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Magnolia Blossom Season

As advertised – Dee’s magnolia triptych. Magnolia blossom time has almost passed on Cumberland Island. We just arrived at our slip in Charleston and maybe magnolia blossom season is a step behind Cumberland. These trees are such handsome specimens with or without blossoms. A good excuse to go exploring.

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Dungeness Ruins

Still at Cumberland Island. Still messing with infrared. And getting hammered, drilled and bitten by bugs. We got more welts than a paint ball contestant who forgot his protective gear. It might take general anesthesia to get to sleep tonight. But we persist. Tomorrow morning we work the shore line for drift wood and then go outside to chug up to Charleston.

This infrared stuff is fascinating. Certainly a different visual aesthetic. I mean, good heavens, bleached blond palmettos already. Rest assured I will return you folks to regular programming. Dee spent a good part of the morning shooting magnolia blossoms and is working on a blossom triptych.

Cumberland Island was the site of Andrew Carnegie’s getaway mansion. It is now mainly concrete walls. This shed is part of a crumbling wood outbuilding. As always deteriorating stuff can be visually interesting. Or so says the kid in me that refuses to grow up and behave.

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Infrared Oak

A wise man once told me that it only takes one image to make a shoot a successful one. I have my one shot for our first morning on Cumberland Island amongst the palmettos and oaks working to see what the new infrared filter will do. Trying to figure out what the filter will and will not do and just what makes a good infrared subject. The filter turns green to white. OK, but to what effect when? Still don’t really know but I got my one qualifying shot. Maybe not much else. Dee got a better variety with her conventional light images.

We are up early and ready to go because the skies are clear so we won’t have all morning to shoot. That’s what we do to kill time.

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End of Fog

One more stop for our merry chase of the fog: Hyatt Lane with its iconic trees, iconic because the trees have been photographed twenty scazillion times from pretty much the same perspective. So I offer my version with soft background fog in a Black & White conversion with soft coffee color.

And as my workshop parting shot an artsy tartsy infrared filtered image. “The tree  offers all sorts of composition possibilities and has the advantage of not being totally obvious. (Dee got a nice broad perspective image with cool clouds.) Now to IR – allegedly digital camera sensors filter out infrared light because it messes up color registration. However, one of those folks who won’t take no for an answer figured out that a fair amount of infrared sneaks past the blocking filter. We now have a filter that lets in only in only IR light. Upshot of all this is that the shot has to be minutes long so clouds get artistically blurred. The resulting image is pink on magenta but readily converts to black & white with any original green colors coming out white. Creative possibilities make this all quite interesting. My shot was taken with a borrowed filter. We now have our own IR filter. Of course. Of course.

Onward and upward.
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Sparks Lane Fog

More chasing fog: So there we are chugging down the mountain convinced we are wasting time. The fog will have burned off. What does Tony know? He has been working the area for maybe thirty years. Each of us has been there a couple times. We know. Gonna be no fog. Well there was fog.

First stop – Sparks Lane. Nobody there but the fog is nicely lingering. Had this been the week before, the height of spring photo workshop season, maybe one hundred photographers would have overwhelmed the lane. Tony tells us it got really nasty the week before. It’s a country lane with some iconic trees and fence line thanks to hundreds upon hundreds of photographers.

What does a tour leader do to make sure us underlings get a good shot? As we set up, “Look to the left. Nice light in the tree line.” Nice soft light indeed. So I get my version of the tree line, do the obligatory lane with fence & trees and then go wandering out in the fields and shoot the lane trees from a different angle as our light becomes stronger harder. This second vertical shot got high praise come critique time. Seems I did an excellent job with a complex composition situation. Shows careful consideration. I wish. Tony, who announces we are leaving a spot at least three time over a 15 minute period before we actually move, was now insistent we move. My dominant activity was not careful consideration but hyperventilation, panic, push. Need to get something here and not hold up the gang.

Next up another iconic lane in Cades Cove with the last of morning fog.

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Chasing Fog

Perhaps the number one reason people attend photography workshops is for a photo tour – to be put in the right place at the right time. We selected Tony Sweet because he is a master of composition and is aggressively creative. I went to be stretched and challenged. That said, I do want those killer locations at killer times. Tony told us if we saw fog at the motel in the morning we would rocket up to an over look on the Foothills Parkway for a sunrise shoot.

We got our fog. I got a nice series of sunrise shots and, when back in the classroom, learned a really nice technique. When one has a strongly monochromatic shot black & white blending can make things interesting. The base color shot of the fog is softly gray blue. As instructed, I converted the image to black & white and then partially blended in the black & white over the color to give the monochrome image subtle toning from the color layer. Just one of many neat ideas to stretch our photography.

Back to workshop doings: if we had been up there the previous week, there would have at least two other workshop groups with us so maybe fifty plus people. Plenty of room to spread out here but not at our next stop. We were off to chase the fog in the valley. Tony says it will linger in the valleys. We don’t think so.

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Greenbrier Cascade

As I have an increasing interest in black & white imagery, I have processed the few workshop images done so far in color and then black & white. This particular image of a cascade up at Greenbriar seems more effective in monochrome. OK, good and I move on. Then I check out our workshop mentor’s blog posting after his two workshops in the Smokies. And what do I see but his interpretation of the same shot.  (See his blog for comparison: http://tonysweet.com/blog/)

Did I copy his shot? Nope. Seems we selected the same shooting spot at different times as the group wandered up and down the creek. More interesting to me is the preferred monochrome presentation. Now,  would I copy a specific shot? Absolutely. For all sorts of reasons – some reasonably altruistic, some purely selfish.

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Reflections & Other Delights

What did you learn? Perhaps the main question we get asked after we have plunked down a good chunk of cash for a workshop. In my case this week a hefty chunk as it was an advanced workshop – just five shooters. Pretty intense.

Now I know the conditions necessary for good water reflections and generally what to do to smooth out water flow. I got fine tuning tips/instructions on camera settings and what filters to use & not use. The rest is up to me and then we go in for extensive critiquing - composition and processing. The comment on this image: extraordinary composition. No fine tuning or processing required. Not to shabby. Couldn’t have produced this shot using the shooting techniques I used before this workshop. Couldn’t have done it.

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