Monthly Archives: December 2013

Trains and Waterfalls

Waterfall on West Fork of the Pigeon River

Waterfall on West Fork of the Pigeon River

It was pretty cold yesterday morning, but by noon the temperature was up in the forties and the sun was shining so it was impossible to stay indoors. We hopped in the truck and took NC 215 north. This is a great twisty, scenic road that follows two rivers as it winds its way through the Southern Smokies. Once we got up to about 3,500 feet, some of the north-facing cliffs along the side of the road were sporting icicles.

Icicles along NC 215 north of the Blue Ridge Parkway entrance

Icicles along NC 215 north of the Blue Ridge Parkway entrance

There’s a spot where NC 215 crosses the West Fork of the Pigeon River that you can climb down onto the rock riverbed. The riverbed is riddled with craters that have been worn into the rock when the water is high from heavy rains and the spring runoff.

West Fork of the Pigeon River in Western North Carolina

West Fork of the Pigeon River in Western North Carolina

More icicles

More icicles

Looking at all these icicles made a cup of coffee sound good so we headed west to Bryson City, home of my all-time favorite coffee shop.

Mountain Perks, Bryson City

Mountain Perks, Bryson City

It’s located right across the tracks from the Bryson City Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Station…

Bryson City GSMR Depot

Bryson City GSMR Depot

As we were enjoying our Black Widows, the train pulled in, at the end of its morning excursion run.

GSMR Excursion Train pulled by two EMD GP9 locomotives.

GSMR Excursion Train pulled by two EMD GP9 locomotives.

The two units were uncoupled and a third GP9, dressed out in its “Polar Express” colors and tinsel garlands, was attached for the day’s special evening excursion which features Santa Claus, a reading of the story and a gift for each child.

Uncoupling two EMD GP9s

Uncoupling two EMD GP9s

One of GSMR's EMD GP9s in its Polar Express costume

One of GSMR’s EMD GP9s in its Polar Express costume

GSMR also has a gorgeous BLW 2-8-0 steam locomotive but we didn’t get to see it yesterday.

And, we ended the day with dinner at an old service station in Franklin that’s been remodeled into a ’50s diner…

Motor Company Grill in Franklin, NC

Motor Company Grill in Franklin, NC

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A Christmas…Dandelion?

Dandelion in Winter

Dandelion in Winter

Dandelions aren’t part of the customary Christmas imagery, but there this thing was, poking its bright yellow head above the fallen leaves and dead grass. I had to put the flash on to get the picture because I was shivering too much to use available light with a slower shutter speed.

All my best wishes to everyone for a wonderful holiday season!

A more traditional Christmas image

A more traditional Christmas image

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Sickle-Tree

IMGP4482

Just as the river gauge was creeping toward flood stage, a cold front came through late yesterday and sent the wet weather scurrying east.

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Midwinter

Holly

Holly

Today is winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere – the shortest day of the year. Here at 35° 8’23.91″N 82°49’7.14″W, the day will be nine hours and forty-seven minutes, and tomorrow will be two seconds longer! I don’t know why we don’t make a bigger deal out of this. For those of us who hate being cold, who huddle next to the nearest heat source wearing multiple layers of clothing and will not go outdoors without donning a layer of outerwear with an R-value of ten or more, this is like catching a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel.

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Shooting in the Raw

I’m diligently reading my camera’s user manual and I got to page 122 yesterday where it talks about file formats. Apparently, there’s this thing called a raw file you can have it save instead of (or in addition to) a .JPG. So I thought, “what the heck” and turned it to raw+JPG and took my camera into town yesterday afternoon when I went Christmas shopping.

When I got home, I went to transfer the photos to my computer and noticed how big these things are. Using the raw+ setting seems like a really effective way to get the maximum use out of my little 4G SD card. These .PEF files are four times bigger than their .JPGs.

I found out right away, though, how useful this is going to be. I don’t like using a flash; unless you are really experienced, flash photos have a flat, fake look. Several of my photos were taken inside a shop with just the available light and they had that yellow cast you get with indoor lighting.

Indoor lighting

Indoor lighting

I installed a raw photo processor called RawTherapee and selected one of these yellow photos. The software has a white balance profile called “Tungsten” that did the trick in an instant.

Corrected white balance

Corrected white balance

You can really see it in the blues. That sea-green jacket at the left turned back into turquoise, which is what it looked like to my eyeballs.

That 4G SD card doesn’t seem so big anymore….

Photo taken in Local Color on Broad Street in Brevard NC, processed using RawTherapee 4.0.11 running on Ubuntu 13.10.

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My New Favorite Christmas Tree Ornament

Thank you, Pat!

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Looking Glass Falls: Flip-Flop Claim Area

Lonely flip-flops

Lonely flip-flops

In the summer, Looking Glass Falls is where tourists go when they become disoriented and need to experience a traffic jam. In the winter, it’s possible to get a photo of it without having to wait in line. The downside is that there’s little greenery in the winter, so a photo is almost the same in color as black & white.

Looking Glass Falls, Pisgah National Forest

Looking Glass Falls, Pisgah National Forest

Looking Glass Falls: same raw image processed in B&W

Looking Glass Falls: same raw image processed in B&W

You have to climb down about 7,000 steps to get to a spot where you can see the falls without looking down on them. For the climb back up, there are convenient landings with benches to sit on while your huffing and puffing abates and, behind one of these is a pile of one-of-a-kind flip-flops.

But, not to worry. You are only about five minutes from the nearest Wal-Mart.

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