Night Moves


Friday evening I was running late. I needed to finish photographing some guitars for Coop Guitars before I could head out the door. Isn’t that great? “Oh, I’m sorry I’m late. I had to finish up some shooting before I could call it quits tonight.” (I wonder if someone who’s been a full-time pro photographer for a couple of decades would find it amusing to have this as an excuse for tardiness: “Oh, I’m sorry I’m late, I had to finish up a conference call.”)

Even better, what I was running late for was another shoot! A group of adults got together on the riverfront to play with their very expensive toys–or, as I like to think of them, our boxes of crayons.

We met at 7:45 and shot through sunset and twilight and then really went nuts after dark.

Do you remember summer nights when you were a kid when all the neighborhood kids would get together and play hide-and-seek when it finally got dark? We would swear we’d only been playing for a few minutes when parents would suddenly appear out of the dark saying things like “Where have you been that you couldn’t hear me calling you for the past 10 minutes?”

Friday night, no parents showed up to tell us it was getting late. By the time people started realizing they needed to leave, it was after 10PM. Several of us shot on. “Just one more shot” we said to our internal parents reminding us we had other responsibilities.

We swapped tips on getting night time effects. We threw around words like “high-speed sync,” “hyper-focal distance,” “aberrations,” and “stopping down” and we understood each other. We zoomed our lenses at bright bridge lights during long exposures and giggled at the results. We got out flashlights and created ghosts and swirls just for the fun of it.

Suddenly, without warning, it was 11:30PM. I realized I was cold, I’d had no dinner, I’d had nothing to drink for at least 5 hours, and I’d told my husband I’d get home before 11PM. Yet, I still had to convince myself that those were strong enough reasons to pack it up for the night–there were so many more ideas I wanted to try!

Oh, there was also the fact that I needed to get up at 6AM the next morning to teach a workshop.

But feeling that creative spark and losing myself to it for a few hours was a great reminder of what I love best about photography–and life. Getting out and shooting with a bunch of people had the added benefits of both learning from each other and getting to socialize with people with a similar vocabulary.

Dismal Nitch

This week has been another vacation week (I got a bit behind on using my vacation days this year).  This time, I left Pat and Tisen at home and travelled out to visit family in Portland, Oregon.  Portland is one of my favorite parts of the US–this is a trip I look forward to every year.

While visiting the Oregon coast, we stopped at Dismal Nitch across from Astoria, Oregon.  Dismal Nitch is an easy rest stop to access these days–a long, long bridge from Astoria to Washington makes it a really interesting drive with fantastic views.

But, when it was named by the Lewis and Clark expedition, it was no picnic.  Traveling by boat, the craggy harbor became a dangerous place for the explorers and their team.  They were stuck out in the rain for 6 days, waiting for the weather to clear so they could safely navigate the rocks and other hazards that have made this area among the most dangerous waters in the country.

I pause as we stand along the fence at the rest area, looking out at the Cormorants, Seagulls, and Pelicans.  The face of a seal suddenly pops through the surface of the water.  I stand there wishing I had my 100-400mm lens.

And then, it occurs to me, I feel mired.  I think about Lewis and Clark sitting in that same spot, cold, wet, and probably hungry.  I think about them bobbing about on rough seas and waiting out the stormy weather.  I wonder if they felt it was hopeless.  I wonder how long they were prepared to wait before making their move.  I wonder if they saw seals and pelicans and thought of them as signs of hope.  All of this flashes through my mind as I realize the difference between me and people like Lewis and Clark is that they took the safest course for the duration of a storm and then moved on.  I seem to confuse safety with long-term direction.

I took some photos of the dismal nitch.  The clouds gray and swirling above relatively still water created a nearly monochromatic scene.  I stared out over the waters, hiding the dangers of shoals and debris that had sunk more than its share of ships.  It looked so peaceful.  Tranquil.  A cormorant stood on the stump of what might once have been a pier, spreading its wings and flapping them.  He couldn’t wait for them to dry so he might fly again.

Perhaps we are all like the cormorant.  We dive in, get wet, and then have to hang out and dry out before we can jump back in.  Perhaps some of us have to hang out longer than others before we’re willing to take the next plunge.  I metaphorically flap my wings and wonder just what kind of drying time to expect.  By my count, they’ve been drying for at least 8 years.  I find myself wondering if the Cormorant ever forget how to swim.

The First Overlook

Panoramic view taken with the iPhone

Panoramic view taken with the iPhone

This is going to be a short post.  I’m writing at 11:15PM on Thursday night.  I just finished my “day” job 15 minutes ago (I guess that makes it a “day-and-night” job) and if I try to write my usual 500 words, I’m likely to end up writing this post in my sleep (yes, I’ve done that before–check this out).

Cloudland Canyon is one of those must-see places if you’re anywhere in the area.  They have nice facilities including campgrounds, a picnic area with restrooms, an interpretive center, a spectacular view, and lots of great trails, including backcountry trails.

Looking the opposite direction down the gorge

Looking the opposite direction down the gorge

That said, if you are having a low-energy day, there’s also the leisurely walk around the mostly flat path along the cliff top.  There are several nice overlooks that always make me feel like the $5 parking fee was well worth it even when the path around the cliff top is the only path I walk that visit.

Looking up the gorge at a rolling valley covered in dense green you can hear a distant waterfall

Looking up the gorge at a rolling valley covered in dense green you can hear a distant waterfall

All of the images in this post were shot from what I think of as the first overlook.  It’s only the first overlook if you start with this one.  🙂  I like to park at the far end of the cliff top path and walk uphill around the rim.  I don’t know why I like this, but it might be because even when the park is really crowded, there are usually still parking places in this end of the parking lot.

The other reason is because it’s a short walk from the car to the first overlook, so there’s a quick payoff.  One drawback is that the restrooms at that end are often closed, so stopping at the first set of newer facilities (in a concrete block building) may be imperative, depending on your situation.

Rocks and trees along the cliff top

Rocks and trees along the cliff top

A short walk down a dirt path followed by a steep descent down metal-mesh steps takes you to a panoramic view up one leg of the gorge.  I, of course, was standing there with my 5D Mark III and my husband’s T4i with a 70-200mm lens on it (don’t ask) hanging around my neck while I stood on the overlook creating panoramics with my iPhone.  I sometimes think I should get my husband to take a picture of this with his iPhone just so I can see how ridiculous it looks!

Tisen does not like metal-mesh steps

Tisen does not like metal-mesh steps

Power Point

Pausing just long enough for a quick pose is enough to make Tisen yawn

Pausing just long enough for a quick pose is enough to make Tisen yawn

Here’s a tip about Point Park on Lookout Mountain:  there’s a parking lot with free parking behind the shrubs across the street from the park entrance.  It took us two trips up there before we figured out that really was free parking.  Even on Memorial Day weekend, there was still an empty space.  Most people are so busy figuring out where they can park at the meters on the same side of the street as the park that they fail to notice the entrance to the free parking on the left (us included).  We’ve been up there at times when the pay parking spaces were completely full while there was only one car in the free parking lot.

A second tip is that if you are local and go there often, a park pass is only $20 and it allows you take up to 5 guests with you each time you go.  I trip with 6 adults is $18, so it doesn’t take long to pay for itself.

Perhaps the view is best enjoyed without a yawning holstein?

Perhaps the view is best enjoyed without a yawning holstein?

A third tip is that if you’d rather not pay to get into Point Park, you could hike there from Cravens House and come in the back way.  You might have to go back the same way, but the round trip can be as short as 2 miles depending on which trail you take.

I needed a tripod to get this straight, but I managed to get a shot with the sun behind me at least

I needed a tripod to get this straight, but I managed to get a shot with the sun behind me at least

The final tip is that if you like to take photos, go early.  This is a tip I have yet to take.  We scheduled a trip up to Point Park to get there shortly before sunset our first time out to the point.  When we arrived, more and more park rangers kept arriving and running past us.  Then, an ambulance arrived and they took a stretcher down the main path out to the point.  They returned with a man on the gurney who had apparently been climbing on some rocks along the trail until he slipped, fell, and broke at least 1 rib, they thought.

In honor of Memorial Day, we stopped to read the stories of the battles on the memorial

In honor of Memorial Day, we stopped to read the stories of the battles on the memorial

I don’t know if it was because the rangers were on high alert that evening or if they’re always so insistent on emptying the park right at sunset, but they came down to the overlook we were at where I was shooting away as the sun sunk towards the horizon and told us to go home before the sunset was below the horizon.  Since some of the best sunset shots come after the sun has set, this was a bit disappointing.  I was counting on being able to shoot until dusk.  But the park closes “at sunset,” which I guess can be left to a ranger’s discretion.

Tisen is rather irreverent when it comes to appreciating battlefields

Tisen is rather irreverent when it comes to appreciating battlefields

However, the park opens at 6AM.  So, there’s plenty of time to get there and get setup for sunrise shots, although I guess the sun will be rising before 6:30AM soon.

While I work on mustering the courage to get up that early, I try to ignore the harsh shadows in my mid-day shots, wishing I had better timing.

Tisen and Pat seem to be having a sidebar--I think they were plotting against me

Tisen and Pat seem to be having a sidebar–I think they were plotting against me

iPhonoramic

Mocassin Bend from the Point at Point Park, Lookout Mountain

Mocassin Bend from the Point at Point Park, Lookout Mountain

Back home in Chattanooga after a week away at a work conference resulted in two things.  First, a lot of napping and second, a disappointingly dull Memorial Day weekend.

Feeling obligated to do something both celebratory and respectful of those who have served, we managed to muster enough energy to go up to the military park on Lookout Mountain, Point Park, and take Tisen on a walk around the point.

If you’ve been reading my blog for very long, you’ve undoubtedly seen photos from Point Park many times–it’s one of my favorite places to take visitors because of the spectacular views from the point.

And, in fact, I took enough photos for at least two more posts (sorry), but for today’s post, I thought I would share my iPhone panoramic experience.

Another go at Moccasin Bend - almost level

Another go at Moccasin Bend – almost level

First, I confess, I was not an early adopter of this capability.  I updated my iPad to iOS 6 (the update required) months ago when it first became available.  However, updating erased all the data on my iPad, which I restored from backup.  Since I wasn’t sure I had a backup of my iPhone, I waited to upgrade until I had a chance to do a full backup.  It took the moment when I was in the Grand Ole Opry wishing I could take a panoramic shot on Wednesday night before I had sufficient motivation to do the backup and upgrade process.

At long last, I made time for the upgrade (iOS 6 has been out so long, it’s moved on to 6.1 now) on Friday night.  Ironically, I immediately forgot I’d upgraded and now had the ability to do panoramic images.  In fact, it wasn’t until I got to the point in Point Park and saw a guy pull out his iPhone and start taking a panoramic shot that I remembered I too now had this amazing “new” technology!

Another way to get Panoramic--using Stitch to piece together multiple photos in software

Another way to get Panoramic–using Stitch to piece together multiple photos in software

Truthfully, the ability to produce panoramic images has been around for many years.  I believe the first Canon digital camera I ever bought back in the late 90’s came with software called “Stitch” that would allow you to put together multiple photos into a single panoramic view.  If it wasn’t with my first digital camera, it was certainly with my second in 2003.  I have silly looking panoramic shots where the photos create a rather embarrassing curved shape.  If they weren’t on a different computer, I would post one for you now.

A really old-fashioned way to get a panoramic image--crop to panoramic dimensions

A really old-fashioned way to get a panoramic image–crop to panoramic dimensions

By comparison, the iPhone panoramic feature is easy to use.  Rather than taking a bunch of photos individually and either using a tripod or hope to line them up horizontally so you can “stitch” them together in software later, the iPhone uses a video-like mode and guides you through capturing 240 degrees of image while it automatically puts the images together into one.  The result?  Well, you go home with a panoramic already done.  On the down side, the exposure is set from where you start, so choose your starting place carefully.

Starting the image capture in the shadows results in an overexposed bright area

Starting the image capture in the shadows results in an overexposed bright area

Dead Animals

This little guy might have been less startling had his back half not been missing

This little guy might have been less startling had his back half not been missing

After a long lack of business trips, I spent most the week in Nashville at a conference.  It’s rather ironic that the conference was in Nashville–only a 2 hour drive from home.  Because I was there to present at a “pre-conference” session, I had to arrive on Sunday.  Fortunately, I wasn’t the only one.

A group of us congregated in the center of the Opryland Resort, trying to decide where to have dinner.  Since the probability of leaving the resort decreased with each day we were in Nashville, we decided to go off-prem for dinner since it was likely to be our only chance.

This guy gives the place a little kick

This guy gives the place a little kick

However, we ended up taking the hotel shuttle across the street to a place called Caney Fork.  Personally, I would have gladly driven downtown just to get a chance to get away from the resort that night, but I guess across the street was far enough for the rest of the group.

Caney Fork was a bit of an enigma.  It’s tag line is “Southern Style Camp Cuisine Served with a Killer Smile.”  There’s just something creepy about the word “killer” in that sentence.  That’s not the only thing creepy about the place.

A white-tail deer stares down diners

A white-tail deer stares down diners

I’m not fond of being reminded of the life I’m participating in taking when I eat a piece of meat.  I know this is hypocritical of me.  I have a great respect for responsible and talented hunters who take care to kill as quickly and painlessly as possible and who eat what they kill.  I just don’t want to be the one holding the gun.

The bar has a nautical theme

The bar has a nautical theme

I was a vegetarian for 10 years, but I guess that doesn’t give me a free pass from facing that the meat I eat comes from a living creature.  None-the-less, despite the hypocrisy, I do not want to face my dinner staring down at me from the wall while I eat.  I had a hard time swallowing the Elk burger I ordered as the glass eyes in the elk head on the wall glared at me.

A view of the dining room--including the front of a truck stuck into the wall

A view of the dining room–including the front of a truck stuck into the wall

The other thing I found a bit odd was how many of the animals displayed in the restaurant cannot be found in the wild in Tennessee.  Elk were recently reintroduced in Great Smoky National Park, but other than that herd, there hasn’t been an Elk in this part of the country since 1700.  That didn’t keep them from appearing in the Caney Fork restaurant next to wolves, moose, and a variety of other critters I’m pretty sure can only be found with any predictability out West.

A moose head decorates the entry area

A moose head decorates the entry area

I’m always suspicious of a restaurant whose interests seem to cross over into taxidermy.    But, the burger was pretty good, as were the fries.  No one seemed disappointed with their meal and I came home with some pretty interesting iPhone images.  While it would have been nice to make it downtown, Caney Fork was an adventure all its own.

Waiting for the shuttle back to the hotel

Waiting for the shuttle back to the hotel

Warehouse Row

The Warehouse Row sign makes a great subject for the tintype effect of Hipstamatic

The Warehouse Row sign makes a great subject for the tintype effect of Hipstamatic

Warehouse Row is one of those really cool concepts that, as a fan of a given city, you really want to see succeed.  They took a bunch of warehouses (which apparently grew out of a military fort some time in the past) and turned them into a collection of shops and restaurants inside the original architecture.

This area was originally reinvented in the 1980’s and renovated again in 2006.  I really hope it takes off, but people are fickle.  People flock to anything new and cool.  But, new and cool wears off quickly and it’s hard to keep reinventing oneself fast enough to keep pace if “new and cool” is all you have to offer.

A brighter, more modern look at the Public House side of Warehouse Row

A brighter, more modern look at the Public House side of Warehouse Row

There are some other things going on in the area that may help Warehouse Row gain some more momentum in lieu of another facelift.  First of all, the city’s South side is starting to become a residential area.  It’s re-development from a manufacturing area to a mixed-use residential area was slowed (like all development) by the economic crisis, but as we continue to recover, more and more of the neighborhood transitions to a desirable place to live.  This combined with the growing number of shops and restaurants in other historical buildings just a couple of blocks from Warehouse Row should help keep a steady stream of customers in the vicinity.

Views around Warehouse Row

Views around Warehouse Row

Restaurants like Public House bring people in the doors. It’s an extremely popular place that people have told us about on more than one occasion.  When we decided to give it a try for the first time last weekend, we went early enough to check out a couple of shops as well.

The pedestrian walkway connecting two of the warehouses

The pedestrian walkway connecting two of the warehouses

The home decor shop we stopped in was extremely high end.  I spotted a floor lamp I liked, but it was $850.  Not what I was expecting to spend on a floor lamp.  They did have some nice things, however.  Although many of their items were oversized for our tiny condo.  It made me wonder if perhaps the reason the shops are not crowded with patrons is because of the price range they’re targeting.  That said, we didn’t make it in the doors of any other shops before getting so hungry we had to go get food.  The shops were all closed by the time we left, which was only 5PM on a Saturday.  I wondered a second time if the hours of the shops would be a limiting factor to their success.  Of course, I have no idea how successful they are or aren’t with their current price range and hours.

The entrance to the warehouse at the Public House end

The entrance to the warehouse at the Public House end

When we left, we had the dogs in the car so we took them for a little stroll before heading home.  This gave me the opportunity to take some photos of the area with my iPhone.  As I was shooting, it struck me that if I were looking at photos of this neighborhood, I would not guess it was in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

From the parking lot at Warehouse Row

From the parking lot at Warehouse Row