Friday, November 23, 2018

Traveling the South East: Macon County Store in Macon, Tennessee

Macon Country Store: Macon, Tennessee
Small town cooking and hospitality

Max and I spent two days on the road through Memphis and outlining country, mapping Sprint towers we are contracted to perform. As always, we are always on the look out for local BBQ. (This story dates back to 2015).

Approaching a rural three-way intersection at Highway 194 Macon Drive and Oakland Road, I applied the brakes when Max announces, “I see a smoker!”

We walk through the already open door into a small convenience store and combination restaurant: a few tables and chairs are set up near the rear. The store is empty, as we are driving through the area long past normal lunch hour. This is fine because we get to meet and chat with owner Emmitt Kimble sitting in a lounge chair, and his wife Cathy behind the meat counter preparing some of the fresh BBQ just out of the smoker.

Emmitt Kimble owner of Macon Country Store - L. A. Lewin 2015
A sight one can only see in rural areas of our country: Kimble stretched out in this lounge chair like he is in his living room: “Howdy.” Kimble greets us. We learn Kimble, a construction worker for the better part of his life, is developing a little arthritis; the chair gives him a break from being on his feet running the store. He gets up as a customer comes in to buy some drinks from the cooler. Max and I turn to his wife, Cathy. Cathy lists what is on the menu; Max orders pulled pork and I take a smoked Turkey sandwich and fries.
Macon Country Store - L. A. Lewin 2015

Kimble returns to his chair. He explains he and his wife bought the Country Store three years back to slow down. Kimble is slowly fixing up the store and eventually will have seats for 24 instead of the current 12. As Max and I sample our lunch plates it becomes apparent why the Kimble’s need to expand the seating capacity. Though past the lunch hour, during our stay customers came and went with smoked meats and sandwiches to take out. We are sure the billowing smoker attracts locals on a daily basis, indeed. Our lunch was fabulous!

Kimble and Max Lewin - L. A. Lewin 2015
Before we leave, another customer and a friend of Kimble comes walking in: Kimble introduces the man as the “Major”. A short stocky fellow with crisp-small eyes, blood shot from allergies, or I suspect, perhaps a few swigs from a mason jar filled with crystal clear juice. In any case, a colorful character whom immediately upon entering the store nods to us a greeting and plops himself down in Kimble’s lounge chair. We all playfully bicker accusing the “Mayor” of unlawfully occupying Kimble’s precious space. We all laugh - then Max and I say farewell, and head back onto the roads of Tennessee and perhaps run into another small town gem.

The Macon Country Store: a simple way of life among good people and small town cooking – come visit and try really good smoked meats and engaging conversation with Emmitt, Cathy and their neighbors.  

(Digital photographs:Canon 5D Mark II F/2.8 16-35mm lens BW conversion via Silver Efex Pro2)

Lance A. Lewin – 2015

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Sunday's Photo Tech: Fine Art Photography Technique & Inspiration

Photo1: Portrait: Beverly Appell Witkin by L.A. Lewin 2012
Photographer, lecturer and professor at the College of DuPage, Jeff Curto, asked four questions in one of his classes: intrigued, I decided to present my thoughts that best answer these questions giving the reader insight into what I believe is currently defining photography in our digital culture.

1. When does a photograph cease to be a document? It depends upon what is being recorded: 1. If we are looking at journalistic type photographs, once the image misleads the viewer of the actual event, person or location – the photograph ceases to be a document. These types of pictures inundate us everyday – most commonly seen in tabloids where the meaning of the subject (commonly, a person) is purposely twisted: the photograph is either captured or cropped to mislead the true context in which the subject is surrounded, thus the photograph and story behind it becoming ambiguous: misleading the reader towards the magazine or newspapers alternative agenda.  2. When traditional fine art photographs, including landscapes, street, and portrait photography is altered by digitally manipulating pixels, the photograph is no longer a document. That is to say, when the portrayal of the subject becomes abstract or otherwise change the overall appearance of a photograph to the extent of transcending its original psycho physiological photographic characteristics engenders digital art, and in some cases obscures the truth or altogether changes it, in my opinion. In both of these examples the documentary is falsely presented thus rendering them useless as a document. 
Photo2: Digital Art
2. Should altered photographs come with warnings? Well, “Warning” is a bit too strong for me, but include in the photographs description a statement indicating the use of heavily pixel manipulation or simply: present the work as digital fine art, as apposed to fine art photography.

3. Why do we want to alter the real? 1. For the corrupt journalist it may be a matter of getting the “Big scoop”, as it were. Altering a scene to help enhance a story or worse, crating a fictitious narrative. (For example, the manipulated photo credited to Ben Curtis capturing the Beirut, Lebanon conflict in 2006: additional smoke was added to photo to make the scene more intense then it actually was. The photo cited below.)  2. The “real” can also be heavily (digitally) manipulated the purposeful attempt of a digital artist creating an alternative reality, for example. (See Photo2 and Photo3)
Photo3: Michal Macku's Digital artistic interpretations
4. Where is the digital photography revolution taking us? Beyond boundaries: stretching our boundary of knowledge in photonics to unravel mysteries that lead to solutions in the creation of new ideas. Surrounding our world with an uncompromising wealth of creativity bringing beauty in the visual arts and scientific achievements yet to be envisioned.

Again, these are my opinions and you may have your own thoughts on how photography has changed as the digital culture around us continues to influence artistic expression and how we communicate.

I look forward to reading your comments.  Ciao.

Best regards,

Cite 1. From Errol Morris "Believing is seeing (Observations on the mysteries of photography) The Penguin Press 2011
Beirut, Lebanon, July 26 2006

Monday, April 20, 2015

Sunday's Photo Tech: Looking back at 1982 Amish Country

Amish Lad Photo & Text by Lance A. Lewin 2015

I stare at the image below often – the 16x24 print sits propped up against a wall left to my desk – the rosy cheek lad forever looking back.  He speaks to me – eyes so riveting as to seemingly pierce me – deliberately painful – as punishment for infiltrating his space and snapping this image.  

Amish Lad Photo by L. Lewin 1982
You see the young boy is fishing with his brother’s are in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania: Amish country.

Lancaster Pa - L. Lewin 1982
For the most part the countryside is flat and dotted with farms with old-order Amish men plowing fields – standing or sitting behind horse-drawn blows turning up the earth in preparation for spring seeding.  If I remember correctly, we turn right onto a smaller – narrower – paved road when we see six young boys dressed in traditional old-order long coats and straw hats scamper across the road in front of us.  We drive slowly towards the spot they disappeared.  

Now, I was well aware the Amish populations, especially the old-order Amish families, do not respond well to outsiders photographing them.  However, while Anne waited behind the drivers seat I followed three of the boys. The image was so inviting: three straw hats atop of identical long broadcloth coats, each boy carrying a simple fishing pole.  I snapped off two or three shots (Minolta XD-11 affixed with 100mm lens and loaded with K64 Slide film.). They kept moving about, but I was confident it was not from being pursued, but rather finding the right spot to settle down and cast their lines.  However, feeling their uneasiness I kept my distance.  The 100mm lens was perfect in this situation. 

Lancaster Pa - L. Lewin 1982
As close as I was going to get – I stopped and arranged a composition through the viewfinder – the lad turned and looked through my lens – It was the shot I was hoping for – I pulled the trigger.  In an instant I pulled my eye from the viewfinder and gave the young boy a smile.  I hear yelling behind me – father was calling the boys – I quickly pulled myself up the embankment  - the father was toting a rifle and yelling at me to leave – sliding into the passenger side of our car – Anne made a quick u-turn and we were gone.

However, if my plan were to visit the region again to complete a photo-essay – perhaps following one family for several days or weeks – I would work hard to introduce my intentions, gain their trust and hopefully be rewarded to follow and photograph their lives.

And so, the endless one-way exchange between the Amish boy and myself continues: does the Amish lad – now a grown man likely in his 40’s – remember me?  If we met would he nod and approve of the photograph, or would I be lectured, or worse, quietly admonished through his stare. 

“Amish Lad” Captured in the Amish landscape of south-central Pennsylvania – L. Lewin 1982

Monday, December 2, 2013

Sunday's Photo Tech: Fine Art Photography Technique & Inspiration

Saint Mary’s Lake and Wild Goose Island is located near the Eastern side of Glacier National Park. The lake is almost 10 miles long and about 300 feet deep – a beautiful scene anytime of year. Our excursion through the area was in late June, and as a result we encountered a series of storms that brought in thick billowing clouds, strong winds, rain and at higher elevations, snow. Perfect.

Figure-1 Saint Mary's Lake and Wild Goose Island  L. A. Lewin

Seriously, “weather” can make most landscape and seascape locations more interesting.
Of course, there is a limit to how much rain, wind and snow a photographer (and their equipment) can tolerate! So, a little common sense will go a long way in keeping your photo shoot exciting, safe and successful. Almost the entire 9-day trip to Montana and Glacier National Park included some type of stormy or at least overcast weather. I was thrilled! 1. Overcast (especially bright grey skies) saturate color and 2. It eliminates most shadows – adding a softer feel to some photographs due to less contrast. 3. In addition, billowing clouds, light rain or snow add a layer of texture to the scene that if captured properly through the lens can make a good photograph into a more interesting one.

How did I get the shot?
After a long day traveling and shooting, Anne and I traveled East and down the “Going-to-the-sun-road” towards Saint Mary’s to have a late lunch at this great little café serving among other things, out of this world home baked pies! Thinking maybe I would capture a few frames at Saint Mary’s Lake later, or perhaps the next day, my right eye caught a glimpse of clouds hovering over the peaks that encircle the lake. Anne! I shouted, stop the car, now! Of course Anne is used to this behavior, so her reflexes are sharp and instantly found a small spot to pull completely and safely off the main road.

The Canon 16-35mmL-II was already attached to the camera, so no time was lost choosing and attaching a lens – the weather was moving quickly and I was making haste back to the spot I saw a few moments ago – if I was lucky, the picture I envisioned was still viable.

Wow! Wind gusts was 30+ miles per hour; I found a position behind a narrow tree, just wide enough to block the wind overlooking Saint Mary’s Lake and the tiny Wild Goose Island, and still allow me to easily peek and quickly get into position for a shot. I worked quickly because the weather was rapidly changing and I literally had about 1 minute from the time I hid behind the tree to capture the interpretation I was after. I got off two shots holding the camera vertical, and 4 shots horizontal. Many iconic pictures of the lake span the entire girth to include the mountain range on both sides and centering Wild Goose Island in the middle – instead, this less photographed view (or frame) in Figure-1 represents my alternative version of I wanted to capture the lake, this day.

Though the original color photograph is beautifully rendered, the GNP series will be mostly finished in black and white, with few photographs published in color.

Technical: Digital Capture: Canon 5D Mark II camera system
Hand held
ISO 100
Captured @32mm
F/4.5 @320 sec
(+1) exposure compensation
Post Production:
Photoshop used for specific dodge and burning; Color Efex Pro-4 for polarizing filter
and BW conversion via Silver Efex Pro-2: yellow filtering and custom silver dip

Please, your comments are welcomed – I look forward to hearing from you!

Best regards,
Lance A. Lewin

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Fine Art Photography Techniques: Sunday's Tech Shot

Hello everyone!  Sorry for the long pause between posts – it has been a furiously busy summer!

Though not a landscape frame, “Horse” is becoming one of my favorite images in my new Glacier National Park landscape series, captured during an intense 2-week adventure through Glacier National Park, spanning the area between Whitefish, Montana to the Waterton Lake region in Canada!

So, the experienced photographer will learn to make quick adjustments to camera dynamics and position in a series of calculated decisions (or guesses) based on the subject, and its position and of course, lighting.  Let us dissect this photograph.

"Horse"  L. A. Lewin Captured near Glacier National Park - 2013

Prepare & Shoot:
Suggested by a local in Browning, Montana, we turned north to transverse a beautiful back country scenic route - Hwy 49 - passing local farms - (wandering cows) and gleamed at meadows rolling up and down the hill side framed by snow capped peaks majestically looming to the west.   The sky illuminated bright grey and was shredded by a light, but steady rain – my favorite combination for bright colors, soft focus and little to no shadows. Perfect.  The road is narrow, so Anne is driving slow – posted speed limit is 35mph and in some places 25mph.

As we make a couple of sharp turns we came upon several cows crossing the road – actually these were tagged steer, wondering from one meadow to another.  Going forward we stayed alert in case another encounter suddenly appeared, and it did!  But, not steer, but a small group of 5 horses grazing just off the right shoulder.  The rain had picked up and the scene – the shot – came into focus for me!  I felt the connection and began adjusting the camera.

 So here was the situation: angled steady rain, a moving subject, low light and no place to stop get out and position for a shot.   At once, I made the decision to shot the subject as an intimate portraiture: aperture was set wide open on the Canon F/1.4 50mm (which happened to already be connected to the 5D Mark II).   Because the F/1.4 lens opening will create a wide and deep area of Bokeh (or soft blur) around the point-of-focus, I was aware crisp focus on the subjects eyes will make or break this shot!  The “sitter”, the Horse, and his buddies stopped momentarily – I composed through the viewfinder – rain quickly began showering me, camera and seat – click, click!  I was done, up went the window – I looked back and the leader, “Horse”, followed my gaze as we slowly sped away from view.  A very pleasing, even emotional and rewarding experience to meet and photograph these beautiful wild horses.

Post-production included very little: slight dodge & burn, small color correction and a minimum application of a polarizing filer in Color Efex Pro 4 software.  Done.

Be alert, know your equipment, and focus on the eyes - Shoot!
Of course, as we pulled away I checked my preview and saw the shoot was successful.  Because of this subject, lighting and softness the rain provided (the emotional experience), if the review showed I did not get a clean frame, I would have asked Anne to turn around.  But this time, all went well – luck is a great friend to all photographers!   As always, I welcome your feedback and similar stories of your adventures!  Ciao.

Tech: 5D Mark II
ISO 100
Canon F/1.4 50mm lens
Aperture Priority Mode – set wide open at F/1.4 
No exposure compensation
Manual focus
Hand held through the SUV’s opened window

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Altamont Pass, California: One of the oldest Wind Farms in the US

Wind Generated Electricity in California
Anne and I were driving East along I580 when we saw strange looking towers looming in the distance – each time we came up and over a rise more and more towers seemed to manifest out of nowhere!  Little did we know we were driving through Altamont Pass, California, home to one of three primary wind farm regions in California.  Wind farm development began here more than 30 years ago, and to date, more than 4,800 wind turbine towers stretch across the rolling landscape about an hour east from San Francisco.
Image 1 Rolling hills in Altamont Pass, Ca - Copyright L.A. Lewin 2011
Really, it was amazing to see wind turbines spread across the landscape.   We had never seen anything like it.  Seeing it for the first time was bizarre.

Even more bizarre, the sight of cows grazing seemingly unfazed by these massive structures and the constant non-harmonic hum they produced.  The hum seemed to be everywhere and nowhere; the sound travels in the wind that constantly blows across the Altamont Pass region; an amazing experience, indeed.

Image 2 Seemingly unfazed cows graze among the wind turbines - Copyright L. A. Lewin 2011

I asked Anne to turn off the next exit so we could tour some of the back roads, many of them unpaved, for photographic opportunities.  Capturing the strange beauty of hundreds of wind turbines painted across the golden hills in Altamont Pass was a task; very strong winds, some gusting to 35+ miles per hour, made using a tripod useless; all shots are hand held.  For the shot along the fence, (see Image 3), I had to brace myself right up against the front grill of our rental SUV to keep the camera and myself steady.

Image 3 Some wind turbines are 30 years old - Copyright L. A. Lewin 2011
Early wind farm development included construction of wind turbine towers 60 feet to 80 feet in height.   These low profile towers interfere with bird migration and on the lower, 60 feet towers, allows the rotating blade to come very close to the ground sometimes killing raptors as they swoop low in search of prey.  In a 2003 report issued by The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 1000 birds are killed annually in the Altamont Pass region!

Image 4 These older turbines are being replaced with 400-450 feet structures by 2015

In an effort to reduce the number of birds killed each year, some of the oldest towers began replacement a few years ago with 250 feet towers, and more recently with towers more than 400 feet in height!  Taller structures keep the blades tips far off the ground and away from low flying raptors, while the greater height will keep the spinning turbine blades out of migration paths.

Image 5 More modern 250 feet wind turbine towers - Copyright L. A. Lewin 2011

Replacement of 2000 of about 4000 older wind turbine towers, (some dating back more than 30 years), is part of a ambitious project slated to be complete by 2015.  These new wind turbine towers rise more than 400 feet in height, and for every new one erected, replaces 23.   These state of the art wind turbines are much quieter and each produces 2.3 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 600-700 homes!

If you are interested in reading more about this wonderful, clean and efficient alternative energy source, follow this link for a head start.,_California

Be sure to visit my website and Blog later in March to learn about the tech in capturing and developing the images viewed on these pages.  Thank you.

Data research gained from an article titled: Altamont Pass, California - by Melissa Lowitz - Copyright 2009
Additional information researched from an article by Diana Hull – San Jose Mercury News - 2012

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Fine Art Photography Techniques: Sunday's Shot Tech

The Missed Shot!
I scolded myself for not having my camera with me.

The scene was perfect: strolling along a mountain path I came upon an open field.  Looking east, tall blades of wild grass glistened with gold, and in the distance, framed in a square, treetops reflected the yellow-orange glow of the parting sun. 

Nice, but my camera bag was home. Bummer.

As an added slap to my face, as I came to the end of the trail, close to where my car was parked – a family of deer emerged from the tree line and grazed – beautifully lit by the golden glow and unmoved by my presence.  Just then, I saw another hiker emerge from the forest; I placed my hands up in the universal sign to “stop!”  She did, and I used both hands to direct her gaze to the tree line.   We both stood in silence and enjoyed the moment.  After the deer walked backed into the woods she yelled over, “thank you!”

Though this short four-mile hike near Kennesaw Mountain proved to be a wonderful experience, I scolded myself for not having my camera with me. 

As a photographic landscape artist I have trained myself to “see” – to capture frames created by nature.  However, up until this hike, every time I strolled along a path or along a shoreline without my camera, I just walked – looking straight ahead and daydreaming about “stuff”, in many cases unrelated to photography.   But recently I began composing drafts on the art of seeing – visualization.  As a consequence, I visualize more, and this being the case, I should have had my camera.  Obviously, this will not happen again – and my new TENBA backpack will help by transporting equipment wherever I travel – a local walk or a fifteen-mile hike into the mountains.

Lesson: The first step in becoming a better photographer involves carrying a camera with you at all times.  Now, let me be clear, I am not talking phone and iPad cameras, but better point-and-shoot or digital single lens reflex, (DSLR), cameras; equipment that will capture the moment in all its color, structural and emotional detail that you originally experienced.  Even a trip to the grocery store: place the camera in the passenger seat – incredible scenes show themselves everywhere – when you least expect it.  Be ready.

As always, your feedback is greatly appreciated – sharing stories is fun.

Best regards,