The Calm Before the Storm

Back at the end of October I posted an image of a beautiful church in Gatlinburg, Tennessee with the promise of more pictures and stories to come. This post will bring you some of that.

Today’s image is from my camping trip back in October. I went to Calhoun Falls State Park in South Carolina. Upon my arrival to the campground, I setup my tent and got some of my campsite essentials setup as well. Table – check. Chairs – check. Cooler – check. Air mattress inflated and in the tent – check. Spectacular view of the lake – check! All that was left to do was to walk around the site, take it all in, snap some pics and just relax and enjoy the breathtaking beauty. Sounds easy enough right? Sure let’s go with that.

My specific campsite was surrounded by water as it was situated right at the edge of the lake. Rule number 1 when you camp in a tent: Anytime you are going to leave your campsite you should always zip up all open doors and windows to prevent water from entering said tent. Remember this rule and everything will be fine. So after taking care of that business it was time to explore the park as a whole.

I drove around checking out all of the other campsites so I could pick out my faves for my next visit. After that I proceeded to the day use area of the park for some exploration. This was such a beautiful park that I didn’t want to leave, but after making about a 10 hour drive to get there, all I could think of was getting some food. One of my favorite things to do is grill out. However I didn’t feel like doing that on this night so I had to drive over to the next town to hit a grocery store for some grub. Abbeville, South Carolina was about 25 minutes away from the camp. Insert rule number 1 here!

When I got there I located a nice grocery store and went inside. After perusing the store, I found some good-looking sandwiches in the deli, and a big bottle of tea. A perfect dinner to take back to the campsite and enjoy the beautiful scenery and sounds of nature. As I walked out the door and across the parking lot I was noticing how the full moon was illuminating the night sky. I thought to myself that would be so beautiful rising over the lake at the campsite. Again, we need to insert rule number 1 here.

As I started my Jeep I saw a flash of bright light. Surely that wasn’t lightning! I thought. Naw couldn’t be. I just saw the moon. As I made my way back down the road I saw light flashing again. Now I know that was lightning. Crazy! Then it started sprinkling rain. Do you remember rule number 1? “Anytime you are going to leave your campsite you should always zip up all open doors and windows to prevent water from entering said tent.” Yes, yes I remember that rule. I always practice that rule. Right?

Well under normal circumstances I follow that rule to a TEE. Except this time. Oh no! It absolutely did not look like rain when I left. I am still about 20 minutes away and by now it is raining so hard I can’t even see the road. I pull off into a parking lot to stay safe. I decided to check the weather radar. WOW! Heavy rain is just all over the place. I can tell by the map that the campsite is being hit really hard. I get back on the road and lightning is hitting all around me. I have to drive slow because of the deluge. I kind of figured by this time, what’s the point of worrying about it anyway. Whatever has happened is done and I can’t do anything about it.

As I finally pull in the park entrance, my headlights are no match for the driving rain pounding the darkness. I make my way slowly back to the campground and to my site. I pull into the driveway and just sit there. The rain is blowing sideways into the tent! The good news is that it is still standing. Only thing to do is sit and wait. And wait… After consuming my dinner in the Jeep, what seemed like hours of waiting, the rain finally quit. Once the lightning disappeared for good, I got out to survey the damage. My air mattress was covered in water as well as the whole tent floor. Looks like I’m sleeping in the Jeep tonight.

After a not so restful night, I awoke to birds chirping at the sunrise, signaling a new day. Looks like today will be awesome! Right after I dry everything off and get some breakfast. Now where did I put that towel?

I hope you enjoyed today’s post. Please consider leaving a comment as I always enjoy hearing from my visitors! 😀

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This was taken at sunset right before I left to go get dinner. C’mon this does not look like a monsoon is about to let loose!

A beautiful sunset reflects upon the water in South Carolina at Calhoun Falls State Park.

A beautiful sunset reflects upon the water in South Carolina at Calhoun Falls State Park.

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Trinity Episcopal Church

As a photographer I am always looking for awesome locations for taking pictures. Well I just recently participated in Scott Kelby’s Annual Worldwide Photowalk. This was the 7th year he has organized this and I am proud to say I have joined in every year since the beginning. Living in Florida I have just always found a walk down here. This year I decided to go a little further and see what I could find.

I ended up going to Asheville, North Carolina for the photowalk. However for the start of the trip I reserved a campsite in South Carolina. Over the next several blog posts I will share some stories and some pictures from this entire trip.

From the campground, the Smoky Mountains were only about 3 to 4 hours away. Since that is probably my favorite place anywhere, I knew a day trip was in order. Needless to say my day trip consisted of heavy traffic and even heavier rain. Arriving in Gatlinburg late in the afternoon meant I was not going to have any time to really do any serious shooting. So I did the only logical thing to do. I spent the night there!

The fall colors were spectacular in some areas while other areas hadn’t quite changed yet. Perhaps I was there a bit too early. Across the street from where I stayed I saw this church. The bold red door was calling my name, so I had to oblige and shoot it. The light hitting the tree in the background was intense against the darkening sky. All of the leaves on the ground definitely made it feel like fall, something I don’t really get to experience in Florida.

I hope you enjoyed today’s post. Please consider leaving a comment as I always enjoy hearing from my visitors! 😀

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Trinity Episcopal Church

Time Marches On

As a photographer I am constantly looking out for interesting subjects. When I find something, I make note of the location so that I can return to it when the light is right. This image is no different.

I spotted this gem on a recent excursion and got extremely excited. This is the kind of stuff I love to find. Sitting out in the middle of a huge field, there it was. An old cracker style farmhouse left to the elements. The weather has certainly taken it’s toll on this wonderful building. But there is just so much character contained in a piece of history like this I knew I had to come back and shoot it.

After doing some research on the angle of the setting sun and what time of day it would be, all I had to do was just show up at the right time. Oh and hope that the sky spirits would hear my call and present me with an amazing sunset ;). I think they delivered! What do you think?

Most of the time I previsualize a shot in my head which helps me to capture it exactly the way I want it to look. However all of the elements must present themselves to make it happen. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. I originally planned on a black and white image that portrayed the entire field around the house. On the day I took this, I changed my mind and zoomed in closer to show more details of the house. The color was so amazing that I decided to nix the black and white idea. I had really hoped for some birds to fly through while I was there but they didn’t. So I had to add the birds to the scene after the fact.

The idea for the title struck me after noticing how nature is taking over the structure but the field is still in use with fresh hay bales in the background.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this picture so please feel free to leave me a comment.

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Time Marches On

Happy 4th of July!

Hi everyone! Just wanted to take a minute to wish everybody a Happy Fourth of July. Stay safe, enjoy some good BBQ and celebrate!

This is a shot I took at Disney’s Magic Kingdom during the ‘Wishes’ fireworks display. The new Fantasyland area includes a Little Mermaid ride – Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid. Prince Eric’s castle stands prominently in the foreground with a beautiful purple glow.

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Fireworks Over Prince Eric's Castle

Coronado Springs Resort

Welcome to Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, a Spanish-colonial style resort hotel with a beautiful lake view. To get this shot I knew I wanted to be there at sunset. I was here earlier in the afternoon and the water was too ripply to get a nice reflection. I was hoping the breeze would subside by evening and the water would look like glass. I was not disappointed!

I ended up circling the entire lake by the time the night was over. I shot from several different areas looking for the right balance of buildings, reflection, sunset color, and a little bit of foreground element to complete the image. I was really happy how this one turned out.

I hope you enjoyed today’s post. Please consider leaving a comment as I always enjoy hearing from my visitors! 😀

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Coronado Springs Resort

Hotel du Canada

Today’s blog post features one of my favorite buildings at Disney’s EPCOT. It is located in the Canada section of the world showcase. The building was designed to resemble The Fairmont Château Laurier that is located in Ottawa, Ontario. There is a fantastic steakhouse that resembles a wine cellar underneath the building aptly named Le Cellier Steakhouse. Here is the story about this photo.

It was a chilly moonlit night. There was a breeze in the air that said fall is on the way…

Ok wait a second, that was all a vision in my head!

For a long time I have wanted to get a picture of this beautiful scene at night. However the dilemma has been to get the shot without people. The way the lights illuminate the area always catches my eye. So how can I turn my vision into reality? Shoot it the early morning hours before anybody is there and then use a little Photoshop magic to turn day into night! The original picture is an HDR from three bracketed exposures, then processed to my taste. A little time with a brush tool to turn the lights on and create the glow added a lot of character. The clouds were perfect to add in a little bit of diffused moonlight. Add in some light beams to illuminate the top and finish off with some maple leaves and it’s done.

So whenever you think you can’t get the shot you want, just think out of the box. You never know where you’re creativity will take you!

If you would like to view more pictures on my blog from Disney, just click here.

Also here is a link to a previous blog post from the Canada area titled “The Cottage.”

I hope you enjoyed today’s post. Please consider leaving a comment as I always enjoy hearing from my visitors! 😀

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Hotel du Canada

Privateer Lynx

I had read about this ship coming in to Tampa from Fort Myers called Lynx. The arrival date was set for January 15th. It is a replica of an 1812 warship complete with cannons and full sails. Its path into Tampa would take it through St. Petersburg and under the Sunshine Skyway bridge. It seemed like the perfect photo opportunity so I decided to make the two hour drive down there.

I did some research online to see if I could find the exact time it would be sailing under the bridge, but I had no luck. I went to the website of the ship and contacted their main office. I was told that the ship would be sailing under the bridge at 9:00 am. The next step was looking at Google maps to determine the best shooting location. The south fishing pier looked promising as it was about as close as you could get to the center of the bridge. Also for that time of day the sun would be behind me and should have provided some nice light. I got to the pier around 8:15 and setup my tripod. The sky was kind of overcast so the lighting unfortunately was flat and dull. The wind was blowing so I had to hold my lens steady on the tripod to make sure my photos were sharp. This wasn’t exactly the image I had planned on getting but you have to accept the hand you are dealt and roll with it. In the end though  I was very happy!

In post processing the first image I added a texture to give it a vintage post card look. Kind of like old meets new.

Please be sure to click on each of the images below to view the larger and sharper versions!

The Passage of Time

After the ship sailed under the bridge, I watched it for a few minutes and decided it was time to head to Tampa. I read online that when it was going to be in Tampa that the sails would be down. Since it was scheduled to arrive in downtown Tampa at 12:00 noon, I figured that should give me plenty of time to get another shot of it with the sails still up. When I got over there I drove out to a park that has a nice long fishing pier. I got there about 10:30 and didn’t see any signs of the ship. I waited around for awhile and thought “what if it already passed through here and I missed it?” I took the gamble and left to head to it’s destination – The Tampa Convention Center.  I ended up beating it there by about 30 minutes.

I went up to the observation deck at the back of the convention center to see if I could spot it. When I saw it coming in they had already pulled the sails down. I missed the shot I had planned out in my head but now I had decent lighting so I was still happy. Once the ship was situated in the harbor I went to work. The final image I made is an HDR composed of 6 brackets.

Privateer Lynx

The ship is going to be going back and forth between Tampa and St. Pete until March 13th so I am hoping to get back down there for some more pics.

I hope you enjoyed today’s post. Please consider leaving a comment as I always enjoy hearing from my visitors! 😀