Pre-Christmas in Chase City
We spent a few days in Chase City before Christmas and while we were there I tried an experiment: star trails. The night skies in the superboonies of Chase City are very clear and dark. The night wasn't too cold (yet) and there weren't any clouds in the sky so I went out and set up my camera and pointed it toward the north. I set up a feature called Live Composite on my Olympus camera and tried some test shots to see how it worked. I got a composition with the house and some of the surrounding old oaks and started a 15 second exposure. The camera took it from there and continually added 15 second exposures until I shut it off after a half hour or so. I was really pleased with the result. I was also surprised to see how many planes went across the sky. I cloned those trails out of the picture because I felt they distracted from all the concentric circles traced by the stars.
Chase City has some of the best sunrises and sunsets I have ever seen. Here's what they looked like in late December 2020. They aren't as wonderful as sometimes given there weren't many clouds in the sky, but I still like these.
Fall has arrived in Raleigh and since we don't feel comfortable traveling anywhere, I went to a park I've not really visited that's not too far from home. There weren't many people when I was there. I managed to find plenty of parking places in a lot near the entrance to Lake Wheeler Park and I found a trail next to some water. I followed the trail and found some nice colorful trees reflecting in the water. I'll have to try coming back in the future.
Late June 2020
Denise and I traveled to the western part of Virginia to Grayson Highlands State Park for a 28-hour period to get away to do some hiking and photography. I managed to snag the last campsite in the park for one night and we slept in the back of our Ford Edge.
We used to "truck camp" in our Tahoe, but the Edge is much smaller and we weren't sure if we'd be able to do. But we tested it out and it seemed like we could manage for a single night. We practiced how to transform the space from a driving mode to a sleeping mode, made a few modifications and enhancements, and it worked out great. Having evening temperatures in the lows 60s helped immensely in making it comfortable.
We hiked the Twin Pinnacles Trail and in the Massie Gap area that afternoon and early evening. We hiked the Rhododendron Trail and were surprised at the rhododendrons that were still in bloom. We also hiked part of the Appalachia Trail in the area where we spotted some of the famous wild ponies that are in the park.
We continued hiking around looking for a good spot to view sunset. Cloud cover made it look like a nice sunset wasn't in the cards for that night. We came to a rock outcrop (or a big pile of rocks, depending how you look at it) where a little color appeared in the clouds. We kept hiking, trying to get to a ridge that would give us a wider perspective of the horizon, but we never found a place.
As we made our way back toward the parking area, the sky started clearing up. We found ourselves on the Rhododendron Trail again as the sky started to turn colors. With no clouds in the sky, I didn't think it was going to be much of a sunset, but some color is better than nothing, and I set up my tripod. In less than 20 minutes, clouds started forming and we were treated to a beautiful sunset that went from no clouds to a sky featuring a few puffy yellow clouds to a sky covered with thin orange, and then magenta clouds. What a treat.
Early the next morning, under rain-threatening skies, we followed Cabin Creek down to Cabin Creek Falls. We experienced a short downpour early in the hike, but we decided to keep going. It was a good decision because we didn't have any more rain after that and we had the trail pretty much to ourselves until we were on our way back to the car.
Below are photos from our short excursion. Click on any photo to see it full-screen.
Here we are in early June and quarantine restrictions have been easing and air temperatures are rising, as have the number of Covid-19 cases in North Carolina. In the last month in Raleigh we've seen protests over not easing restrictions fast enough and we've seen protests and violence over the killing of a black man by police in Minneapolis.
In the meantime, flowers and shrubs continue to bloom, so here's a colorful look at what is pretty around my house.
The magnolia tree in our backyard has started blooming and it looks like there are a bumper crop of sweet smelling blossoms. Unfortunately, most of them are pretty high up in the tree and out of reach for photography unless I use my 75-300 mm lens, which is not my best lens and rarely produces a good image unless I use a tripod.
I was able to stand on a stepladder and step stool to capture a couple in various stages of blooming. Here are the results. In addition to the color images, I've created black & white versions with a warm split-toning effect.
April brought some flowers to the backyard, but not as many as usual. Due to Covid and wanting to minimize our exposure to other people, we didn't go out looking for annuals to plant around the house. I'll continue to add photos here as the season progresses.
Into the Wild
I ventured out into the "wild" when I went to the Yates Mill County Park on Lake Wheeler Road near my house. I decided to take a trail I had only briefly walked a couple of years ago. Not knowing how many people I would encounter, I donned a mask (a folded bandana secured to my face by a couple of rubber bands around my ears), way before doing so became a recommendation by the CDC.
I went on this hike looking for interesting trees and other plants and really anything else that might be interesting. I was also looking for relatively few people. The trail wasn't very crowded, although at one point I heard people catching up to me (I was poking along looking for compositions). I found a spot on the trail where I could walk off to the side and wait for them to pass me.
All in all, it was an interesting hike and a peaceful time with my camera.
Around the House
I started making photographs of plants around the house since I couldn't go anywhere else during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown. I've always made photos of flowers we've grown, but this time I concentrated on other shrubs, looking for interesting leaves.
I decided I would render them in black & white, with a split toning treatment to warm up the black and white just a tad.
I was particularly interested in the hosta plant, as can be seen by the number of images of it. Shifting my position a small amount created a new arrangement. Before I started making images, I cleaned "stuff" off the plant leaves so I wouldn't have to do clean-up later in post-processing. I thought I had done a good job until I started looking at the pictures on my screen. Only then did I notice all the small flecks of stuff on the leaves. They made for a very tedious processing as I just didn't like all the imperfections in the darker tone of the leaves.
Click on the photos in the grid to see full screen versions.