Early Spring Color

I have always thought mid-April was a depressing time in Virginia. Chance of snow has passed. It is not yet time for flowering trees (mountains of Virginia are about three weeks behind Piedmont of NC), It has always seemed to me that there was not much growth other than briar leaves coming out and very low undergrowth in the woods.  

I went out today hoping to catch fiddleheads coming out of the ground (see my 5/12/17 blog). Because of the late Spring, they aren't out. 

I went out to one of my favorite spots and found plenty of color! It just reminds me that when you look closely, there's always something beautiful to find in nature.


Exhibit at Chestnut Creek School of the Arts

If you are in Galax, or would like an excuse to visit Galax, go by the Chestnut Creek School of the Arts. Going on now (through May 4, 2018) is a great exhibit by local photographers. Over 25 artists (included yours-truly) have submitted work for this show.

The show ends with a reception on May 4th from 4:30-6 p.m.

Most of the images are work from the Twin County area (Grayson and Carroll Counties and the City of Galax, VA).

Chestnut Creek School of the Arts is a wonderful asset for Grayson/Carroll/Galax. For over 10 years, the school has been providing instruction in the performing arts and the visual arts. Check it out! 


Digital vs film

It occurred to me that there is one fundamental difference between digital photography and film photography. Granted, the final products from both media can be indistinguishable to the human eye. But there is a deeper, more essential difference.

With digital photography, the light that strikes the sensor of a camera is interpreted by the sensor and the associated computer, which then write that interpretation to a file. Therefore, the image is indirectly produced by light. The processor produces the image - not the light.

With film photography, the light causes a chemical change in the emulsion. That is, the photons cause a physical change at the subatomic level in the chemical structure of the film. This change is then chemically processed and made permanent. When the print is made with silver halide paper, the photons projected through the negative and onto to the printing paper cause a physical change in the emulsion of the paper. Interpretation by the artist is at the macro level - by choosing focus point and exposure among other things.

When considered from this angle, digital photography is more akin to drawing or painting than film photography. With drawing, the light strikes the sensor (the eye) and the processor (the brain) interprets the image and writes output to the hand. The processor is creating the image.  The light is not directly creating the image.

Obviously, more interpretation occurs in drawing and painting than in digital photography. The interpretation occurring in digital photography is enforced by stricter rules. I think this is a matter of degree, however. This idea warrants further consideration.

School Days

Here is a picture of a school bus sitting out in front of Fries School ("Fries is pronounced "freeze", by the way). It's not a high school now, but this is where I went to high school. People used to tell me when I was in school that those would be the best days of my life. While that hasn't proved to be true, they were great days. I have a lot of fond memories from Fries High School and I met some great people there.

I was in high school at a more innocent time, to be sure. I can't say for sure that it was a better time, but it certainly was more innocent. I didn't have a car when I was in high school, so I would start out walking anywhere I went. Usually, someone would stop and pick me up, so I didn't have to walk far. 

Richie Pack and I would eat lunch off campus either at Bud Nichols Store of at the drive-in in Blairtown (I can't remember the name of it). It wasn't a long walk to downtown Fries or Blairtown.

I worked for the school system as a janitor. I would stay after school and clean up the cafeteria. We had a jukebox in the cafeteria, so I can remember playing The Rolling Stones on the jukebox while I worked. I would start out walking after work (and usually get a ride home). I later worked at Providence School. It was closer to home. I would ride the bus to Providence, then Greg Rutherford and I would clean the classrooms and the cafeteria. I would then walk home after work.

Fries has changed since the 70s. But it is still one of the best places I have ever been.

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Most people are familiar with the beautiful fern which is common in Virginia and Carolina. The plants thrive in the lush undergrowth of forests and they like shady, moist areas.

What you may not know about the fern, is what it looks like when it is producing in the spring. The beautiful, lush plant that most of us are familiar with is only part of the life cycle of the fern. They die back in the winter, turning yellow, red, or brown and wilt down to the ground. But in the spring, there sprouts forth from the ground this alien looking little thing. The sprouts are called fiddleheads. They are curled up fronds of the fern plant and they slowly unfurl, over a week or so after they come out of the ground.

The first time I remember seeing fiddleheads was in the late 70s when I was in the woods in front of my parents' house doing a photowalk. I didn't know what these things were coming up out of the ground. When I developed the film and did a print, they reminded me of a group of people talking and yammering at each other.

So enjoy the gallery of fiddlehead pictures, as well as pictures of ferns in their decayed state and at their full growth. I've even included a scan of the negative from the 70s that sparked my original interest.

Most of the below pictures were made in the Fries, VA area. Scroll down to see the full gallery.


There is a place near Fries, VA called Clito. It's along a road, about 3 miles long and a more beautiful place on planet Earth you will not find. My earliest memories are of this place and it draws me to itself every time I am in Virginia!

Elk Creek and Knob Fork Branch run along this gravel road. They are both beautiful and pristine streams. 

Some of my earliest memories are about Clito and I have strong memories from every time of my life tied to this place. I learned about nature and wildlife by observation in this preserve. Feeling the horny heads nibbling at my toes while swimming at the swimming hole, or watching the tadpoles turn into frogs in a mudhole along side the road one spring, or watching the graceful flight of one of the herons who have lived on the creek - these and many more memories and observations come to me as I think about this wonderful place.

You can see a photo of the swimming hole in the gallery below. There's a rock slide that has water flowing over it (photo taken 4/1/17). You must hit a window in the summer to use the rock slide - the water is just too cold to go swimming in before June 1st. But by the middle of June, the water level of the creek has dropped such that the water is no longer flowing over the rock.

So do yourself a favor this summer. Go to this little slice of heaven on Earth. Don't worry, you will get used to the cold water in a few minutes and the horny head nibbles don't hurt. See you at the swimming hole!



Appalachian Mountain Photography Competition

I found out over the weekend that my photograph "Eternal Beauty" won the Flora and Fauna category in the highly-respected 14th annual Appalachian Mountain Photography Competition (AMPC) at the Turchin Center at App State!

It all started back in November when I entered some of my work in this show. Artists entered over 900 works and the AMPC only accepted 48 of the entries.  I received notification that two of my entries were accepted.

Artists submitted their entries online in digital format. Once we received notification of acceptance, we had a little over a month to deliver the framed artwork to the Turchin Center.

The Turchin Center hosted a reception this past weekend (March 25th). AMPC announced the winners at the reception and I was surprised to find my work among the winners.

According to a news release by the AMPC, "A partnership between Appalachian State University Outdoor Programs, the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts, and Virtual Blue Ridge, the AMPC celebrates the unique people, places, and pursuits that distinguish the Southern Appalachians. Attracting entries from across the United States, the Appalachian Mountain Photography Competition has grown into one the region’s most prestigious photography competitions..."

See below for my two works accepted by AMPC for exhibition. "Eternal Beauty" won the Flora and Fauna category and "Brothers" is shown in the Culture category. "Brothers" has also been shown in the Mooresville (NC) Arts Winter Juried Show and at the Virginia Highlands Festival (Abingdon, VA). Or better yet, visit the AMPC site and view the other finalists and winners as well. www.appmtnphotocomp.org


The black dog problem

There's a thing in the pet rescue community called "The Black Dog Problem" or "Black Dog Syndrome". It seems that it is more difficult to place black dogs with new "parents". 

Part of the problem is that it's hard to photograph a black dog. If you take a picture of a black dog in normal daylight, they just look like a black blob. If you take a picture of them indoors with a flash, all you are likely to see is their eyes and teeth. If you don't have a good pic of the dog, it's harder to place them with a family. Read more here http://www.nbcnews.com/id/23472518/ns/health-pet_health/t/black-pups-face-doggie-discrimination/#.WJKeyfkrJPY and here http://www.blackpearldogs.com/

My little buddy Ellie is a black lab. I've learned a lot about photographing black dogs because of her. I've found that a black dog photographs more beautifully under the right conditions than any other color of dog.

The camera sees differently from the human eye. When you look at something, your eye adapts to the amount of light that's available from one part of the scene to the other. The camera can't do that. It takes the scene as a whole and does the best it can. So if a camera is photographing say a black dog in bright sunshine, it adapts to the bright scene and the black dog is underexposed. 

The key is to photograph the black dog against a black or dark background. Then, the camera only has to deal with a limited range of light. Check out these pics of Ellie to see what I'm talking about.

Click on picture below to cycle through some of my favorite pics of Ellie: