An Observation: Nature Walkin’

It’s easy to take natural beauty for granted. As a photographer, however, I am always looking for a unique angle. Most of my photography comes from Arkansas, and The Natural State truly lives up to its nickname. The choices in a single setting are just as varied as the state’s geography itself. What kind of story do I want to tell with the picture? How can I frame this differently? Am I missing something?

Speaking of “missing something”…we go nature walkin’ ’round these here parts. The “g” on the end of the traditional pronunciation of “walking” is unnecessary in Arkansas. I guess it’s in the spirit of the pronunciation of the state name itself. You know…you drop the last letter when you say “Arkansas.” However, don’t you DARE try to spell it without the “s.” When it happens, it’s not pretty.

As seen in New Mexic.

Batesville, Arkansas is a very picturesque community. The historic homes downtown are postcard-perfect in many ways. The churches are equally as fascinating.

Late afternoon in September. Ahh.

Oh, and I did mention nature, so I suppose I should show you some nature. Batesville is situated along the White River–an excellent photography location for all of you shutterbugs out there.

Nice September day along the White River at Batesville, Arkansas.
Looking towards the bridge along the White River at Batesville, Arkansas.

Guess what?!? It’s also possible to find natural beauty in an urban setting, and a quick trip across the state line to Tennessee can offer up some great opportunities. The clouds in these photographs created some great backdrops for photography along the Mississippi River in Memphis, Tennessee.

Isolated storms, the bridge, a barge, and the Mississippi River. If you turn to your right from this vantage point, you’re looking directly into downtown Memphis.
Towering clouds over the Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid in Memphis, Tennessee.

Of course, if you’re interested in really getting close to nature (in a controlled-ish sense), you should give a drive-thru safari a try. Yes, you can pay to let animals stick their tongues out at you as you cruise at a steady five miles-per-hour. But, the photography is fun…as long as the animals don’t try to eat your camera. I caught up with this rather tall giraffe in Alamo, Tennessee at the Tennessee Safari Park.

Oh, you makin’ fun of me? Well…you’re too tall. So haha. Enjoy getting rained on before anyone else does.

I suppose the drive-thru safari is more like nature drivin’, to be specific. Where are some of your favorite nature photography locations? Leave a comment!

A Vacation and a Camera: The Rule of Thirds, Part HOME

In the interest of not having to do any more math, I’m going to use this post to wrap up my Road-Trip-a-Palooza Adventure Quest 2017.

Just in case you’re late to this here party, I started out in Arkansas, drove from one end of Tennessee to the other, twisted and turned through portions of North Carolina, drove across South Carolina and stopped for a spell in Charleston, then took myself down the coastline through Georgia to Vero Beach, Florida. (You go, girl.)

Now I had to get myself home.

I’ll admit, though, it was tough to leave the photography opportunities…

McKee Botanical Gardens...beautiful!
I love Spanish moss…

I decided that the best way to do this was the more direct route, so I set out for Atlanta on Day One of the return trip (which was actually Day Sixseven-ish of the total days on vacation? I think? Math…help me out, here.).

The Florida Turnpike. From what I understand, the sections I traveled have the some of the longest expressway distances between exits in the country. (My bladder agreed.) You find fun wherever you can on long drives. So, naturally, I chuckled when I got on the turnpike at a little place called Yeehaw Junction.

The theme for this blog post is "Interesting Road Signs."
The theme for this blog post is “Interesting Road Signs.”

I probably looked like a total amateur stepping out of my car at the service plazas with my toll ticket in my hand. I refused to let go of it. For starters, it said “Yeehaw Junction,” and I was still getting a kick out of that. (Yep, I’m from Arkansas, the land that gave us towns named Turkey Scratch and Possum Grape…but I still got a kick out of Yeehaw Junction.) Secondly, I didn’t want to pay any more than I had to at the tollbooths. If it was in my hand, I wasn’t losing it. Case closed. (For the record, I didn’t lose it. You go, girl.)

I made it through Florida by the noon hour, and I pulled off the now-interstate for another scrumptious highway hamburger in Georgia. The conversation at the drive-thru windows made me believe that I was being mistaken for someone else.

Drive-Thru Conversations:

First Window: That’ll be $7.05.

Me: (Handing over crisp ten-dollar bill.) Here’s a ten.

First Window: Here’s your change…and your Coke. Thank you. See you tomorrow.

Me: Thank you…o…kay…

Second Window: (Server hands me my bag-o-burger-and-fries.) Here you go, ma’am. Thank you. See you tomorrow.

Me: (Quizzical look on face.) Thank you?

(I didn’t see them tomorrow. I know that has to be part of their training, but it still threw me for a loop. Very friendly, though.)

Moving on…

Georgia. Lots of Georgia. Warm. Very warm.

Signs. Fun signs.

See, I'd always been told that the TV lawyer's name was Perry MASON.
I’d always been told that the TV lawyer’s name was Perry MASON. Oh, well.

I mentioned that it was warm, very warm in Georgia. Indeed, the temperature had risen quite a bit during the day and when I was about forty miles outside of Atlanta…on a Thursday afternoon at RUSH HOUR, my tire light came on. I did what any independent, skilled traveler would have done.

I called my mommy.

The car hadn’t been doing anything funny (as far as I could tell…with the exception of the navigation system misinterpreting practically everything I said). As we talked, I formulated my plan for when I stopped at the hotel. I knew I’d be able to make it that far since I couldn’t really spot any significant problem. As luck would have it, my hotel was situated on a road lined with every single car dealership you can imagine, and I was informed that the hot weather had indeed been the culprit behind the lighting of the tire light. Disaster averted.

So, I stopped in Atlanta, had dinner, went swimming, fell asleep, woke up, and fed my inner news nerd before heading home. I’ve been to Atlanta in the past, but there was one place I’d never been and I had to see it:

Breaking News...I found a parking spot in downtown Atlanta!
Breaking News…I found a parking spot in downtown Atlanta and I only circled the block once!

After a morning of some tourist-type stuff in Atlanta, I headed back to my regularly scheduled time zone, meandering my way through Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee. I regret that I did not devote more time on this part of the drive to photography, but I was really starting to get exhausted and ready to be home.

My first and only layer of windshield bugs piled up on the very last hour of the trip. It was then that I knew I was home.

Thus ended Road-Trip-a-Palooza Adventure Quest 2017. Whew.

*For a transcript of this adventure, please send…oh, wait. This is the transcript. Never mind.

A Vacation and a Camera: The Rule of Thirds, Part One-ish

Back in the spring, I started thinking about taking a road trip as a way to see some different places and get some new photography experiences under my lens. A friend had graciously offered to let me stay with her in Florida for a few days, and she also offered a suggestion:

“Take the long way.”

Naturally, I asked her, “What’s the long way?”

You see, Arkansans tend to flood the same stretches of the Gulf Coast each summer (although I did pick a less-frequented area of the panhandle last year just to see something new and avoid the high-rises…and it was worth it…but I digress…). I was headed to the Atlantic side this time, which is quite a trek by road from here. So, the long way could have been anything from a practical, direct route to taking a slight detour through Niagara Falls.

Once she described the possible route, my resourcefulness kicked in and the little hamster wheel in my brain began turning. (That thing can get going pretty fast when an idea materializes. The poor little imaginary hamster gets quite a workout.)

In photography, one of the basic guidelines of composition is the rule of thirds. Essentially, when you are deciding on where to place a subject in a photo, you think of the space as a grid divided into thirds (both horizontally and vertically, creating a tic-tac-toe type of setup). This keeps you from placing virtually all of your subjects–by default–in the center, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but your results are more interesting and varied by using the rule of thirds.

I took the rule quite literally with this photo I took on my vacation. This print is available in my Etsy shop, and the link is available at the bottom of the post.
I took the rule quite literally with this photo from Vero Beach, Florida. (This print is available in my Etsy shop, and the link is available at the bottom of the post. Be sure to look for it. Yes, I’m advertising my Etsy shop. However, there’s more vacation-y stuff here to read. I promise.)

I decided to compose my trip in a similar manner, breaking the long way to the Treasure Coast into thirds. (I’m also breaking my account of the trip into three-ish parts. We’ll call this…Part One-ish. Oh, and my eventual destination was Vero Beach, Florida.)

I left on a Friday afternoon. The first third of my trip was a relatively short one–Nashville, Tennessee. I love Nashville. I love Tennessee. I’m going to do a better job next time, though, of leaving the house on “not-weekends.” Had it not been for a sleeve of Saltines being within easy reach, I probably would have starved before I made it to my brother’s house that night.

(The words “I-left-on-a-Friday-afternoon” should help you figure out the traffic situation.)

I’ve made the trip to Nashville many, many times. Going east of Nashville, however, was new territory for me. And that was part of the plan that I had meticulously written out on a sheet of paper listing all of the places I wanted to stop and see.

I left at five o’clock the next morning on the second third of the trip (driving EAST directly into the SUNRISE…big mistake…ouch), and that sheet of paper lasted until somewhere near Asheville, North Carolina. Once you’ve been tied up in Saturday traffic at every possible interstate interchange, looked at your gas gauge and (unfortunately) picked the exit that had less amenities than the next one three miles down the road, and gotten hungry twenty-seven more times than you expected, you just start wanting to get where you’re going. I did, however, LOVE the scenery in Eastern Tennessee/Western North Carolina…even if I didn’t have the chance to take very many photographs of it.

The Welcome Center was beautiful. That part of North Carolina is beautiful. (Beautiful is such a beautiful word, don't you think?)
The Welcome Center was beautiful. That part of North Carolina is beautiful. (Beautiful is such a beautiful word, don’t you think?)
Alas, I hardly had the chance to take any photos in North Carolina, but the views were stunning.
Alas, I hardly had the chance to take any photos in North Carolina, but the views were stunning.

I continued driving with my meandering destination for the day being Charleston, South Carolina. When I drove into South Carolina, I stopped again and took in the scenery (and a few brochures). Very friendly welcome center, lovely views.

Looking back towards North Carolina from South Carolina. I saw all kinds of geographical changes on my drive that day.
Looking back towards North Carolina from the South Carolina state line. This was my first trip to the Carolinas, and I wasn’t disappointed.

By the way, every single convenience store I stopped at was selling fidget spinners at the checkout. I overheard one mother in South Carolina telling her child that he did not need a fidget spinner, and I wanted to thank her on behalf of grownups everywhere, but I was too tired to do anything other than pay for my coffee.

In typical “me” fashion, I ended up rolling into Charleston in the early evening on a Saturday night. Many of the locations I had wanted to visit and tour were closed, so I had to save my photography for the next morning.

Did I ever see some beautiful photo opportunities the next morning, even if they weren’t on my original list…

Charleston, South Carolina is such a uniquely beautiful city. I am not a morning person, but I sure am glad I woke up early to capture this photograph.
Charleston, South Carolina is such a uniquely beautiful city. I am not a morning person, but I sure am glad I woke up early to capture this photograph.

Coming up in Part Two-ish…the third third of the trip to Florida. (Can someone help me with my math? I’m getting confused.)

*Some of the prints from this post are available in my Etsy shop:

Vero Beach Sea Oats: https://www.etsy.com/listing/526304756/beach-photography-color-photography?ref=shop_home_active_1

Charleston Sunrise: https://www.etsy.com/listing/524657098/color-photography-sunrise-palmetto-trees?ref=shop_home_active_4