Vacation is Over, Time to get back In

Enough catching up. Its time to jump back in with both feet. I had been taking things a little light, getting caught up etc, etc, but now its time to get moving again. I need to feel the camera in my hands again. I got a little burned out with the gallery, but now the itch has come back. Yesterday I hiked about 5 miles up the Big Creek trail in the GSMNP. I’d almost forgot how gorgeous it is. It was an almost perfect day, largely cloudy, a bit cooler, and I took the little camera, so I could focus more on the hike and why I moved here. Days like this help get perspective remind me that I’m not in charge of things. Kudos to Darwin and all that, but it is difficult to perceive such a perfect beautiful scene could be evolved from survival of the fittist. Survival tends to bring out mean ugly details, beauty lies in the communal harmony of coexistence on a grander scale.

Anyway I took the little camera and no tripod, so I could move easier and try to get out that perfect grand scene mentality. Its time to put some fun back into the art. The little one is a Panasonic Lumix Fz50. A not bad fixed lens SLR like point and shoot. One of the biggest factors in choosing this one was ability to manually focus. So yesterday was all about enjoying the day and playing around. Sometimes its nice to just shoot the scene and not have to worry with setting a grand shot. Probably nothing print worthy out of the day, but it was an excellent shoot just for the change of perspective.

Here are a few of the shots:

A random cascade along the creek with a bit of birch bark to spice up the foreground

Another of the many cascades with a couple leaves as foreground.
Another of the many cascades with a couple leaves as foreground.

And of course you can’t pass Mouse Creek Falls without a token shot.

Mouse Creek Falls
Mouse Creek Falls

All in all, a very good day, just to be out clikin.

Gotta do some real work now. Keep on clikin.


We have decided to close the gallery in Gatlinburg.

We are looking at opening a scaled back version in Cosby near the T junction. We will probably start out with a tent to gauge interest from the folks passing by. We are looking to set a shared type of setup, perhaps working with the  EaglePoint ministries so we share the burden of manning it. Unfortunately the economical conditions have impacted reduced the amount people are spending this year, so artwork seems to come off the top of the optional expenses list.

But that also translates into more time to shoot. I joined the Photographic Society of East Tennessee this week. Seems like a pretty good bunch with a wide range of experience. One of the assignments for this month is to pick a subject and shoot it 24 different ways. So I think I will do the memorial tower across the street from the house. I may have missed the best moonlight to shoot by though. I’ll have to see what it looks like in the next couple weeks. I went over to talk with the guy whose property I’ll be shooting from to let him know that the weird lights in the middle of the night over there are not aliens, just a local shutterbug. So the plan is to shoot it as a sunrise, sunset, late afternoon glow, moonrise/background, night shot with light painting, nighttime panorama, nighttime long exposure next to the tower to capture the rotation of the stars, etc, etc. Should be a good project. I’ll post some of the results when I get them  done.

Gotta run for now, time to fix breakfast.

Bruce (Bc)

Spring has Sprung!

Or least the flowers are popping up. The Dogwoods and Redbuds outside the park have had a happy spring, the ones inside the park are not popping yet. We had some cold weather last week that may have slowed them down a bit. I saw very few flowering Dogwoods in the Greenbrier area this Saturday, and only 1 Redbud. The Cosby area had a number of Dogwoods flowering, but it looked like the cold affected them, the blooms did not have the usual white pop to them. Good news for the Trillium though, they are going strong along the Porter Creek Trail. Yellow Trillium are very abundant, and the Large Flower Trillium, and Sweet White Trilliumare plentiful. Pahcelia is blanketing the the forest floor and areas, and if you look close you can find Dutchmans Breeches in full bloom. The Crested Dwarf Iris along this trail have about a week to go, although I heard they are already blooming near the Ramsey’s Cascade trailhead. It looks to be a good year for wild flowers, providing we don’t have any suprises through the spring. Here are a few shots from Saturday. These have not been edited yet but they will give you an idea of what is going on.

Back to work. Keep on clikin!


The Perfect Snow

I have been remiss again. This post should have been a couple weeks ago.

We are expecting a gorgeous St Patty’s day in Gatlinburg. The parade today is a combination Santa/St Patricks day parade, so I guess we are in for a red, white, and green day.  Should be interesting.

Last Tuesday I hiked up toward Spruce Flats Falls in shorts and a tshirt. The Tuesday before I was shooting in 6″ of snow at about 15 degrees.  Thats the kind of variety I love. The great thing is, that at lower elevations we only had a dusting of snow. Snow you visit and then leave. Thats what I call the perfect snow.

I had to “crab” my way under the rhododendrons, the branches were reaching the ground in places due to the weight of the snow. The cold also meant there where some nice ice formations in the rivers.

W prong Little Pigeon River
W prong Little Pigeon River

All in all I love the variety here.  I was bummed this morning because the fog seemed perfect this morning. But alas I had to come open the shop. I would have loved to be shooting instead. I did snap a couple from the back porch though.

It looks to be a great wild flower show this year. The Barlet Pears and Daffodils are in full bloom, and the Redbuds and Dogwoods are starting to strut their stuff. If we don’t have a late freeze, with the amount of water we have had lately it should be a good year.

That’s all for now, got to go back to work.

Remember, today is important because I am trading a day of life for it.



I guess winter is not over

We got about 1 1/2 inches in Newport by the hills, Cosby was getting quite a bit when I came through there. Gatlinburg looks like it got about an inch or so, but the sun is already coming out so it won’t last long. Kinda nice going from not even needing a jacket yesterday to a nice coating of snow today. Mount Leconte is reporting 4 inches on the ground, no report for Newfound Gap. The road through Newfound Gap is closed but according to the GSMNP road report the other roads are not mentioned. I did notice that the foothills parkway east was closed when I went by there this morning. If closed the roads probably will be open later today since the roads are warm and the sun is out. The rest of the week looks fairly mild. I just wish I could have gotten out this morning to do some shooting, but alas, duty calls.

My next challenge is still working on the intimate panorama. Trying to minimize or eliminate the distortion that tends to make the curve away from the center of the image. This is not too noticeable on the grand vistas, but in close it will make a straight stretch of river “bend” away from the center of the image. Trying to use the “perspective” setting when stitching the images together in CS3 has not yielded good results.  A straight log in the foreground will bend through about 145 degrees so I get a U shaped log. Anyone know of a good program that helps with this. I may have to go to manual stitching and try to align the images and the resizing to see if that helps.

Thursday is the monthly meeting of the Photographic Society of East Tennesse which I am looking forward to joining. It may be the only meeting I get to make this year, depending on what is happening with the gallery, but I look forward to meeting some of the local shutterbugs.

Time to get back to work, I am updating the website to allow customers to upload photos so I can print them for them, but the update has been proving to be one of the more stubborn updates I’ve done to the site.

Have a great today,

Keep on clickn,


Is Winter Over?

It almost seems as if winter has decided to leave town. While I’m sure there will be more cold nights to come, having temperatures in the upper 60’s makes me wonder. We have a storm bearing down on us today, but that will be rain and wind. Although once it passes we will return to more normal seasonal temperatures of lows around freezing and highs in the 40’s.

It will be a rough day hiking today. The showers are projected to start around 1pm, and will bring wind gusts up to 60 mph. A good gale force blow. Yesterday though was almost ideal. I hiked up the Mt Sterling trail to the fire tower and campsite there, and then hiked a little ways down the Mt Sterling trail. For the uphill I definitely did not need the jacket. The trail starts from Cove Creek road (Old NC 284). Getting to the trail head was the adventurous part. When I got to the point where the road enters the park, a ranger was coming up the road. He asked where I was going. When I told him I was going to the Mt Sterling trailhead he said it was iffy for my little Hyundai Tiburon because of the mud on the road. He was right it was a little iffy at times surfing the shark on the steep switchbacks going up. But the little guy weighs about as much as a tricked out go kart, so I was able to get enough traction to keep going. Although it was pretty interesting at times. The hike from Cove Creek road is relatively steep. The trail ascends about 1900 feet over 2.7 miles. The trail is rocky in parts, to too much mud considering it is also a horse trail. I’ve never seen horse trailers at the trail head though. Its a pretty constant slope up. Once at the the top where the trail meets the Mt Sterling Ridge trail, it is a short hike to the fire tower and campsite #38, which is one of the higher campsites in the park. The view from the fire tower is spectacular, although the haze yesterday precluded any good shots. But this was more of a scouting trip anyway. The mountain top is covered in Firs, so the only scenic views are from the fire tower. It is open so it is accessible. At the top you are shooting through small window panes though so shooting panoramas from the top of the tower would be difficult. All in all it was nice hike. Beautiful weather for a February day, light jacket was all that was needed. I took the little camera on this hike (Panasonic Lumix FZ50 point and shoot) and forgot about shooting a little video while I was up there. The hills were definitely blue yesterday. So far this looks to be one of the best spots I’ve found for Sunrise shots, although you would pretty much have to camp up there to get it. And definitely not be afraid of heights. You would have to be very self conscious of your footing in the fire tower to make sure you do not fall through the opening. Especially while it is dark. So not an easy shot to get. But I may go for it in March.

Mt Sterling Firetower - View to the west
Mt Sterling Firetower - View to the west

For February though It was a great hike. Gorgeous weather. I would not want be up there today though. Despite the fact that my car probably would not make it after it gets the downpours today, and the winds gusting to 60 mph in a little box 100 feet off the earth, supported by a metal tower, with possible lightning strikes……… I don’t think so. Not worth the shot today.

Mt Sterling Fire Tower
Mt Sterling Fire Tower
A little hot and cold
A little hot and cold

Have a great today

Keep on clickn.

Let it snow

It looks like we will be getting a fair amount here today and tomorrow. It has been snowing since I got into town at 9:30 am, and the forecast calls for a 1 to 2 inch accumulation, although it seems pretty warm for that. I don’t think we will hit freezing until around 7 or 8 PM. Newfound Gap though should be getting a good coating, with 1-4 inches today, 1 to 3 tonight, and 1-2 tomorrow. Naturally the road is closed, but I am hoping they will get it open tomorrow so I can get up there and do some shooting. If not I’ll have to stick with the lower elevations and see what I can get. I would love to get some winter panoramic shots done. I finished working on an 4x3Hdr vertical panoramic of Mouse Creek Falls. A client is looking for print to go with the Ramsey’s Cascade shot, and that will most likely be the best bet. It was shot a couple weeks ago so the vegetation is not crowding out the rocks on the waterfall, and it has a little more of the cascade effect as well. So a crop of the top half of the falls will work well for a 24×36 print. The full size print will run about 24×50 when I print it on Canvas. The Enfuse HDR handled the blending pretty well. I’ve still got detail in the waterfall highlights, and can balance the tones so that the detail in the shadows will come out as well. These shots do take a while to process on the computer though. They suck the memory dry in no time. I built a system with 2 AMD Opteron Dual Core processors with 4GB DDR2 memory. Unfortunately I’ve never been able to get the 4GB switch to work on this machine so I am stuck with XP’s native 3GB limit. I haven’t prioritized the programs for specific processors, I let windows do the choosing. This works pretty well, I rarely max out the CPU’s, and load stays balanced between the 4 cpu’s. I get killed on memory however. I was trying to save time last night and was doing a crop in photoshop on a 1.5 GB image, while running a 15 shot HDR Enfuse blending. This was requiring 4.8 GB of memory, so went to watch TV while it plugged and chugged. It completed processing on both images, and I didn’t get the photoshop/version cue kiss of death that I get when trying to photomerge too many images, so I was happy about that. One thing about enfuse is that it only outputs jpeg or tiff files. I never work with jpeg if possible, so I output tiffs when using enfuse. I’m shooting a Canon 1DS Mark II so my raw files are usually from 14 to 18 MB, after an Enfuse blend the resulting Tiff is always a constant 129 MB. So when I photomerge the files in Photoshop, it chokes if I try to do somewhere between 5 and 10 of the blended Tiffs. When I did my 10 shot Pano, I had to first merge the left 5 shots, then right shots, and then merge the two together. They are just finishing one the worlds fastest computers out at Oak Ridge called the Kraken. Its measured in the petaflop range. Seems like not long a teraflop was the holy grail. Anyway I may have check into buying time on their system to process some of these images.  Anyway, it is worth the extra work. I like the results I’m getting, although I’m going to start testing photomatix for the HDR and see if it has something I can’t live without. I’m looking forward to the spring so I can try some wide angle macro panoramics of the flowers along the river.

I’m no expert but these are some of the more critical factors I found for shooting the panos.

The camera must be level throughout the arc of the shots. I use a hot shoe bubble level to level the camera, and after I have the camera leveled I sweep it through the angles that I will be shooting and make sure it stays level. Of course for this to happen the tripod must be level as well. It is important to have a tripod head that you can lock down the vertical access on, so that the head only move horizontally. I like the effects I get more when I am shooting closer to prime. 50mm for my camera. Zooms work fine, but merging wide angle shots with the distortion does not yield great results for me. For vertical panoramics I put the center column on the tripod horizontally, so that I can lock down the head so that it will only move on the vertical plane. I’ve found that if I can get level with halfway up the subject the results work a lot better. Shooting a vertical pano of a waterfall from its base can distort the upper shots too much. So I like to get back further and use my 100-400 zoom, usually around 100mm. I try to overlap the shots by about 10 to 20% roughly, so that photoshop has enough to work with when aligning the images.  Anyway I have a lot of fun experimenting. So get out and give it a try.

Unfortunately I didn’t bring my skis into town today. It would be a great day to close the shop early and check out the slope here. I haven’t tried this one yet. It would be nice to catch some real snow.

Have a great day and keep on clicking!


I guess we’ll get a little winter after all

We just had a couple of days with single digit lows, cold enough for here, but it definitely beats the 25 below in Aurora, IL. I think I can live with this. It was nice to get out and get a couple shots yesterday morning. I haven’t done any below freezing work lately. I stopped at Noisy Falls on the way to Pigeon Forge for the Smokies Wilderness Week. The cascade was pretty much frozen over with just a few spots where you could still see the water flowing. It had some nice formations on it, but the falls are a pretty busy scene so in the shots of the whole cascade its kinda tough to find something for your eye to rest on. Shooting the 100 to 400 yielded some not bad close ups though. I’ll have to see what they look like after a little processing. For some reason I decided not to shoot a vertical panorama of it, settling for straight hdr shots. I was there in mid day so I was also shooting into the sun which may or may not yield a decent image. I don’t think I’ve done an extensive HDR shot with the sun in the image yet, so I will have to see how that turns out. I did a 6 shot HDR at 1 stop increments, so hopefully I can cover the range and maybe get a decent fire and ice kind of theme. After about 1/2 hour though the battery in the camera died, and the backup did not have much charge to it, so its time to take the batteries out of the camera bag and put them in my coat pocket so they will stay warm. I was out to big creek a couple weeks ago practicing the HDR panoramic technique, and shot a 10 shot pano x 3 shot HDR for a 30 shot composition. That’s a lot of fun to process. After processing each of the 10 shots for the HDR, I have to split the photomerge into to 2 5 shot batches and then merge those together. I’m only getting 3 gb memory on my main computer so photoshop was choking on me. The resulting image was 2.8 GB, but once I flattened and cropped the image it was just under 2 GB. If I decide to print it, at 24 inches tall it will be roughly 6 1/2 feet wide. It may make a decent canvas. It covered about 270 degrees at Midnight Pool so it covers the area before the pool with the interesting tree roots, all the way around to the downstream view of Big Creek. Right now I’m mostly trying to get a good handle on the technique, so that when spring hits I’ll be comfortable with it. It’s a lot of fun seeing what the camera can do, but it does require quite a bit of backend processing.

Todays forecast calls for a decent chance of snow later and tonight, continuing through Monday and a slight chance Tuesday. Accumulation will probably not be more than an inch in Gatlinburg, although they could get 2-4 inches around Newfound Gap. We did have some freezing rain in the area last night so 321 north of Gatlinburg was pretty slick early this morning, although it was mostly gone by the time I went through it. There were quite a few areas around that had slick roads, with I-40 being closed for a while west of Knoxville.

If possible plan ahead for next year to catch Wilderness Week in Pigeon Forge. It is a great event with lots of info on photography, music history,  and everything Smokies related, including classes on dowsing! And its free! Its tough to beat this one.

Have a great day! And keep on clicking.


Happy New Year. Almost

It’s a little early yet. Gatlinburg is pretty full this week. The weather has been pretty nice although it is starting to get colder. We will see a little snow in the hills around Friday, but I don’t think it is going to be enough to worry about. If you are looking for a good weather link for what is going on in the park, I like this site. It uses a 1 sq mile grid that you can move around the map for the forcasts, so you can get the forcasts for different sections of the park. This is the link I use for Newfound Gap.

7-Day Forecast for Newfound Gap

If you move to the bottom of the page there is a link for an graphical hourly forecast which is invaluble for shooting.

I went out a couple days ago, but it turned out to be more of an exploring trip than a shooting trip. I got off to a late afternoon start so I didn’t get to do a hike, as I was hoping, but instead drove around scouting for new locations around the house. I did find a road running along the Pigeon River that has potential, but I didn’t get any shots that day. The river is still up a bit, so it looked like a nice rafting or Kayak run, although probably a bit tame for white water kayakers.  All in all it was a nice trip at least until the dog threw up in the backseat, but life of a clicker does have its challenges. . Just to get out and explore and enjoy a nice day though is always a pleasure.

Any New Year resolutions out there? I generally don’t make resolutions. Seems like that just gives me something to break. But in the short term I am resolving to do more writing and shooting. My wife had a lady in the store the other day asking about a book of my poetry, which is a problem since I haven’t written it yet. So that is a good probect to work on this winter. I think todays effort is to work with the quote”

“A great many men will strive to achieve much, It is the wise man that will strive to achieve a little”

Bc Hannold

Kind of a planting a forest one tree at a time sort a thing. Should keep me out of trouble for a few minutes anyway. I’ll post the result when I have it done.

In the mean time:
Happy New Year and Godbless!


I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas

Gatlinburg should be nice over the weekend. Highs in the 60’s with a little rain this morning and scattered showers Sunday. It should be one of the busiests weeks of the year, the town is usually packed between Christmas and New Years. Hopefully that will be the case this year. I have a lot of pressing to do to get the dye sub stocks up to par. We raided our inventory for Christmas presents, so we have to rebuild. I’m still looking for unique applications for the dye sub printing. My next step is to start printing images as custom tile murals for backspalshes, tabletops, wall murals etc. Right now I’m looking for a good program to chop up the prints into individual tiles so I don’t have to do it manually. I need to be able to adjust the overlap or “bleed” to ensure I’m not losing part of the image and to insure the tile looks like it belongs with the surrounding tiles. It will be interesting to see how far I can push the size of the image without losing too much detail. Some, like Ramseys study #1 I should be able to push to 5ft high. But I will have to play with it and see. If anyone knows of some good freeware for chopping an image up into 4 or 6 inch tiles I would appreciate it. A photoshop or lightroom plugin would the simplest solution.

That’s all for now, gotta get back to work.