.

I used my new HDR software to create this version to capture the sky, the sun and the ridges.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Musings for a New Year

As I say each year, a new year is a new beginning. A time to reflect on what went well in the past year and what needs to be done better. While any day can be a new beginning, the change from one year to the next is symbolic. The tradition of New Year's Resolutions helps give us the push to work on the things in life that we know we need to do better.

As I reflected back on 2010, my first thought was that I didn't work my plan. My feeling was that I did not accomplish what I had wanted, that as the old year closed, I was not where I had wanted to be. Because I knew that feelings can be deceptive, I knew I needed to look back at my written goals to evaluate 2010. I needed to know whether my feelings reflected the reality of what I had accomplished.

There really are some advantages to writing down your goals, your plan for the year. Writing things gives ideas form and structure. The act of writing helps clarify in your mind what is important. Thinking about the year ahead and visualizing what you want to accomplish gives you goals to work toward. If you don't think, plan, and visualize, you are less focused and you may not live up to your potential and your dreams may not become reality. Planning makes the seemingly impossible become possible.

Evaluating is also very important. Looking at what worked and what didn't gives you insight and wisdom for future planning.

Yes, I am biased. I value myself based upon what I accomplish. While I know there are flaws in that thinking, I think that as humans we are here on earth for a reason. What we do, how we spend our time, what impact we have on the world around us . . . these are very important. Life needs to be lived consciously.

I was pleasantly surprised when I looked back over the goals I set last year. While I was certainly accurate in thinking that I fell short of the mark of what I had dreamed, I had made progress on some of my goals.

Some examples:

Goal: Go through my entire house, organize, throw away, get rid of clutter. I can choose to see all of the things I didn't get done . . . or . . . I can see that on a monthly basis, I had made some small dents - clearing small areas, making small, but noticeable progress.

Goal: Art Shows - I did three shows last year. While they were not stellar successes in terms of sales, they were each valuable learning experiences. The important thing was not how many things I sold, rather the fact that I made the effort. (And, in some cases, I sold more than those around me . . .) Sometimes the action is more important than the immediate results.

An accomplishment that was not specific on my goal list was redoing my web presence at my Mary Ann Melton PhotoShelter site.

The other thing my evaluation showed me was that I spent a lot of time on a project that was not on my written plan at all. While I was not the only one working on the project, the end result is something that benefits many people and the world around me. This was my biggest, most positive effort for the year.

Today's reading from the Artist's Way Every Day - A Year of Creative Living, by Julia Cameron sums it up quite well:

Growth is is an erratic forward movement: two steps forward, one step back. Remember that and be very gentle with yourself . . . Growth occurs in spurts. You will lie dormant sometimes. Do not be discouraged. Think of it as resting . . . Marathon runners suggest you log ten slow miles for every fast one. The same holds true for creativity.