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San Francisco

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This year for Christmas we spent our time out west visiting family in both San Francisco and a small town outside of Reno, Carson Nevada. Unlike our trip last year, we spent a few days in San Francisco rather than a few hours so we could explore the city. I wanted to experience what the city had to offer, to go see all the sites that make San Francisco famous. On our tour we visited the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Coit Tower, Twin Peaks, Lombard Street, and Fisherman’s Warf.

First thing I noticed about San Francisco is that the overall feel of the area is nothing like any southern city. The hills are what you would expect after watching movies like Bullitt and are not movie magic. They are steep and there are a lot of them. When you move outside the city the hills continue, but unlike hilly areas in Georgia the hills are completely covered in grass, with very few trees and more often than not there are cows on top of those grassy hills.

The first stop on our adventure was a spot overlooking the city called Twin Peaks. From there you get a 180 degree view of the city and it is breath taking. There are few areas in San Francisco where you can get a completely unobstructed view of all the popular sites at once.

After leaving Twin Peaks, we made our way to Lombard Street, better known as “the worlds most crooked street”. When we got there we found it full of tourists, which I would assume it is like that 24-7. Typically when I photography a place I like to try and not have any people in the picture, something I found hard if not impossible to do at Lombard.

I think what surprised me the most about Lombard Street is the fact that it exists in the first place. Who in their right mind decided it was a good idea? Not only is it twisty but it is steep as well. Driving, or in my case riding, down the hill feels like a drivers education test in maneuvering.

To wrap up the first day of site seeing we pointed our attention to the Golden Gate Bridge. The bridge was one of the few things I did get to see last year so this year we went for a little different vantage point, underneath. From here you begin to realize exactly how massive the bridge actually is. The Golden Gate dwarfs the large container ships that easily fit under the giant structure.

Visiting the bridge brought along a most welcome surprise, people surfing in the giants shadow. Right at the foot of the bridge roughly 20 surfers were braving the chilly water to take advantage of the beautifully crafted waves. All I could think of was “how California is this?!?” I sat on the rocks for quite some time soaking it all in much like I did a few years before when I was bobbing up and down on top of a surfboard of my own at Waikiki Beach. I really wanted to be out in the water.

The next day we made our way to Alcatraz, the one place I was dead set on visiting and I am happy to announce it did not disappoint. Upon stepping off the boat, we were greeted by amazing surroundings, as well as tons of people. The island is a good mix of decaying and well maintained structures.

I could write an entire blog entry about exploring Alcatraz but I fear it would not do the island justice. All I can say is if you get the chance, go, take the audio tour, and allow more that 3 hours for the trip. The once most feared place for american prisoners has transitioned to a beautiful, solemn monument to the people that called that island home.

San Francisco is a place unlike anywhere I have been before and will be a place I look forward to visiting again in the future. It’s nice to experience places that are completely different than what you are use to. From the sites and sounds to the guy wearing only a santa hat (on his head), everything was different than home. It was a great experience and an awesome city. See you soon San Francisco.

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Flip Flop Foto Site Redesign

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As some of you may know, I have been fortunate to be working for a local photography studio for the past couple of months. The studio is named Flip Flop Foto and it is located in downtown Opelika. I have been doing some design work as well as been learning the world of professional photography.

Making the transition from being an agency designer, to freelance designer, to photographer has been an interesting experience. Photography has been an interest of mine for quite some time but never really thought about making it my profession until some motivation from my lady. The decision to pursue photography might well be one of the best decisions I have made in a while and I hope the journey continues to be interesting and fun.

After working for Flip Flop for a couple of months, the owner and I began talking about a much needed redesign of his website. The original site was put together by the owner a few years ago after he taught himself not only how to design a website but the Actionscript necessary to make the website function properly.

Keeping that in mind, the original site was not bad. It functioned and showed the work but did not live up to the quality of images his studio produced. The few images that were on the site were often times small and undistinguishable. The navigation was clunky and confusing which lead to clients having a hard time finding where they needed to be.

We decided that the new design needed to bring the imagery center stage and be the dominant element. In addition to improving the images, we wanted to simplify the navigation by reducing the number of clicks needed to get to the content. Oh and did I mention that he wanted it done within a week and a half so the site would be ready by Christmas. That way, all the couples that get engaged over the holidays would be viewing a site that well represented the work done by the photographers.

Overall I am happy with the outcome and I feel it well represents my new employer. The overall design is clean and simple with an easy to use and read navigation. here are a few images of the site before and after my redesign. Also go check out the site for Flip Flop Foto.

Landing:

Before:
oldLanding

After:
newLanding

Gallery:

Before:
oldGallery

After:
newGallery

Pricing:

Before:
oldPricing

After:
newPricing2

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Rural Trespassing

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If you live in the south, you know the weather has been pretty terrible as of late. We have received more than enough rain to make up for the drought from the past few years. In fact we have received too much rain. On top of all the rain we have had many mornings with very thick fog.

Fog is one of those things that speaks to the nature of humans; giving people a since of unease and elevated alert. The haunting ambiance that fog gives makes an everyday location moody and creepy. It is this ambiance that I felt would make for great photographs.

When the weather report called for another morning with fog I decided to wake up early and take advantage of natures mood lighting. There were a few areas in the rural sections around Auburn that I have been waiting to explore, and the fog would provide the much needed cover for me to wander around unnoticed as well as set a mood that would be fitting for the subjects I would be shooting.

I was looking for forgotten structures like old farmsteads, chimneys, and graveyards. Subjects that already have a ghostly mood that would only be elevated by the ambiance that the fog would give. For some reason these old, abandoned structures have been an area of interest to me as of late. I find myself wanting to know what these same structures were like in their prime, piecing together the clues that are left, to come up with my own image of years past. Often times I am left with more questions than answers and I think it is that fact that makes me want to learn more.

These are a few images from my explorations. Rather than using the focal length of the lens to create depth, I decided to use the natural depth of field of the fog. The outcome was varied, sometimes I got the effect I was looking for and sometimes I did not. But that is why we experiment, to learn what works and what doesn’t. I hope you enjoy the images.

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The House My Great Grandfather Built

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From the outside looking in, my Grandmom’s house might seem like a strange and backwards place. It is part warm and loving house that always feels like home and part decaying remanence of a mans life work. As I get older, the latter becomes more and more of a concern.

My great grandfather was the type of man that worked, and worked hard. Growing up during the depression he learned the value of hard work. He built the house that is now my grandmom’s house with his own two hands. The same home that my mom called a home until she left for college.

His passion and art were plants, specifically azaleas. He specialized in crossbreeding azaleas to produce unique colors never before seen, and soon will never be seen again. I am even fortunate enough to have one of his creations named after me.

The area surrounding the house once was a thriving plant nursery, with people constantly coming out to choose the perfect plant for their yard. Now, years after his passing, the areas around the house are more and more rapidly decaying. The once prized azaleas are being overgrown. The green house where many plants began their lives has all but fallen down. Only a few more years and everything that resembled a busy nursery will be gone.

What makes the area interesting, as you can see from the pictures, is that much of the nursery and it’s surround areas are exactly the same as the day my great grandfather died. The tools on his work bench are still strategically placed, just as he left it, with only dust and more rust being the difference in time. The tools that were left outside have all but rotted away, as if they had become a part of my grandfathers earthly body.

I knew my grandfather but I was very young. Seeing his tools and his work place give me insight into the work he did. Very rarely will you find an electric powered this, or a gas powered that. No, everything he did was done by hand, the hard way. And that was my grandfather if there was a hard way to do something he would find it, and happily do it.

I hope you enjoy the images and the insight into a strong man. A man who believed and hard work and worked hard up until he passed away at the age of 94. A man who was strong enough to kill a rattle snake with his bare hands by cracking it like a whip but gentle enough to tend and care for some of the most beautiful plants this world has ever seen.

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Turkey Day 2009

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Thanksgiving Day 2009 was spent at my grandmom’s house this year, a tradition that has been a part of my family for as long as I can remember. This year, the day was spent hanging out with family, eating ridiculous amounts of food, and shooting clay pigeons. Each year has been a little different but the location and menu always is constant. Being from the south, we have a typical southern thanksgiving menu.

Turkey, of course, is the center of the meal even though it is far from my favorite. Thanksgiving is one of the few meals where the protein is not my favorite, many of the side items take center stage on my plate. Sweet potato casserole and dressing take the leading roles with green beans and potato salad playing fabulous supporting actors.

Our sweet potato casserole is different than what many people think of when they think of sweet potato casserole. We forgo the overly sweet marsh mellow topping for a crispy, buttery, brown sugar and pecan crust. The sweet potatoes themselves are creamy and rich but not overly sweet. This casserole could be a dessert but it happily takes a seat between the dressing and the cranberry sauce.

Then there is our dressing, which is not, I repeat NOT stuffing. Dressing is a lovely blend of bread products, onion, and turkey stock that creates quite possibly the greatest starch known to man. Unlike stuffing, dressing is not an overly spiced soppy mess but a nice, mellow concoction that tastes like what it should, bread.

I love Thanksgiving, the food and the time with family. I especially like spending it at my grandmom’s. Which leads me to my next post topic. Until next time, enjoy these pictures of food and family from our trip.

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