Photographer’s Eye

A goatless goat shed, aging gracefully in Floyd County, VA

My daughter called from BestBuy in her hometown. She was camera shopping. As in her first serious look at cameras beyond her iPhone.

Me, I would research and compare and agonize and second-guess and anguish over such a decision. Not her. She walked in, looked around, called when she had narrowed it down to two, and went with the one that felt better in her hands: a newly-released Nikon P500. She especially liked the 35x zoom, which will come in handy in her area where landscapes stretch for tens of miles towards the distant horizon.

Tomorrow (with her permission) I’ll post a going-to-work shot she sent from last week. It served the same purpose for her that wildflowers in Gatlinburg did for me in 1970: you need a real camera to take images that the photographer and not the camera has full control of.

Above, a wonderfully dilapidated old structure on a friend’s property, a building that was once a goat shed, its weathered board and rusting roof so rooted in place it has become a part of the local landscape and natural setting. Obviously, it has had a bit of painterly rendering in Photoshop, specifically with the benefit of a plug-in called Pixel Bender: free, for Adobe PS 5 users.

It takes no particular talent, beyond having an eye for the final rendering and some knowledge of the right tools, to create a “painted” landscape. It seems a bit like cheating. But this way of visioning the natural and manmade world expands my in-sight of the beauty in the ordinary. I can see the finished painting in the every-day scenes and objects;  my imagination holds the brush, and memory becomes the palette. I delight in projecting the painter’s potentials even when I lack the skills to use them in the traditional ways.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Fred- just gorgeous what you’ve done with this photo. It looks like a Van Gogh with its grand swirls of green grass and whirling leaves. Projection is an art itself.