Sunday, October 31, 2010

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Nautical paraphernalia

No rain yesterday, so we headed up the coast to run some errands and, as usual, got sidetracked, this time at the marina at South Beach. For the most part, the boats moored at South Beach are pleasure boats, with very little of the weathered-ness and grunge of the working boats across the bay in Newport, making it (for me) a bit more of a challenge to photograph. I loved the way this barnacle-encrusted buoy looked suspended slightly above the low tide. And then the unusual symmetry of coiled lines also caught my eye.

Lunch at Georgie's overlooking the ocean, which was a beautiful blue with long horizontal sets of waves lazily breaking off in the distance. On the way back we checked out the new Beaver Creek State Natural Area, which will be terrific to photograph on a less sunny, more moody day.

And then the Lakers won last night. Life is good. ©Carol Leigh

Sturm und drang

 The final leg of my east coast trip took me from a delightful two days with my ex-sister-in-law and her husband, where I stayed with them at their lake house, took a ride on a pontoon boat (I'm always a sucker for a harbor cruise!), to the noise and chaos and drama of my aging parents. I walk in the door of my parents' house to be handed an electric bill and asked "what do you make of this?"

Luckily I was able to get away once by myself to the Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia. The scenery was lovely and the people working there so friendly. I asked one of the staff, what are the red and black beetles on the milkweed? "Oh, we call 'em 'milkweed beetles.'" I asked if they bite (often bugs with red on them do). He looked at my sweater, "Only if you're wearing black. And if you're from Oregon!" Oh, those wacky Virginians!

Home now, where we've had a lot of rain, a lot of sunshine, a lot of serenity, a lot of cat-ness, and where life goes on, relatively drama-free.

The first 18 years of one's life kind of sets the stage, doesn't it? It's what we create after age 18 that becomes the challenge. Every freakin' day . . . ©Carol Leigh

Thursday, October 28, 2010

(Not) Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway

This was my first visit to the Blue Ridge Parkway and yes, I had expectations. I envisioned a slow-moving, meandering road, lots of turnouts, lots of photo possibilities, amazing vistas, and various shades of blue as the soft edges of the mountains faded into the distance.


The first thing I learned is that there's a difference between "leaf peepers" and photographers. The 45mph speed limit meant absolutely NOTHING to the leaf peepers, who zoomed up and down the road, impatiently waiting for me, traveling at 45mph, to move over and get the hell out of their way.

In addition, the two-lane road is relatively narrow, north and south traffic separated by a double yellow line. Every 20th car, it seemed, was driven by a leaf peeper intent on peeping at leaves, not on driving, and the car would invariably drift into my lane. Master of symmetry that I am, I would in turn drift over to my right to avoid instant death. Alas, quite often there was a ditch on my right, about the same width as a tire. Should I drift too far to the right, I risked coming to an abrupt halt, hurting me and my Hertz.

There are indeed lots of pullouts along the Blue Ridge Parkway where one can park, get out of the car, and admore the views. Assuming one can find a place to park.

Cars were double- and triple-parked, requiring a certain amount of last-second pre-planning, looking for (a) a place to park that (b) also had an exit route. A famous crafts center right on the parkway had a large parking lot -- no spaces available and a steady stream of incoming traffic. I hear the place is very nice inside...

And accommodations? It's leaf peeping season AND there are big football games going on. I could find nothing less than $180 all along the route. "It's gonna be that way up until you get into Virginia, I figure," was what one helpful motel employee told me, laughing.

I got off the parkway, drove twenty winding miles down to a lower, flatter elevation and found a motel room for $69. I admired the trees on the golf course before turning in for the night.

Don't want to end this on a down note. Would I travel the Blue Ridge Parkway again? Yes. But I would make reservations six months in advance and would stay in a cute little town like Blowing Rock, perhaps, going out onto the Parkway to photograph very early in the morning and very late in the afternoon, spending the middle of the day shopping, walking, shooting in town, eating apples, and snoozing. And I'll bring Chris. He can drive while I peep at the leaves. ©Carol Leigh

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Photoshop refresher

I haven't used Photoshop in two weeks. No montages, no general tweaking, nothing. And so when I sat down to actually make something this morning, I felt as if all my PS skills (such as they are) had been drained from my brain. This ever happen to you?

I use Photoshop in one form or another every day. Every day. Step away from the computer for two measly weeks and it's like I'm starting all over again. And what to make? Nothing! No ideas! Uh-oh!

So I began with this letter "Y" that I photographed on an old bus in North Carolina (the famed "truck dump" that J, J, and G always talk about). The bus said (get this) "Yankee" on the side! No wonder it ended up at the dump . . .

So I combined the photo with a photo of metal shot in Oregon, put in some photos of rivets here and there, and came up with this piece. It's a start. Whittling away at this big chunk of artist's block. ©Carol Leigh

"No Photography Allowed"

It's difficult to get lost on your way to the Biltmore Estate, but between me and my GPS navigational unit, I managed to do so. And then found myself waiting in an interminably long line just to get onto the grounds of "America's Largest Home."

Once there, after having figured out why my camera was taking blue photos, I wandered around the outside of the house, looking at and photographing architectural detail.

On to the front door, where I reached inside my vest to grab my ticket, only to find I was handing the docent someone's business card, not the ticket. Although she admired the business card, she couldn't let me in with it. (Where's that southern hospitality when you need it?) Ticket found, I was finally granted entry.

The first thing I saw was a sign saying no photography allowed inside. None whatsoever. Not even with a cell phone. NOT THAT I COULD SEE ANYTHING ANYWAY! The place was so packed with people, moving in bovine fashion, that it took a couple of minutes just to take a couple of steps.

Aha! Maybe if I moved over to my left and skittered up the stairs, there would be fewer people. Well, under these circumstances, skittering wasn't in the picture, and as we moooooooooved slowly up the stairs, I couldn't stand it any more. About face, down the stairs, and out the front door. To photograph more architectural detail.

I should have known better than to strike out on my own, away from the loving arms of Jill, June, and Gisela, because the trip went quickly downhill from there as I set out to explore the Blue Ridge Parkway. ©Carol Leigh

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

More from North Carolina

 The Sandhills Photography Club invited me to join them on their fall field trip to Asheville, NC, where I gave a short presentation on how to set oneself apart from other photographers. And then it was off to shoot! We visited the arboretum, the botanical garden, had dinner at the Grove Park Inn out on the patio, where a gradually intensifying sunset made eating an afterthought. (Dave and Cheryl Powers, what a GREAT spot you chose for this dinner! You couldn't have done better.) I liked the shot I took of June, looking small and solitary in the forest. And when I saw June and Gisela in the entryway of a shelter, I had to photograph them silhouetted against the greenery. A strong silhouette of two strong women.
 I'm most impressed with what this camera club does and how they are so supportive of one another. Along the way I met Len and Jim and Dave and the Bee Man and Lana R. (who knows my student Carol B. in California), Lori F. (who made the drive to the camera club a hilarious one), Donna F., Chris C., Kathy G., Brenda and Don H. (hooray!), and, of course, Jill, June, and Gisela.

I was treated like royalty, was comped numerous meals, made to feel a part of the group, was ferried about, and was nursed back to health when I developed a horrendous cold. Thank you all for your classic southern hospitality. ©Carol Leigh

Monday, October 25, 2010

Photographing in North Carolina

The "girls" took me to a truck dump. My kinda place! Alas, it had apparently been cleaned up since their last visit, but we still found some cool things to shoot, such as this stenciled "keep dry" graphic on a metal container and the side of an old bus. At an old cabin nearby, I found this basket sitting on a shelf. Loved the way the basket stood out against such a dark background. ©Carol Leigh

Meeting some of my online students in person ...

A bunch of us got together at a restaurant where they knew I'd love the texture on the front door. Hoo ha! Panels of embossed metal and lots of rivets. Prime photomontage fodder. At the table I met the shy and retiring Donna F. and her good-looking and smart spouse Wes. Jill, June, Gisela, Chris C., Kathy G. -- and I am sure I am missing someone equally important -- were all there. 

North Carolina light can be quite harsh and contrasty, but, undaunted, we managed to take a few decent shots, such as this piece of equipment at a farm, a rustic wooden door, dried flowers or herbs hanging from a beam, a view of a window through a window, and an old building in Aberdeen. ©Carol Leigh

Home again ...

These past two weeks away from home were crazy! The best part was at the beginning, spending time with the gracious, fun, generous, talented, and slightly insane folks in the Sandhills Photographic Club in North Carolina. I stayed with Gisela the first few days at her house on a lake and felt like I was at a posh resort. I arrived at night (thank you, June, for picking me up at the airport) and so didn't know what was outside Gisela's door until the sky began to turn orange the following morning.  A purple martin nest box silhouetted beautifully against the sky, and then her red canoe at the base of a couple of pine trees caught my eye.

More to follow as I deal with recalcitrant thumb drives, a series of electrical storms, and other little computer challenges at the moment. ©Carol Leigh

Friday, October 22, 2010

Lesson from my father

Is there someone you love and that person is passionate about something? Maybe that person does beautiful needlework, or is a marvelous calligrapher, or restores old cars. Maybe you're not interested in needlework, calligraphy, or old cars. How do you respond to that person when he or she wishes to share what they're doing with you?

Maybe they say, "Hey! Look at what I made last week. Isn't this cool?" You may not give a rat's ass about the work, but you love this person and this person's enthusiasm. So you look. You admire. You ask questions. You learn about what they're doing. You give that person feedback.

Yesterday I was showing my father my work. Five examples of this, five of that, for maybe three minutes. Midway through he says, "okay, interesting," and then goes to his recliner and turns on the television. Really loud. I pack up my stuff and leave.

He has always been this way. All my life. I should expect nothing more. I should be over this by now, but it still hurts.

So now I look at ME. Am I doing the same thing, unwittingly, to others? To Chris? Am I feigning interest or, worse, indifference? Are we all guilty of this, that unbeknownst to us, our loved ones are looking for our acknowledgment, validation, approval and we're oblivious to it?

Those of you with children, take a look at your reactions to their requests for you to "hey, look at this!" And what about our friends? Are we so jaded, so familiar with their work, that we're not giving enough to them? And our spouses/partners? Are we taking them for granted?

My father's attitude over the years has hurt and continues to hurt. But yesterday's scenario taught me something about me. Maybe I'm more like him than I think. As a result, I am now determined to take note of my responses to others' requests for attention. Because this kind of hurt stays with the person. Maybe over the course of a lifetime.

I return home tomorrow. To a quiet, clean, clutter-free environment, to loving arms and a heart that loves me unconditionally, to a relatively drama-free life. I can hardly wait. ©Carol Leigh

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Perspective Control

I have been spending time these days with aging parents, aging friends of parents, and an aging former mother-in-law -- all in various stages of physical and mental decline. Shockingly so.

One, who was always physically active, can barely walk, shuffling along with a walker, moving (painfully) slowly. At one point I quickly bent over to pick up something off the floor and almost felt guilty about the ease with which I did so.

"Youth is wasted on the young," wrote Mark Twain. And I remember turning 31, bemoaning the loss of my twenties. Ha! If I'd only known how incredibly young 31 was.

However, the ease with which I could bend over and pick up something struck home. This is as young as I will ever be again. This is as mentally astute as I will ever be (scary thought, actually). I must not waste this time. WE must not waste this time, this ability to carry camera gear, to walk in the woods, to rise before the sun to record another glorious day, to celebrate our lives and what we're able to do right now, to live thoughtfully, to make healthy choices, to revel in our relative youth.

Every second brings us steadily toward a time when we won't be carrying so much gear, when we won't be seeing quite as clearly, when we're unable (unwilling) to travel quite so much. And we'll look back at today and perhaps bemoan the loss of our forties, fifties, sixties, etc.

Sheesh. What's my point? That right now MIGHT be as good as it gets. That we are as young right now as we ever will be. We should revel in it.

Think about it the next time you bend over to pick up that lens cap you dropped. Celebrate it! Waste not this relative youth.©Carol Leigh

P.S. Photos will begin appearing again when I return after the 23rd. And won't you be glad to be rid of all this wordiness!?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Techno-rant (yes, another one)

I have a swell new phone -- a DroidX -- so that while on the road I can go online from wherever I am to browse the Internet. Need a motel? I can look 'em up. Need info about the area? I can look it up. Maps? E-mail? Posting to my classes? I can do it all on the phone.

Naturally, the phone comes manual-free. But I figure, how hard can it be?

For the past three days I have been trying to figure out how to go online, spending way too much time calling Chris, having him do research, etc. He even contacted one of my go-to persons -- Marianne -- for help. And I'm feeling like an idiot.

Yesterday, aha!, I found a Verizon store. I tell Ashley all I want to know is how to get online. She doesn't roll her eyes, but I know she wants to. "All you do is press this little browser button and the browser comes up for you."

Well, duh! Like I HAVEN'T been pressing that little browser button? "Okay, Ashley. Go ahead. Show me."

After pressing the button numerous times and always receiving the "that page is not available" message, she takes it into the back, where apparently they house the techno-geeks.

"It's your phone. There's something wrong. He has to manually reprogram something in there. Should only take 5 minutes."

Two and a half hours later, I leave with a new phone.

The problem? My old pay plan was INCOMPATIBLE with the new phone. What the? This isn't software. This isn't hardware. "We had to change your old pay plan to the new one, but it won't cost anything more, the cost is the same, but the plan is new. It mirrors your old plan." Okay. "They never should have sold you that new phone without changing your old pay plan. Uh-uh." (Shaking her head.)

I am becoming (reluctantly) accustomed to technological incompatibility. I get a new computer and software all of a sudden doesn't work. I get a new camera, and it requires updates, upgrades, and more so that other programs recognize the new format. (And thank you, Diane, for suggesting that I buy Lightroom, which may solve all my problems. Ha! Like THAT'S going to happen with me in my current mental state!)

While waiting for my phone to be "fixed," I drive up and down the highway in my rented Chevy Chewbacca searching for a motel. Apparently it's "Furniture Market" time here in this town and all the rooms are either booked or will cost $179 for a night. They recommend I head up the road to the next town for more options.

Back at the Verizon store I ask Ashley how long it will take to get to the next town. "Oh, just about 20 minutes" as she hands me my phone.

I go online, find a motel in the next town. Took me 40 minutes to get there . . .

©Carol Leigh

The joy of travel ...

My big "traveling north on the Blue Ridge Parkway" adventure began early in the morning when, as I was about to set out, a mysterious icon lights up on the dashboard. I check the manual. Apparently there's something wrong with the brakes and I should NOT drive the vehicle and should have it IMMEDIATELY towed to a local Mazda dealer.

I call Hertz. I haven't even left the hotel parking lot yet. I explain the situation. "Are you sure you haven't just left the emergency brake on?" Heavy sigh. I am NOT that stupid. "What I'd like is for you (Hertz) to bring me a different car and take this one back to Hertz." (Their office is just 15 minutes away.)

"I'm the only one in the office and we have no other cars. Call Emergency Roadside Assistance. They'll come by, take you to the AIRPORT, where you can get a different car."

"No. I think YOU should handle that."

Apparently that's not how it works.

I'm on the phone with Emergency Roadside Assistance when Hertz calls me back. "I've got a car for you, a Prius, and I'll be there in 15 minutes."

Hooray! There IS a god.

Fifteen minutes later, a big white vehicle drives up. This isn't a Prius, but rather a HUGE Chevy "Traverse." I make no comment. I just want something that runs.

Let's give Hertz credit. They came through.

I sit in the parking lot for a while, figuring out how to adjust the mirrors, the a/c, the seat, the built-in Hertz navigational system, satellite radio, and espresso maker. I back out of the parking space and a video comes on, showing me what I might be backing into because the rear window is so tiny.

I lumber out of the parking lot and head toward the Biltmore Estate (my first stop before heading up the parkway). (And thank you, Sandhills Photo Club, for the free pass.)

Hooray! My photo adventure has finally begun!

I arrive at the estate. Ooh. Ahh. Big house. Cool stuff to shoot outside. Once I figure out why my new camera has decided to shoot photos in "blue" format (don't ask), I hand over my ticket and go inside.

The first thing I see? A sign saying "no photography allowed."

©Carol Leigh

Monday, October 11, 2010

Technical difficulties ...

Well, this photo blog will be a photo-free zone through the 23rd. I am on the road in North Carolina right now and although I can TAKE photos, and I can DOWNLOAD those photos, I have NO WAY of converting my photos into a Photoshop-readable format. Why? Because the only Photoshop I have in this laptop is Photoshop
Elements 5. Yup. 5. And BreezeBrowser cannot convert my current camera's file format into Photoshop-readable images. At least not this version. Which is the LATEST version. So I am quite dead in the water.

Technology. Gotta love it. --Carol Leigh

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Boat dog and a minor rant ...

We were running errands this morning but the weather was SO pretty we had to check out the fishing boats en route. This little guy was ever vigilant, looking longingly over the rail for his owner to return to the boat. Gotta love the ears!

And now a minor rant (very minor). Once again I find myself annoyed and frustrated and cranky at technology. I have a new (3 days old) phone that does all sorts of things (e-mail! web browsing! video! camera!) and I don't know how to use it yet. I THINK I know how to make a phone call. I called myself, but I wasn't there — got the answering machine.

The other thing that's bugging me is that I've also got a new (one month old) camera that requires different batteries and different memory cards (of course) than all my other equipment. Gotta stock up on them. And the picture format is such that BreezeBrowser (a program I use daily) doesn't recognize it. So I had to upgrade BB on the desktop computer.

Then I tried to download the images onto my laptop, but my card reader doesn't recognize this type of memory card. So I had to buy a new card reader. Then, of course, BB in the laptop doesn't recognize the format, so I had to upgrade THAT. And finally, the camera has different features than I'm used to, so that's another big learning curve.

Technology. Changing faster than I can dole out the money and read the (nonexistent) user manuals.

To quote Jimmy Buffett, "If the phone doesn't ring, it's me."

©Carol Leigh