For reasons I don’t yet know, the blossoms arrived late this spring in Western North Carolina. We did not have a severe winter in terms of low temperatures and snowstorms, but it was consistently cold — very few warm days and unusually wet. Once things got going, though, we were treated to a lush and colorful display of spring at its poppin’ best. The dogwoods are now just about at their peak, as full as I can remember.
The flora of Western North Carolina are amazingly diverse. A naturalist I met here told me that Western North Carolina is the most biodiverse region in the U.S. And according to the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area website, “More species of plants can be found in the mountains of North Carolina than in any other area of similar size in North America.” That’s easy to believe once you begin exploring these mountains.
But I didn’t have to travel very far or do much exploring to find these trees — they were all in my neighborhood except for the last landscape, which is about a 10 to 15 minute drive. The first seven photos were all taken within the past ten days; the last two were shot in the spring of 2012 and 2011.
The large tree on the left is a Norway Spruce, a European import that thrives in this area. The peak is Eagle’s Nest.
Weeping Cherry Tree
Well now, if I were having a white dogwood contest, this would be the winner. Of course that’s including bonus points for being within walking distance of home. See the old barn? I get points for that one, don’t you think? Helps to define the setting as rural (even though it no longer is). To me, that’s a large part of what photography is about — what to exclude and what to include. Usually I tend toward inclusion, preferring images that combine multiple elements in a pleasing, complementary way. Others prefer simplicity. More on this in a future blog.
What can I say about this view except “I love it!” For my sensibilities, the scene has so many elements I value on so many levels that it virtually defines my style. And it’s just a few minutes from home!
By the way, this image is a good example of HDR (high dynamic range) photography. Cameras can’t capture the full luminance range in scenes that have both bright highlights and dark shadows: if you set your exposure to hold detail in the darker areas, your highlights will be blown out (pure white, no detail). And if you expose to retain detail in the highlights, you’ll end up with solid black shadow areas. So if you’re taking a single exposure, you have to decide which is more important, the highlights or shadows. In this case, I would have exposed for the shadows and let the sky go white, but the image would not have been worth publishing, in my opinion.
Given today’s digital technology, the solution was easy: take three exposures — normal, overexposed (to save the shadows), and underexposed (to save the highlights) — and blend them on the computer using sophisticated software. Which is just what I did.
You’ll be interested to learn that there are cameras that will do all that automatically before you download the files to the computer. Do they do it as well as it can be done on the computer? Not likely: I have yet to use an automated program that satisfies me. Will they come up with one where you just click the button and it does everything for you? Almost certainly. I expect they’re pretty close to that now.
Who knows what the future will bring? There may be a brain-camera interface that allows you to take a perfect photo of what you’re looking at. Remember, cameras these days are really computers.