The Creative End of Modern Photography

This is a relatively ordinary view that I turned into a watercolor, giving it a more immediate impact. I think it’s my favorite that I shot over the weekend. Click the photo for a larger, more comprehensive view of the detail.

Photography has always been the red-headed step child of the art world, rarely getting the respect I believe it deserves from the early days of blurry, grainy images on metal plates to the modern slimmed, elongated, PhotoShopped models in advertising.

Susan’s impression of a distant covered bridge with fall coming on.

Photography, these days, is, of course, mostly practiced on smart phones these days, the camera taking a distant back seat because, basically, it is a one-function instrument in a world that demands its devices be all encompassing. Fact is, though, that smart phone pictures can be quite impressive, depending on who’s shooting them.

That’s always been the case with cameras and photographers. The best photographers get the best shots, regardless of their equipment. Micheal Jordan didn’t perform like a champion because of his shoes, but because he was the best basketball player of his day. My old friend Suzan Bright learned in college at Pratt Institute in New York to build her own camera and to shoot with it. She was a photographer, not an iPhone pretender.

Susan’s shot toward the lake.

I have always had a decent eye, but until PhotoShop was rarely technically proficient. With photo editing programs, I can get images of what I see, not just what the camera sees. Ansel Adams did that in the dark room. He would climb a mountain with that bulky camera, huge wooden tripod and one plate to shoot. That’s one shot. But he knew what he was doing and what he could do in the darkroom.

This past weekend my friend Susan, who shoots a small Canon point-and-shoot and I, with my Lumix (a Leica product; I have the Leica, too) wandered around a misty, chilly, damp Mountain Lake surrounding forest to take our Sunday images. The forest around the resort looks like the deep green, moss encrusted, rhododendron filled fantasy of a children’s book and it was our job to play the tricky light and come home with something to work with.

Susan does all her work in her camera and I shoot what’s there and play with it later on my computer. Here is some of what we came up with and you can judge it as you like. We enjoy the exercise, the use of our senses, being out in this incredible beauty, and the opportunity to put on paper or canvas what we see with eyes that have been conditioned to look at what’s not always obvious.

I enhanced the color of the roof here to make the photo snap.

This was a murky overlook view of a beautiful valley, made more appealing by emphasizing the traits of the mountains.

No, the red is not this rich live as it is in Susan’s picture of the covered bridge, but which would you prefer to look at?

This is Susan’s shot of a couple on an overlook bridge. I made it black and white. She liked it. Me, too.

I shot this of Susan with her camera, using the “panorama” mode.

This is some of Susan’s magic forest, enhanced to look more Halloween-spooky.

Susan’s looking at a tunnel through the rocks here and you get the idea of the density of the forest with this.

This is Susan’s view of me as John Muir, which I am not, but, hey, it’s a photograph.

This is my enhanced view of the high water creek and the covered bridge.

AMAC: The Anti-AARP Is Your Enemy

I’ve been getting mailings from a group called the Association of Mature American Citizens, which is a rabidly pro-Trump, anti-Social Security/Medicare group that wants to take you down if you’re anywhere near my age.

It calls itself “conservative,” but it is just about as conservative as Trump, who is hardly that (he isn’t anything philosophically). It would align itself with people like Paul Ryan, who wants to eliminate “entitlements” (which are not that), money many of us depend upon, that we paid into our retirement accounts and that Ronald Reagan tried to spend for general fund commitments. He didn’t want to raise taxes, so he stole Social Security, nearly bankrupting it.

Now, AMAC wants to organize the Trumpsters to trample old people in their retirement years. It is obviously led by people who hate democrats more than they love America. Truth be told, the AARP is a conservative organization and always has been, but this group of nut jobs in Washington at this moment simply want to destroy and old people are an easy target. Let’s see what we can do about sending them to hell, where they belong.

Broken or Not, It Hurts!

The purple one is the toe in question.

Toes are handy, but testy little devils. They tend to run into things and when they do, they, like hurt! I mean birthing a baby hurt (from what I’m told).

Margie has a habit of running into things and since I’ve known her, she’s banged her toes at least three times, letting out this godawful primal scream each time. All three times, she said the toe was broken.

Yesterday, I hit my “index” toe on the right foot on the bathtub as I was climbing in and I hopped around for about five minutes, moaning and cussing. For the first time I understood Margie’s pain and there was nobody here to sympathize (a “poor baby” would have helped).

The toe was, I concluded, broken. What else could it be. An hour after the crash, it was purple and I couldn’t move it. Broken. Yep. Absolutely.

This morning, it’s still purple and I still can’t move it, but I walk OK. I decided that my two exercise classes this morning would have to be foregone, but I’m looking at possibly taking a walk of a few miles later, just to see how the toe does.

As if the broken toe wasn’t enough, my main computer–the one with all my work on it–died yesterday and I had to run out and buy another one. Computers are like cars. You don’t just go on the lot and buy one. The dealer has to do stuff to it, so I won’t have it until, maybe, tomorrow. There’s another pain, caused by another break.

Today’s gotta be better.

‘West Side Story’ at MMT Powerful

The cast has 29 members and the crew helps fill a room at Mill Mountain Theatre.

The star of “West Side Story” is and always has been Jerome Robbins’ ground-breaking choreography, which combines modern dance, ballet, street fighting, love, hate, exuberance, and the kind of intensity rarely found in theatrical dance numbers.

Robbins’ vision is being carried out through the capable interpretation of Nick Kepley and Ginger Poole at Mill Mountain Theatre for the next couple of weeks and if you can get a ticket, get your butt in a seat. Fast. This one’s worth the time and effort. (Ticket info at 540-342-5740 or

“WSS” has always been about the dance, but it’s much more than that: a 600-year-old social commentary that (unfortunately) still has legs, a love story worthy of the greatest writer of all time, a comment on irrational hatred and violence, a venue for beautiful music by Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein (played by a talented 11-piece orchestra, mostly composed of MMT veterans).

The MMT production emphasizes all those characteristics alternately with a cast of 29 (including five locals: Patrick Kennerly, Jeffrey McGullion, Anna Holland, Chloe Cannon and Chris Shepard) that features some notable professional talent, mostly from the Northeast.

The production revolves around the powerful singing and acting of Julia Paladino as Maria, a young woman with a light, but powerful soprano who carries the emotion of the moment–whether newfound love or great loss–in every note. Ms. Paladino has played Maria before on a regional stage and it shows. She is complemented by Kenneth Quinney Francoeur’s Tony, a solid singer whose voice fits with Ms. Paladino’s as a matched set.

The lighting and set are standard MMT professional and though nothing is out of the ordinary here, it probably shouldn’t be. Simple, classic, effective.

This is a big production of an American classic and the boys and girls at Mill Mountain Theatre bring it off as a season-highlight.

(Note: Wear a jacket or sweater. The theater last night was so chilly that it distracted from the play. I asked that the AC be given a break, but didn’t notice any difference.)


Buffalo Mountain: A New, Spectacular Hike

Susan takes a photo of the view from one of the big rocks on top.

I’m shooting a reflection in a rock pool.

Susan lifted this rock, so I could walk under it.

My friend Susan and I took our cameras up Buffalo Mountain in Floyd County yesterday and not only got some pretty good photos, but also experienced a new hike (for us) that is reminiscent of North Mountain, McAfee’s Knob, Dragon’s Tooth (without the difficulty) and several other big payoff hikes in this region.

My doc, Jeri Lentz, suggested Buffalo Mountain, one of her favorite trails and when I looked it up, the trail looked perfect: two miles up an incline and a simply dazzling view (almost 360 degrees) at the top. There are no creeks or water falls on the trail, but the view stands alone and in about three weeks or so, my guess is that the color of the foliage will be spectacular. The mountain is nearly 4,000 feet up, but the train grade is slight most of the way and rarely steep. Even on top, when walking the rocks, it isn’t difficult to climb here and there.

Susan and I ran into quite a few pleasant people, but were fascinated with a group of geology students and their professors from the University of Cincinnati. One of them was a young Vietnamese student (one who already had a degree in petroleum engineering in Vietnam) who was studying here with the goal of a master’s degree. She barely speaks English and our admiration for her courage was significant.

Included here are our impressions of the hike.

This is a family that was just ahead of us on the trail.

I’m at the right here, crashing the geology class.

This was our welcome to the area.

The parking lot is roomy, but not huge (that’s my white truck).

We found a bunch of fascinating–and big–spider webs to shoot.

I shot some webs, too.

This is a pretty shot from Susan.

Another spider web, making art is it grows.

The pause that refreshes.

Some creative soul carved out this chair with a chain saw.

Susan, who teaches chair yoga, shows how it’s done in a natural setting.

That’s Rock Man standing on top of the world.

Here’s Rock Man climbing down.

There was lots of vegetation, little of it prettier than this.

It took about 10 minutes for me to finally get a shot of this colorful boy.

This maple sapling says–screams–“fall!”

Heavy overcast and mist gave an impression–alternately–of romance and foreboding.

This is the geology class on its field trip, which I suggested is preferable to an English major’s field trip: the library.

Back in the days when I climbed Dragon’s Tooth, I often took photos that looked like this …

… or this.