Archive for the ‘digital photography’ tag
The first morning in the Smokies we hiked the Alum Cave trail. We got to the trailhead at what we thought was a fairly early hour… at about 8:30am (after a leisurely camp breakfast of hot coffee and cold pastries) and the parking area at the trailhead was already completely full. Completely. We ended up parking about 20 yards away from the parking area at the side of the road, along with the rest of the spillover vehicles.
Granted, a lot of the cars were covered in a thick coat of frost, and had obviously been there overnight. Those folks had undoubtedly started out the previous day for Mount LeConte, which is about a two-day roundtrip hike, with an overnight at up at the top. (There are actually a few primitive cabins at the top of Mount LeConte that you can reserve for overnight trips.)
We have been on this trail before, the first time that we went to the Smokies. That first time, it was a little later in the year and was already cool enough and snowy enough that as we got into the higher elevations on the trail, we made little snowmen and left them at the sides of the trail. There was snow on the trail again this year, but not nearly as much.
The first mile-and-a-half or so of the trail is through pretty thick forest along a good-sized stream. After you pass through Arch Rock, you start to go up in elevation a lot faster, and soon break out of the forest and into some pretty spectacular scenery and mountain views.
On the way down, we encountered a couple with some small kids at Arch Rock, who wanted to know if that “was it”… if they had reached Alum Cave. They were slightly disheartened to be informed that Alum Cave was still a couple of miles away.
Alum Cave isn’t really a cave, so much as it is a bluff… a huge, deep overhang on the trail where the Confederate army mined alum and saltpeter for gunpowder during the Civil War.
If you stay on the trail past Alum Cave, you will continue on several miles further to the Rainbow Falls Trail, and on a little further to the top of Mount LeConte.
It is a beautiful trail in the fall, with the spectacular vistas and the gorgeous leaf color.
The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is a favorite of John and myself. Not least because it is the most easily accessible from Dayton, OH, requiring only (only!) a 6-7 hour drive instead of a day long marathon involving driving, flights, and airport layovers (or a really really long drive).
We have been to the Smokies a couple of times, and always at the tail end of the season, around Halloween, when the park is quieter and there is already snow up at the top on Clingman’s Dome.
This year, I had just made campground reservations for our trip when the government shutdown happened and a whole lot of stuff, including the national parks closed for business. Really closed – as in even the park websites were shut down and off line. We had just started to discuss possible alternate vacation plans (Hocking Hills State Park? Part of the historic bourbon trail down in Kentucky?) when the government reopened, allowing up to take our vacation as planned.
About 1.5 hours into our drive down we hit car troubles… heading down 75 we heard a sudden klunk! and then the engine noise got about 10X louder. Some part of the exhaust system had dropped out. We were obviously still able to drive just fine… but the car was temporarily a rolling noise and environmental violation, and I cringed a little every time we got in it and started it up. (Note: the car is now fixed.)
Driving in to the park through Pigeon Forge And Gatlinburg is always … interesting. Mostly because of the extreme tackiness and hokeyness of just about everything. There is a “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not” something on just about every corner in Gatlinburg. John and I call this Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg stretch the Honkey Tonk Vegas or Redneck Vegas. It is Vegas without the desert and without the veneer of respectability. It does have shows, though, if you want to think of something like “Lumberjack Fued” as a show.
As soon as we got to the campground and checked in, we did what we have always done – headed up top. To Newfound Gap and Clingman’s Dome to see the views and maybe catch the sunset. (According to the ranger who checked us in at the campground, the last stretch of road up to the top had been closed that morning because of overnight accumulations of ice and snow)
We have never seen it as crowded up at the top as it was then. Never. We made our way up to the parking area near the top at idling speed and were seriously worried for a little bit that we would not be able to find a spot to park, it was that bad. Either there were a lot of people at the park that weekend taking vacations that had been delayed by the shutdown (a possibility) or there were a lot of people there in whom the shutdown sparked a desire to show their patriotism by visiting a national park (also a possibility). Either way. More people then we have ever seen at the park at the tail end of the fall season.
Up at the top, there is a 1/2 mile trail to a fire tower, where the views are even more impressive. This is probably one of the toughest trails in the park, especially if you have just gotten out of the car after a 6+ hour drive. It may be short, but it is very steep. Hard on your knees, ankles, and just about everything else, especially when the trail is slick with packed snow and some ice. We started on the trail just in time to stand aside so that an ambulance from the Cherokee Nation (other side of the mountains) could come down the trail. Near the top, we found a ranger who was warning people off to the side of the path because of a large patch of black ice that spread several yards down the center of the path. (We guessed that the ambulance had been there, and the ranger was there, because someone had fallen and hurt themselves on the ice.)
In years past, we have had to physically drag ourselves up the ramp, hand-over-hand on the railing, because the ramp was so covered with ice. It wasn’t as bad as that this year, but the trees and other vegetation around the tower had a several-inches-thick coating of packed on snow.
It goes without saying that it was cold up there. I had on a sweater, a fleece over that, a neoprene coat over the fleece, a knit hat, and a scarf, and was still a bit chilly. The wind up at the top never stops blowing, and it just cuts right through you.
By the time we were done with Clingman’s Dome, Newfound Gap, had done some grocery shopping for camp breakfasts and trail lunches, had had dinner, and were (finally) returning to camp it was after dark. We set up the tent by flashlight. Fortunately it was just the small backpacking tent (the old, green, Coleman boyscout tent having gone to the campground in the sky after Pennsic) so it went up pretty quickly and easily.
A couple of weeks ago (actually the Saturday before last) I had the opportunity to do a real photoshoot. With an actual trained model and everything.
Sarah, who is way more socially connected and networked then I will ever be, knows Tracy McElfresh, who is a local seamstress who custom makes vintage-inspired dresses, introduced the two of us and basically set everything up. The whole purpose of the shoot was to catalog some of Tracy’s new dresses and new designs. (Sarah wrote about observing the shoot in her blog)
We all met up – Sarah and I, Tracy, and Mandalynn (the model) – at The Clash, which is a consignment store/art gallery in downtown Dayton. The shoot itself took place on the sidewalks and in the alleys surrounding the store.
It was my first time working with an actual model (previously when shooting people my style has been along the lines of “just keep doing what you are doing and pretend that I am not even here”) and I was relieved that she pretty much knew what to do, and that I didn’t need to give her a lot of direction as to how to move and pose.
Basically, the whole thing was a lot of fun and I took a lot of photos (most of which turned out really well). Hopefully I will get to do something like this again sometime.
(Shameless commerce plug – you should go to Tracy’s shop and order something. She does really good work. I am planning on getting her to make me something, I just have to decide what!)
About this time a week ago, John and I were on the very last leg of a backpacking vacation in Yellowstone and the Tetons with my parents. We were on day number six of a six day and five night trek around the Tetons. At that time, I was looking forward to nothing more then my first shower in a week.
(The Yellowstone portion of the vacation was a couple of days of “normal” camping and hiking while my Dad got acclimated to the change in altitude.)
When I saw we hiked around the Tetons, I mean that quite literally. We hiked around Grand Teton, Middle Teton, and South Teton.
My parents really enjoy backpacking, and have been going to backpacking trips at least once a year for quite a few years now. So sometime last year I hit upon the brilliant idea that I wanted to try it out. I wanted to see what my parents enjoyed so much about it, and also I wanted to have a chance to share a vacation with them, doing something that they love. So I proposed a backpacking vacation with them.
We started making plans, and John and got the equipment we needed and we started training for it by hiking longer and longer distances with weights (we used lot of 1 liter water bottles) in our frame packs. And I felt ready. There were some things that I felt a bit nervous about, sure, but in general I felt ready.
It turned out that I was not ready.
My parents are machines. John and I were struggling to keep up most of the time. (I can only hope that I am still as active and in share as my parents are when I am their age.)
I learned a lot about myself on the trip. I learned that while I will always enjoy car camping and day hiking in national parks (which I was introduced to by my parents over the course of many many family vacations while I was growing up), backpacking (other then maybe short, overnight trips) will never really be my thing. I like indoor plumbing a lot and I don’t like going for too long without showering or washing my hair. None of these are bad things, but I still kind of wished that I could enjoy the backpacking as much as, and in the same was, as my parents do.
And there were certainly things that I enjoyed.
We saw a lot of wildlife. There was a new beautiful vista around each bend in the trail. It was incredibly peaceful. The weather was gorgeous. I took over 1000 photos, and have (after a week) finally gotten them processed and posted them (not all of them, but a lot of them) on flickr. The Yellowstone photos are here. The Teton backpacking photos are here.
All in all, it was certainly a trip of a lifetime. I am glad that I did it. And my parents are right, there is a feeling of accomplishment and there are certain bragging rights that you get when you complete a trip like this one was.
So thanks. Thanks to John for indulging me, and thanks to my parents for both indulging me and for helping to make everything possible. I sure couldn’t have done any of it without all of you, and I really appreciated it.
Next family vacation, lets all go someplace warm where we can go snorkeling.
Almost a month ago exactly, my youngest brother Kevin and his longtime girlfriend/fiance Christine got married.
They live in Aliso Viejo, CA, so John and I flew out for a long weekend for the event. We stayed at Dana Point, on the marina, and the ceremony itself was just a little way up the coast, at a very lovely location overlooking the ocean in Laguna Beach. It was very overcast on the day of the wedding, right up to about a half-hour before the ceremony, when the clouds all blew out to sea and the bright, bright sun came out.
As an interesting aside, John and I had spent the morning tramping around the Dana Point beach and marina, and hadn’t bothered much with sunblock since it was overcast out. Turns out that you can sunburn just fine through clouds, and we were unfortunately pretty red by the time it came to shower and dress for the wedding.
Initially Kevin had asked me to be their official photographer for the wedding. I spent about a week hemming and hawing over the prospect, before demurring. I just don’t have the same level of equipment that a professional would have, and knew that I would feel terrible if I missed an important shot. When I got o the ceremony location, I was glad of my decision…it was a beautiful spot, but the sun was so bright and harsh that photography was a little bit difficult, and I hadn’t brought any external flashes to provide any fill light to balance out the bright (backlighting) sun.
As a result, I didn’t feel like I took a lot of photos, and I put off downloading and working with them for a while, because I was afraid that the few photos that I had taken would not have turned out very well.
It turns out that one person’s famine is another person’s feast, and the “not a lot” of photos that I took turned out to actually be well over 400 shots. Gotta love digital photography. I remember well the days of film, when you had a couple of rolls of 26 (or 24) exposures, and by golly, you hoarded those exposures and tried to make every one of them count. Because when you were done, that was it. No more photos. Now I have a 12G flash card in my camera and almost never have to worry about running out of space.
Here are some of my favorites.
It is raining (again) and it is projected to be like this all through the weekend, once again putting our plans to mow the lawn and get some much needed yardwork done on hold.
So I am glad that when it was actually sunny yesterday (albeit a bit windy and chilly) I broke out of work a bit early so that I could go to the arboretum with my camera and admire the spring flowers.
I have posted a bunch of the photos that I took to my flickr site already (of course) but here are a few of my favorites.
Time to talk about Lori’s wedding.
Actually, first let me complain about Dallas. John and I disliked Dallas, specifically driving in Dallas, intensely. The signage is poor, there are no mile markers anywhere, half the roads are toll roads, every major freeway is flanked by at least one (and often several) service roads that parallel it (which make entering and exiting the freeways needlessly complex), and getting anywhere involves multiple U-turns because of the plethora of divided roads. Ugh. Also, the traffic was wretched.
The food, on the other hand, was great. On the way from the airport to the tux rental place we stopped at the Blue Mesa Grill for food, since it was well past lunchtime and we were both starving. Delicious tex-mex helped make us feel better so that we could deal with the roads and the traffic and our rental car in a calmer manner. More good food was had at Dickey’s Barbecue where we met up with Ted and John’s Dad for lunch before the ceremony. It turns out that I love Texas-style barbecue ribs where the meat is so tender that it falls right off the bone and into your mouth. Yum.
Our rental car. It was bottom-of the-rung economy and the seats were stained and dirty, but that was nothing to how it smelled. It smelled bad. Like rotting bananas and vomit. Like a durian in the sun. It was bad enough that John and I made jokes about checking the trunk for a corpse (the trunk was empty and actually smelled better then the car) and left the windows cracked open constantly in the hope that the car would air out a little. (We may have had a stinky car, but at least it didn’t break down on the freeway like John’s Dad’s rental car did.)
Unlike the rental car, our hotel room was possible one of the coolest that I have ever stayed in. On the 18th floor of the hotel, it was shaped like a quarter-circle, and the curved outer wall was all floor-to-ceiling windows. Amazing panoramic views.
The weather was great – nice and warm, and in the mid 60′s the whole time. And even though we never actually saw it rain, it perpetually looked as though it had just rained, possibly while we blinked or had our backs turned, as the ground was always damp and there were always puddles on the sidewalks.
The wedding was lovely – a brief, formal, wedding mass. Lori and Dan were married at the Lake Highlands Presbyterian Church, and had their reception immediately after in the church hall. The reception was catered by one of the restaurants that Dan manages, and the food was delicious.
Dan seems like he will fit in with the rest of the family nicely. He seems to have the correct geeky sense of humor at least.
There was a small hitch in the very beginning of the ceremony when the flower girl developed cold feet and flat-out refused to followed her ring-bearer brother down the aisle, if I hadn’t been sitting in the back of the church and looking toward the doors, I probably wouldn’t have noticed it as all.
Lori and Dan happened to get married on both Dan’s sister’s wedding anniversary, and on John’s Dad’s birthday. Both events were noted and honored (with cake!) during the reception. John’s Dad’s birthday cake was chocolate, and delicious.
I do have to take a moment out to complain about the lighting in the church and reception hall. Rather dim. Terrible for photography. I wish that I had a better low-light camera body and lens so that I could have gotten better photos. But c’est la vie. You work with what you have. I still got some nice pictures.
All in all it was a fun little jaunt, though John and I were both very glad to be home when we finally got back to Dayton on New Years Eve.
Anyway. All of the photos worth editing are here. Enjoy!
We still have some of the snow left on the ground from last week’s mini-storm, though the temperatures have been slowly creeping up since then to the low 30′s.
However, according to weather.com, we are supposed to have snow this afternoon, this evening and all day tomorrow. Oh, please let that be true. I so badly want this to be a true white Christmas. I am tired of having Christmases in Dayton where it is gloomy and raining, or, worse, sunny and in the 50′s. I miss the snow- and ice-locked Christmases when I was a kid in Cleveland.
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…
All of the photos from the wedding can be found here, on my flickr site
One of the many family photos – Sabrina and Ted with Carole and Howard. Isn't that a gorgeous dress?
Corn dogs and cheeze fries, funnel cake, and explosions, oh my!
For all that I can be a bit down on Dayton every now and then, they do patriotism right on the 4th. Which means a big street fair and fireworks show on or near the 4th. The downtown show was on the 3rd this year, so we headed out with plenty of time to wander around the packed and cordoned-off streets, and stand in long lines for delicious and terribly bad for us food. The cheeze fries were a bit of a disappointment, but the corn dogs and funnel cake were delicious. My biggest complaint was how the organizers of the fair handled making sure people had something to drink. The food vendors couldn’t sell beverages. If you wanted something to drink, even if all you wanted was some bottled water, you had to go stand in line at one booth to buy drink coupons, and then you had to go and stand in another line at another booth to exchange the coupons for bottled water, or soda, or lemonade, or whatever. Argh. So, so, stupid… (Actually, the phrase that I used at the time was “this is so retarded”.)
Getting food and drink was about all that we could stand of the massive, seething, mass of humanity that had all piled downtown, so we headed over the bridge to secure a good viewing spot on the hill opposite the point where the fireworks are launched.
It was a good show as always.
All of the rest of the fireworks photos can be found on flickr.
We parked a little further out then we usually do, so we were able to get out and home much more quickly then ever before. Not to self to remember for next year – a little extra walking to and from the car park equals a lot less time spent idling in neutral and waiting for someone to take pity and let you pull out of the lot and into the road.
On the 4th itself, oddly enough, we didn’t find a fireworks show anywhere close by, but then, we also didn’t look particularly hard either. We played with sparklers and shot off bottle rockets in the backyard, and watched our neighbor’s mini-display from the back deck.
There will be more fireworks tonight in Centerville, at the high school.