Sides of a City: Street Shots

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All Souls Cathedral

Biltmore Village

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Haywood Street

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West Asheville Community Center

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Walking on the West Side


Going clockwise from the top left, photos 1, 2, and 3 were taken with an iPhone 5s, while photos 4 and 5 were taken with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH20.

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A Mountain Greenery Home

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“In a mountain greenery, Where God paints the scenery . . .” — “Mountain Greenery” lyrics by Lorenz Hart (Photo: iPhone 5s)

Like many mothers of my generation, I spend hours of my life on the road: driving my children to soccer practice, music lessons, dance class, and homeschool tutorials. This photo of a highway that I travel every day represents my home in western North Carolina better than a photo of my house. The fact that I snapped this picture with my daughter’s iPhone 5s as my husband drove us to church Sunday morning suggests that I tend to run late — otherwise, I would have had my phone and its invaluable built-in camera with me. I respond to beautiful sights by photographing them, which is why I borrowed someone else’s phone to capture the unusual sight of fall foliage against snow-capped mountains.

What is also apparent to an experienced photographer is how little I know about cameras. I’ve had my iPhone for less than a year, and I am more accustomed to taking pictures with my point-and-shoot Panasonic Lumix or the Nikon CoolPix L320 that I bought on Black Friday. In Photography 101, I hope to improve my skills, particularly my use of light and my understanding of composition. Maybe along the way I’ll learn what “aperture” and “ISO” mean?  For a tagline, I currently use the phrase “celebrating beauty in creation.” Better pictures of the beautiful places that I post about would help me show beauty to my readers.

Despite its imperfections, the highway photo hints at how lovely the Blue Ridge Mountains were this weekend, with the golds, oranges, reds, and greens of the trees frosted by an early touch of snow. Within a day, the snowman that my son and husband made had melted. Today, the trees look much as they did before the rare November snow, although more branches have shed their leaves. A long, cold winter is predicted for our area, but, for today, the road is clear, and the fading colors of autumn are still beautiful.

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My backyard after the snow (iPhone 5s)

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Coolpix L320

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This is the first time I’ve seen snow on the leaves of a tulip poplar. (CoolPix L320)

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Capturing Beauty with My Camera?

A camera has become a “beauty essential” for me: if I see something beautiful, I photograph it.  But is my constant use of a camera hindering my appreciation of beauty?

What oft was thought

Twice lately I’ve encountered the disturbing implication that, because an incident wasn’t searchable on the internet or hadn’t been documented in a photograph, the incident had never occurred. I have decided not to share the details of the incidents, both of which I encountered via Facebook links. One link involved a rumor that I don’t wish to feed. The other link had to do with a crime; given the circumstances, the person searching for facts about the murder was understandably distressed that the incident had received little attention. What concerns me is the perception that reality can be determined by a Google search: if there are no results, it just didn’t happen?

To me, it seems absurd to infer that something didn’t happen simply because someone failed to document it. True, artifacts and written records give us valuable clues about the past; we would know little about ancient civilizations without…

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Drive like a Tourist

Drive like a Tourist

If you look closely, you can see that the speedometer reads 42 mph. (The speed limit on this part of the parkway is 45 mph.)

Ah, the power of words! Writing about fall photos inspired me to do something I have never done as an Asheville resident: search for fall color along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The last line in A Tale of Two Photos got to me: “Now is the time to capture these golden days–whether with camera or words.” Even though my husband had a long to-do list for his day off, I persuaded him that we should hop in the car and go look for leaves. (He pointed out that there were plenty of leaves in our driveway, but he agreed.)

Instead of listening to his suggestion that we hike down in Brevard or up at Craggy Pinnacle, I insisted that we use the recommendations in the weekly Fall Color Report. At that point, the report was six days old, but surely those experts knew more about fall color than my nose-in-a-book husband. We had a limited amount of time, since I wanted to be back to cook dinner for my daughter, who had too much homework to accompany us. That ruled out the Cullasaja gorge, but we could still try for the Black Balsam area, past Mount Pisgah. We grabbed walking sticks, water bottles, cameras, and Bojangles chicken. Off we set!

Our destination was Black Balsam Knob (elevation: 6, 214 feet), which, according to the report, should offer brilliant colors. Since we were in tourist mode, we turned off at several overlooks as we drove west on the parkway: the Bad Fork Valley Overlook, the Pounding Mill Overlook, the Cherry Cove Overlook. My son got excited about the out-of-state license plates, especially when we saw the same cars at multiple overlooks. Having moved to this area when he was five, my husband found it painful to play the role of a tourist, but David soon was happily pointing out beautiful patches of red or yellow or orange leaves. (Despite the name of my site, I’m no tree expert, but we saw mostly white oaks, red oaks, and maples.)

After eating lunch at the Mount Pisgah picnic area, we drove on, stopping at more overlooks to photograph Looking Glass Rock. Not far past Mount Pisgah, however, we noticed that we were seeing more empty branches and fewer golden and orange leaves. My husband said thoughtfully, “You know, I’ve always heard that the 15th to the 20th is the best time for color.” Today was October 21st.

By the time we reached the Black Balsam area, I suspected that we had driven too far: at this elevation, the color had “peaked.” Nonetheless, we parked at the end of Black Balsam Road and started walking down Flat Laurel Creek Trail. Although we saw many red maple leaves on the ground, the limbs of the deciduous trees around us were bare. After hiking a short distance, I looked at my husband and pleaded, “We could hike this trail any time, but I was hoping for a fall-color hike today!”

By now, it was too late to take winding Highway 276 farther down into Pisgah National Forest, where we could have hiked at Pink Beds or Looking Glass Rock. Since we would drive past Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower on our way home, my husband suggested that we hike there. I prefer a path through the woods to an old service road, but the weather was so perfect that I couldn’t complain about the rocky, uneven trail.The last time we climbed this 70-foot tower, David had been too little to go up the steep metal stairs. He insisted that he didn’t want to climb the tower, but, by the time we got there, he had changed his mind. It was a windy day but beautifully clear, and we had amazing views at each stage of our climb up the old tower, built in 1941 and listed on the National Historic Lookout Register. If the photo seems a bit crooked, put it down to my shaking hands.

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View from the Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower (taken with my iPhone 5)

As we walked back to our van, a young couple passed us on their way to climb the tower. We warned them about the wind, and they just smiled. Headed east on the parkway, we stopped at an overlook or two for more photos. Suddenly, I realized that I had failed to get a picture of one of the many stone tunnels along this section of the parkway. My husband began to drive more slowly, looking for a place to pull off near a tunnel so that I could get out and take a picture. His hesitant driving irked the driver of the car behind us, who started following closely and even honking intermittently. As soon as we could, we pulled into a overlook and let him go around us. These locals are in such a hurry!

Enjoy the slideshow of photos, taken with my Nikon CoolPix L320. Believe it or not, I weeded out some pictures.

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Return to Connemara

Smooth as silent glass

Water bends beneath webbed feet

Darkness rims the day


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Haiku and photos by Sandi Fleming, October 2014

All photos were taken with an iPhone 5. “Return to Connemara” copyrighted  ©2014 by Sandra Fleming.


IMG_2712For Irish readers, Connemara is the name of Carl Sandburg’s home in Flat Rock, North Carolina. An American poet and writer, Sandburg won the Pulitzer Prize three times. Today, his house is a National Historic Site, which I wrote about in a September post. On Sunday afternoon, my husband, son, and I went to Connemara for a short hike–short, because it was after 5:00 by the time we arrived and beginning to grow dark. As the light faded, so did my hopes of fall color photos. Even so, I could see why Sandburg found this peaceful setting conducive to his writing.

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A Tale of Two Photos

With apologies to Cole Porter, I love Asheville in the fall.

With apologies to Cole Porter’s song, I love Asheville in the fall.

When my sister and I posted fall pictures to Instagram on the same day, I was not surprised. Her New England region is famous for “fall color,” while tourists flock to my part of North Carolina to admire the flagrantly colored leaves. You can even consult a weekly Fall Color Report to find the trees at their most brilliant. As I drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway, I remind myself to be patient with out-of-towners who are ambling down the road. Long-time locals like my husband call this time of year “Leaf Season.”

But it was eerie that my sister and I simultaneously posted an atypical fall picture on our respective Instagram accounts. Within three minutes of one another.

My photo was taken by a gravel sidewalk at a community center.

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Scattered Leaves on the Sidewalk

Hers was shot outside an urban grocery store.

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Yellow Leaf (Photo by C. M. Dennis)

 

My initial reaction was, “She just one-upped my Instagram picture!” (I’m sorry to say that I posted a snarky comment to that effect.) Then, I realized that: a) she must have been posting her photo at the same time; b) she would never deliberately upstage me; c) her picture wasn’t necessarily better than mine. She does have an architect’s eye, which is why I love following her on Instagram.

Not surprisingly, the two photos reflect our personalities. Too impatient to plan, I went for a wild melange of leaves, twigs, acorns, and–the crowning glory–a prickly ball from an overhanging horse-chestnut tree. Like my approach to life, my view of fall is a glorious mess.

In contrast, her photo cleverly juxtaposes the rough tree bark with smooth tile and speckled concrete. One graceful arc cuts across the vertical panels. Christie’s fall photo has the feel of a carefully composed still life. The leaf is a brave flag of yellow, buoyantly defying the civilized world.

It’s not a contest, but her picture wins. Hands down.

Unless I continue The Tale of Two Cities analogy: in that scenario, disheveled Sydney Carton ultimately triumphs over disciplined Charles Darnay. Yes, Darnay is chivalrous, but Carton gives up his life for the girl he loves. Is it cheating to cast my picture as Dickens’ noblest hero?

Regardless of who posted the better photo, I love the fleeting season of fall. Too soon, the short-lived show put on by the trees will end. Now is the time to capture these golden days–whether with camera or words.


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