This past week we trekked up to Fort Payne, Alabama to enjoy cooler temperatures and some outdoor time with nature. Some time ago there was an article in the Outdoor Photographer magazine that featured "Little River Canyon" in Fort Payne, Alabama as a favorite place. So for all of you that may be wondering why here? That's why. We left early and spent a good portion of the day travelling. Since Fort Payne is in central time zone, we gained an hour arriving a little earlier than I thought - but that was great. Once we found our rustic log cabin located at Bear Creek Cabins with hosts Randy and Sandy - our adventure began. Though out the next few weeks you'll have the opportunity to venture with us on our trek.
This was 'home' for the week. A small 1 bedroom rustic log cabin. It was actually built back in the 1800's and was moved here to this location by Randy. It does have electricity and indoor plumbing - I'm sure Randy had a hand in adding all those wonderful features. The bathroom had an old time bath tub (the photos of the inside of the cabin will be in a future blog post).
We unloaded all our stuff, found places to put it and then ventured out to check out the pond over by our hosts home (they live on the property). Jimbo and Abby did travel with us - and after spending the majority of the day travelling (they both did great), I figured they would like to check out the new surroundings. The sun is low over the pond where many go fishing (we didn't) and the cows are in the pasture but fenced away from the pond.
Many of you probably know, I'm a city girl and I've not been that close to cows - at least, not without a barrier between us. I don't think the dogs have seen a cow and certainly didn't know what they were all about. After we exited the fenced area around the pond, we were officially in the cow pasture - and they came over towards us. I think they were curious, but they might have been looking to see if we had any food. The dogs didn't know whether to bark or run away.
Since we were in central time now and very close to the border between eastern and central, it meant the sun came up really early. Ugh, the sun rises at 5:40am....if we want to get photographs of the sun rising, we have to get up really early - not seeing that happen today after such a long day driving on Sunday. We did get out early and start the drive along the canyon wall, but not early enough to beat the sun on this bright, clear, no clouds day.
My first thought is, we need to use today (Monday) as our scouting day and see as much as we can and figure out how to get the best light on the things that are of interest to photograph. Sun comes up at a crazy hour, no clouds, this is going to be fun. Our first glance at the canyon - and wow is it way down there!
This scenic drive has overlooks at a good many different places and we stopped at a lot of them, but the canyon was way down there - so far, that in some cases we didn't see it because neither of us were up to standing on the edge and looking down. The rock formations are huge and the mountains are amazing to view - but I couldn't help but wonder, what does fall color look like?
Our first glimpse of the Little River Falls from a overlook viewpoint along the canyon wall. You can see the clear blue sky, not a cloud around! Many think this is great lighting, but it does change what the camera will actually capture so it's not ideal for great photos. It's only 8:13 in the morning and it's already looking like high noon except it's a little cooler.
In the photograph above, you see a bridge above the waterfall. The bridge is on highway 35, so we drove on that and just to the right of this photograph is a parking lot where we stopped to view the waterfall from a closer view. The sun was definitely to high for great photographs of the waterfall - having already risen above the east canyon wall. The waterfall itself faces to the south - so in order to get photographs without the blazing sun either photograph REALLY early in the morning or late in the afternoon after the sun drops behind the canyon wall or pray for clouds.
This is the portion of the waterfall closest to the view point - it was in the shade when this photograph was taken.
This is the entire waterfall - where the portion on the left was in bright sunlight and the portion on the right was still in the shade. It's a huge waterfall and the locals do walk out on the rocks above the water fall and there is apparently a trail (we didn't actually find it) down to the bottom of the water fall to the left of where this photograph was taken.
Our next stop was at a local dining place, nothing fancy but the food was freshly cooked and to order. Ralph's lil canyon grocery and grill - they cooked breakfast and we all ate at the picnic table under the dabbled sunlight (partial shade). We enjoyed our meal (dogs included) and then continued on to our next stop - DeSoto State Park and DeSoto Falls. We quickly found out that the sun was just not going to be our friend - and we went back a second time to DeSoto Falls to get photographs in the late afternoon. DeSoto Falls, the waterfall itself, faces west.
If you want to see those photographs, check out the next blog entry!!
This week I photographed several dogs that were rescued and are now within the care of Maxx and Me Pet Rescue. Each of these dogs have a sad story in their past. Sometimes I wonder why there is so much animal cruelty and abuse - but my purpose for this blog post is not to ponder this question. Instead, my blog post this week is to give you insight into what goes into a rescue dog portrait and photograph session. Meet Gracie, she is a sweet, blue mix dog. Gracie is waiting for her foster home or even better a furever home.
When I arrived at the dog resort she is staying at, I was greeted by a wonderful person who assisted me with each of the dogs. Gracie immediately came out into the play area and ran around. Most sessions start with the dog running and enjoying the freedom of being outside and taking care of business. Once they are done, I start working the camera waiting for the dog to do 'what dogs do best'.
Gracie ran around, looked up trees, played with toys and enjoyed herself (while I followed her around and took photographs). Eventually, Gracie stopped to shake the hand of the person who cares for her. The photo I am showing you here is the final photograph.
So what goes into the creating the finished photo? It often depends on what the dog does for the photo session and what the surroundings are when the photograph is taken. Here's the original photograph.
Notice that the concrete has a lot of debris laying on it. Small sticks, pine needles, lots of 'outdoor' things. A good portion of that has been removed in the final photograph.
Next, I have several different photographs of green grass. It's important not to make the grass sharp throughout the image as that's not necessarily what you will want when you blend the photographs together on a computer (using photograph or On1 Layers). I've taken several different photographs of grass and blurred it differently in each photo. This is the one used to blend into Gracie's photograph.
Using software, I created a composite image of Gracie using this photograph of grass to provide a green background. For the techie's out there, I decided not to have 100% opacity in the grass as it looks softer with a lower opacity. The last step for the rescue dogs is to put a small logo with the pet rescue name and our website information.
So, if you're ever wondering why you might be paying more to have a professional photographer take the photograph as opposed to using your cell phone and taking a 'selfie' - maybe this gives you an idea of what goes into creating a more pleasing photograph of your pet.
For more photographs of Maxx and Me Pet Rescue dogs, visit our gallery at http://www.vpshoots.com/maxxandme
Most of these dogs are still waiting to be adopted, but you can check out Maxx and Me's website (or facebook page) www.maxxandme.org
Over the last few weeks we have traveled over to St. Petersburg and stopped over in the downtown area. We walked down Central and then sat down to eat at a dog friendly restaurant, Urban Comfort. The Urban Comfort opens at 11 for lunch - they have great food. Jim noticed something about the building - it had a prior life before it became this restaurant. After eating, we noticed that several other buildings also had previous lives. This shouldn't be hard - but do you see what these buildings were in the past? This one is the most obvious to me.
This one is kinda cool as they have maintained a lot of the original structure.
Here's another one, haven't been to this place for food - but many of these places aren't open before 11am.
And the last one - apparently they are getting ready for the IGLTA as there were lots of different signs and rainbows throughout the area.
So - did you figure it out? If so, let us know - either by posting a comment to this blog or mentioning on our facebook page.
We'd love to see who is actually reading the blog entries :)
Until next time,
I love this place! It's quiet most days, has a beautiful boardwalk among the trees (almost all shaded, but that also means bugs) and lots of gardens and flowers. It's located on the road to the old Vandenburg Airport, now Tampa Executive in a somewhat secluded area making it all the more of a gem to visit. It's dog friendly, so Dolly used to go with me years ago, then Jimbo and now Jimbo and Abby. Abby had her first visit and seemed to enjoy the new smells.
Shortly after you enter the gardens, you'll come across this nice bridge over the spring fed water.
This water way (depending on the time of year) is filled with water lilies. They are one of my favorite flowers to photograph at this park. Usually there are white and pink ones blooming but there are a few other varieties also.
I recently noticed that they have some small visitors in the gardens now - I can only assume that they haven't been there all the years that I have been visiting - but if you don't pay close attention, you might just miss them!
Today, amazing they are still blooming because it feels like the middle of summer already to me - but the pink snapdragons were very pretty.
In one of my earlier visits I did some infrared photography. Here's a black and white infrared photograph of one area of the park - almost looks like snow.
The boardwalk has been cleaned now, but I loved the green coloring for photographing. It's a short walk along the swampy areas (dry in our drought right now). Course, short if you're not being attacked by a bunch of mosquitoes which is what is often the case come summer.
For more photographs of the park, visit http://www.vpshoots.com/eurekaspringspark
Stop by sometime and enjoy a nice walk through the gardens if you haven't been here before!
This week we visited the Tampa History Museum. If you're interested in history, they have done a wonderful job of putting together exhibits about the Indians, Cigar industry, Sports, Military and other historic displays regarding Tampa's history. I however wanted to visit the temporary exhibit, Finding Fairyland. Memories of Lowry Park's fairyland that was there when I was young, but dismantled by the time I was a young adult. Most of the exhibits were in the state they were found with a few exceptions. If you want to travel down memory lane, here's a few photographs. It was fun walking around and seeing the displays and remembering....I don't think children today have a 'fairy tale' world, but many of us did.
Remember this fairy tale poem?
Hickory, dickory, dock.
The mouse ran up the clock.
The clock struck one,
The mouse ran down,
Hickory, dickory, dock.
Jack and the beanstalk? Jack is among the fairy tale statues that has been refinished.
Old English Fairy Tale - version written and illustrated by Leanne Guenther
The little, old man looked around to make sure no one was watching and then opened his hand to show Jack what he held.
"Beans?" asked Jack, looking a little confused.
"Three magical bean seeds to be exact, young man. One, two, three! So magical are they, that if you plant them over-night, by morning they grow right up to the sky," promised the funny little man. "And because you're such a good boy, they're all yours in trade for that old milking cow."
"Really?" said Jack, "and you're quite sure they're magical?"
For the entire story, check out this link: http://www.dltk-teach.com/rhymes/beanstalk/story.htm
Cinderella - she went to the ball in a carriage made from a pumpkin.
The little story books from each of the displays are with each of the characters. They contained 'key phrases' from the fairy tale they represented.
These are the horses that pulled Cinderella's carriage to the ball.
Ah, the witch.....ever thought about how many of the fairy tales are scary?
The fully restored "Three Little Pigs". The Three Little Pigs was included in The Nursery Rhymes of England (London and New York, c.1886), by James Halliwell-Phillipps. The story in its arguably best-known form appeared in English Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs, first published in 1890 and crediting Halliwell as his source. The wolf came to visit each of the pigs after they built their houses and said
"Then I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house down."
Only the third pig who worked all day on his house was able to keep his house from being blown down by the wolf.
For the full story, click on this link: https://americanliterature.com/childrens-stories/the-three-little-pigs
There are a few exhibits that I did not take photographs of and there are memories on the walls in the form of photographs from an era gone by.
If you have time and/or desire, take a little stroll down memory lane before the exhibit leaves in May.
It seems that more and more I hear about various communities creating community gardens. We now have 3 community gardens in Temple Terrace where Jim and I garden at the Riverhills location. The other gardens are Greco Middle School and Linwood, with Linwood being the newest garden. We also have a garden at Riverhills Elementary where the children have an opportunity to join the garden club on Friday mornings and grow vegetables.
With our growing community of gardens here in Temple Terrace - we visited with some fellow garden members to another community garden located in the Carrollwood area. This community garden started approximately three years ago and is very popular! They have a waiting list of people waiting to join - so all gardeners are active in the garden. The Vista Gardens is located in Carrollwood Village at 13572 S Village Dr, Tampa, FL 33618. Vista stands for "Village Institute for Sustainable Technologies & Agriculture". Here's some photographs of this wonderful garden!
A few gardeners were there when we visited and one gentleman was nice enough to take a few minutes from his compost duties to provide us a tour. (Thank you!). They have several compost bins that are turned every week - a few of the gardeners do this every Thursday. After about four weeks, they have compost ready to be used in the garden.
The garden has a well and solar panels to run the necessary parts as there is no electricity on site.
The garden pathways are all done in mulch and gardeners weed the various areas regularly to keep weeds from coming up and taking over the mulch.
A bee keeper asked if they could put together a few homes for the bees. This helps the garden by providing the pollinators that are needed for the vegetables and also helps the bee keeper by providing a location as well as honey.
The various gardens are each growing different vegetables but also have unique artwork in many giving a wonderful variety as well as individuality to the garden plots.
A special area is set aside for the butterflies and it is a wonderful area with lots of flowers. A gardener recently did major changes to the butterfly garden and it is ablaze with flowers and butterflies.
I noticed a 'siamese eggplant' growing on one of the garden plants - never seen this before!
They have a nice shed where all the tools are stored as well as a large area for various types of communication among the members.
And a beautiful sunflower growing in our dry season, sometimes it appears to be like the desert here with the lack of rain and Florida being on fire in many different areas.
Join the moment - join a community garden! Or if one doesn't exist in your area, maybe it's just waiting for the right person or group of people to start a community garden.
I have always wanted to photograph one of these little red eyed frogs - perhaps that's a silly thing, but every since I saw someone's photograph of it, I wanted to take my own. So, recently Mike Matthews held a workshop in Sarasota that gave me that opportunity! I was thrilled to have the opportunity (of course there was a fee, but it was worth it).
So, here's my red eyed frog portrait.
We photographed several different types of frogs and this is the most colorful one of them all - but they were all really cool subjects (pets) to photograph. Here's one of a snake. It's a little different take on how to photograph it. The snake is actually sitting on top of a mirror - so you see the reflection of the snake in this photograph. This is a Baird's rat snake.
Here's a photograph of a striped gargoyle gecko (hopefully I got that right). This little guy didn't want to stay on the front of his driftwood and kept running around to the back side.
For those of you that like these types of critters, visit the gallery for more photographs at http://www.vpshoots.com/exoticpets. If you have a exotic pet that you'd like photographs of contact us and we can take some portraits of your pet.
Continuing on our journey from last week, we spent most of our time at High Falls State Park. This park is just over 1,000 acres (I doubt we saw more than a few acres in our time visiting). High Falls State Park is named for it's tumbling cascades on the Towaliga River. The park includes a lake just west of the dam, a road (bridge) over the river that runs through it separating the dam from the hiking trails along the river. Our first day, we hiked on north side of the river following along the water as it fell over the large granite boulders.
The second day, we hiked on the south side of the river and eventually came across the ruins of the hydroelectric power plant. Not much of this power plant still exists, time has left it as a brick structure with a lot of 'local art work' painted on the insides. The park signs indicate it was once a prosperous industrial town that consisted of several stores, a grist mill, cotton gin among other buildings.
Photo taken late morning (bright sunlight).
Later we returned about 2 hours before sunset and the lighting on this old power plant ruin looks very different.
In the 1880s is when the railroad started being built, and many towns fell from prosperity if the railroad bypassed the town. High Falls was one of those towns. Now, it's just a great place to go hiking, camping, fishing and other leisure activities.
We enjoyed our short get-a-way from Florida - but the temperatures were just as warm in this area of Georgia as they were here in Florida so we didn't get to enjoy cooler temperatures.
To view a few more photographs from this adventure, go to http://www.vpshoots.com/friedgreentomatoes
Until next week....
Our adventure this week took us to a small town called Juliette, Georgia. This small town contains several different buildings and stores that composed the small town of Whistle Stop for the movie "Fried Green Tomatoes" released on December 27, 1991. Juliette, Georgia is a small town (unincorporated community) located in Monroe County, Georgia 20 minutes north of Macon, an hour south of Atlanta and 15 minutes east of Forsyth (all these cities are along Interstate 75). Located off exit 186 on Interstate 75.
The Whistle Stop Café is located in the actual building that was used as the Whistle Stop Café in the movie “Fried Green Tomatoes”. Interesting that this movie was recently on television and I watched it again otherwise I probably wouldn’t have thought to go visit even though it was a mere 20 minutes from where we were staying in Forsyth, Georgia.
The café is open seven days a week from 11am to 4pm (as of this writing). It is located at 443 McCrackin Street, Juliette, Georgia. We arrived in ‘town’ about 3pm providing plenty of time to get some food. The café is not dog friendly (the waitresses were!) – so Jim waited outside with Abby and Jimbo while I walked inside to see about getting some takeout food for our late lunch (or early dinner) depending on how you want to look at it. I was about to walk out with the menu to ask Jim what he wanted when I was stopped and told “You can’t take the menu outside” ….apparently there is a lot of thief and people actually want to keep the menus. The waitress was a very lively young woman and came out to see our dogs and take our order on the front porch. We ordered fried green tomatoes (of course), along with a fried green tomato burger and the slow cooked pulled pork sandwich. All of it was delicious. If you happen to be travelling with your pet, they do have a few picnic tables around the side of the café and it was perfect for us to enjoy our meal.
By the time we finished eating, much of the ‘crowd’ (about 10 cars) had left. All the stores have varied hours, and all were closed by the time we finished eating. We enjoyed walking the movie set and taking photographs along the way.
If you watched the movie, remember this? Yes, this stone is there along the main street just a little north of the Whistle Stop Cafe.
For more photographs, please visit http://www.vpshoots.com/friedgreentomatoes
This morning the dogs and I went to Dade City to check out the "Dogs Day in Dade City" event happening at Agnes Lamb Park located at 14246 9th St, Dade City, FL 33523 off Meridian Avenue next to the downtown Dade City area. Since it was my first venture to this event, with camera and dogs in tow (Abby and Jimbo - with me solo), it was going to be a 'trial run' to see how it went. At first, Abby wasn't the best greeter. Then she calmed down and for a good 90 minutes, Jimbo was a good boy but eventually he couldn't handle any more and we had to head home early. Jimbo is our boy and has been for over 4 years now - he is very good with Abby but there are times when, well, you know how it is if you have siblings? Same thing happens with dogs - it's the "I've had enough" look.
There were a lot of photographers there and I know this cute face was attracting attention. In fact, there were several people taking photographs of her and some that were taking photographs of all 3 of us. I'm not sure who they were or if I'll ever see those photographs, but somewhere we are caught "in a moment in time".
We watched the color guard young men come in with the flags....
And then a young lady sang the national anthem followed by the pledge of allegiance.
All the dogs were asked to come forward to be blessed by the Father. This is when I found out there really were quite a number of dogs at this event.
So we saw big dogs...green dogs...small dogs....puppies...dogs playing....dogs getting massages....and dogs in the parade. The dog parade got off shortly after the opening ceremony was completed. This dog was fine in his wagon until it started moving at which point I don't think it was as sure about this idea. Course, my two are standing next to the parade route and they probably weren't helping the dogs that were in the parade (distractions for sure).
This dog was green from Patty's day ...
And this one just recently got adopted by a very nice woman. Such a small little doggie all dressed up in her finest.
For more photos from this event, visit http://www.vpshoots.com/dogsdayindadecity