Category Archives: photography

Blowing Rock

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About 10 miles from Julian Price lies a quaint town called Blowing Rock, North Carolina.  This town, according to Captain Jim, was designed, created and populated to attract women.  From it’s flower gardened main street to it’s many chic stores it does seem he has a point.  We chose a perfectly comfortable, overcast day to stroll it’s main street.  You will want to find one of their several free parking areas to stow away your vehicle as parking on the main street is at a premium.  We found ample parking between their public pool and a very lovely park.  A steep hike up some hidden steps and you are close to Main Street.  You can walk from one end to the other quite comfortably, as it’s not very long.

There were many fascinating shops and storefronts.  Myself, I’m not really a very girly-girl so the shops only really interest me from a “viewing” standpoint.  I like to see all the interesting wares and what-nots.  I love the architecture and did get to take some interesting shots of some of the buildings.  I was drawn to one shop though, much to the detriment of my pocketbook.  It was a lovely yarn shop named Unwound Yarn http://www.unwoundyarn.com/  I enjoyed perusing the many colorful and varied yarns.  Even Jim and Kaelin found the different yarns to be interesting, noting the textures and varied softness.  I did buy a wonderful kit to make a Christmas present for my oldest daughter.  Of course, I can’t share what it is yet, but I can say it had 21 different colors!

Of course, when you stroll through little towns like this you do work up an appetite and this is when you search out restaurants that are unique to the area.  We were drawn to Town Tavern http://www.towntavernbr.com/ and were fairly pleased.  The food was mostly pub style food and spirits.  It was a little pricey as probably most all restaurants and stores are in Blowing Rock.  It had a neat atmosphere and I can imagine it gets to hopping on weekends and evenings.

Blowing Rock is definitely worth the stroll whether you are a shopper or not.  And the area offers more than just the downtown shopping excursions.  Not far from there is The Blowing Rock itself, which we visited last year.  It is located off The Blueridge Parkway, a must do!  And it is close to Boone.  You cannot go wrong visiting this lovely area.  For more information visit this link:   https://blowingrock.com/

Cherokee Rock

After a great fail trying to get to Chief Ladiga campground Captain Jim used freecampsites.net and found Cherokee Rock Campgrounds (Alabama.)  It wasn’t far from where we were and had promising reviews.  Hmmm?

Although we did not encounter anymore Bridge Out signs we did have to endure a quite steep, narrow entrance road to the park.  Once we got to the park our initial impression was quite positive.  It was very clean with almost new pavilion and office.  It was based on the honor system, however the prices did not match with what the website stated.  The website and the envelope stated $10 a night, the sign stated $20.  There were no maps to the campground and we had to just guess where to go.

As we drove through the park we could see tent camping along huge rock outcroppings.  It was obvious this was strictly for tents only.  We headed into the wooded area in search of RV camping.  There were, I repeat, NO road signs!  We ended up on a dead end and a dead end definitely means a dead end, NO TURN AROUND!!!  Captain Jim had to back Betty and Bertha up in a narrow, crooked area.

We were, at this time, then met by the “Campground Host,” which then proceeded to help us back up and find a site.  And they had to do this because NO SITES were MARKED!  They got us into a site not too far from them.  Was it a great site? NO.  It was so unlevel that we had to pull out every leveling tool we could find and warned the Boy, NO Jumping!

I will give it this, it was quiet.  No lights blaring in the window.  Some campers came and went, but we have a feeling they were camping on the sly (coming after dark and leaving before sunrise.)  I will admit we only paid the price that was marked on the envelope as this campground in no way warranted $20 per night price tag.  There was no water, electric, sewer and trash was definitely not in walking distance.

The campground host sounded like he and his wife had been there quite a while.  There were promises of future improvements, but it doesn’t seem like it has made it to the back forty of Cherokee Rock, including cutting the grass (which he said he was going to do the next day.)  Funny thing was Jim said he’s pretty sure he was “cutting grass” just not the kind we wanted cut.  He noticed quite a few “plants” in a tent on their site.  Perhaps this was why the “host” seemed so happy to be there.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all bad.  The rocks were amazing to walk through and climb on.  They were massive and parts overlooked a beautiful valley.  We were able to get some amazing photos, although we were disappointed that the sunrise did not cooperate with us.  It was quite misleading.

I’m sure there was quite a lot of history there.  It was a shame, however, to see so many of these beautiful wonders of nature defaced by senseless graffiti.  Really people?  Get a grip.  This is not a chalkboard and nobody cares that you were there.

Overall, we feel that this campground was good for tent campers and young people as their sites set next to the valley or rocks, not nestled in the bug infested woods.  We decided this was not a place to where we would back.

Captain Jim gives this place a  2 mostly because of the rocks if it were a day trip (no camping).  If you are a tent camper and young it would get a 4 or 5.  I agree with his conclusion.

Sadler State Park South Carolina June 4th 2017

Sadler State Park turned out to be quite a gem, 395 Acres of beautiful forests on a peninsula of Lake Hartwell (56,000 acres).  We stayed on Loop #1, site # 1, a pull through that abutts up to the water.

After quickly setting up, little man and I took a walk down to the beach area. He and I, loaded with our cameras, partook in a few photography lessons. I talked to him about composition and foreground and background. He caught on quickly; took a few of his own shots on his Kodak camera his dad had given him and then took off to run the beach. Lessons over, I took many beautiful landscape shots of the lake and its shores. I practiced what I learned in the book Perfect Exposure (I’ll edit with the authors name later.) Using the sand as my midtones, I got perfect shots. Can’t wait to see them on my Surface.

When we checked into the campground little man decided, for some odd reason, that he was afraid to fall in the water! He didn’t want to stay at the site we had chosen. Of course, we didn’t listen to him and number one it was. After seeing how shallow the water was at the shore he decided it was quite safe to play knee-deep for several hours.

We had a lovely evening and slept very well. The next morning, little man earned his level 1 Junior Ranger badge. We had a nice chat with Ranger Austin who suggested we come in the fall. I do believe our Thanksgiving week plans have been made.

Gordonia State Park, Georgia

Gordonia State Park was hard to find due to poor signage.  We almost missed it.  There was a separate entrance that we happened on while heading to Walmart.  We followed the GPS even though the sign on the road said “Dead End.”  It wasn’t a Dead End.  Go figure.

It has a lot to offer; golf course, splash pad, lake, canoe rental.  The sites were clean although oddly set up.  Gnats were absolutely relentless, so be aware you might decide to stay in your camper.

The office was at the golf course club house, however that too was not clearly marked.  We had to guess (although correctly) that was where we were to sign in.  And there was no RV turn around.  It was very difficult on Captain Jim to have to flip flop the camper and avoid golf carts.  So if, dear readers, you choose to go here please note that it’s a kinda hunt and peck situation.

Lil Man probably would say that the splash pad was the best part of the park.  I got some terrific shots there.  We didn’t stay long though, because it wasn’t very parent friendly.  There were lots of kids, but only so many hot, metal benches for parents to sit on and not efficient shading.

All in all, probably wouldn’t go back to camp there, however, I could see where it’s a good day park to visit.

No coffee in the house

Saturday,  June 3rd,  2017

After an uneventful, quiet night at Laura S Walker State Park we are once again on the road. Having no coffee “in the house” causes one to pack quickly and efficiently. The gas problem was solved five miles down the road in a teeny tiny town called Hoboken. I kid you not! We filled up tanks, coffee and gas and continued our travels down Highway 121. Some travelers would not be content to take these country highways, but I truly am. Lately, I have suffered terrible traffic anxiety, seeing an accident in every turn. Taking these meandering byways are peaceful and truly beautiful. It allows you to see a side of life one cannot see on major highways. Little to no traffic makes it stress free for both myself and Captain Jim. My only regret is I can’t stop at every rustic barn, quiet town and cute cow to take a picture. Destination Gordonia State Park.

Here we go again

Friday 6/2/2017 

Away on another adventure exploring the unknown and revisiting some known. The traveling Willoughby’s leave the misty, overcast humidity of Florida and head for Roan Mountain, Tennessee. Days of last-minute appointments, end-of-year school prep, airport excursions, family visits and of course, packing, has left us subdued, but most definitely ready for the peace and quiet of the mountains. Follow us as we once again travel, play, photograph and explore.

Confessions of a Not So Professional Photographer

Recently I was asked to do the class photos for our Charter School.  I teach first grade there.  I didn’t think it would be a big deal because I had done them last year too.  But, this year, since I had recently graduated from NYIP I decided I needed to be paid for the endeavor.  After all, I’m working toward being a professional photographer, part-time yes, but still professional.

Well, I gathered my backgrounds, my lighting equipment and of course my brand new Nikon D750.  I set up a schedule.  I took the pictures.  Man, it’s not an easy task getting the attention of approximately 18-20 wiggly kids.

Then came editing time.  I cried.  I cried more.  I told my husband I was returning everyone’s money.  Because the camera is new to me I had to ISO too high.  The pictures were noisy and the background wasn’t wide enough to accommodate so big a group.

I wanted to give up!

My husband, a teacher at our school and formally in the printing business, said NO, you can’t give up.  We worked hard at coming up with a different place to take the pictures.  After a week of retrying with cute, rambunctious volunteer youngins we hit gold.  I now have a plan for retakes.  My class and my husbands are done and look great.  I wish I could post them here, but alas can’t.

Our yearbook person needed photos ASAP so I worked like a dog for over a week on the pictures that I had already taken.  With the help of my wonderful husband and the book, Teach Yourself Raw in Photoshop by digitalcameraworld, I had a crash course on learning how to denoise and save photos.  The photos that I thought  were so terrible actually turned out really well.  I learned how to fix them and I also learned how to take out the background and add a different background.  I looked at the class photos from 2014 and 2015 that a “professional” school photo company had done and found that mine very much outdid theirs.   I have my confidence back.

In fact, this weekend I took the senior pictures of one of our secretaries’ son.  It was such a fun photo shoot.  My  subject was handsome, sweet and did a great job modeling.   My camera did exactly what it was supposed to do.  And so did I!

I can now call myself a professional!  I’ve broke the barrier.