Ben's Photo Blog

Photos from my various adventures

Posts Tagged ‘Raleigh’

The Silent Hunter

Posted by Ben on January 9, 2010

Looking out the window after lunch today, I noticed a large dark shape in our neighbors’ yard across the street.  At first I could only see its back and thought it was a cat, but then it turned its head a little and I realized my mistake.  I then ran back to my room, threw on some shoes and grabbed my camera in hopes of getting a picture or two before it flew away.  By the time I made it out the front door, it had left its original position and flown up into a tree in the same yard.  It’s times like these when I am thankful for the massive zoom my camera has.  Starting at the front porch and moving about twenty feet closer at a time, I took a series of pictures of the hawk in the tree that got progressively clearer.  Eventually, I made it to the mailbox at the end of the driveway, figuring I was getting lucky that it hadn’t yet flown away.  I used the mailbox as a makeshift tripod for a few shots then decided to cross the street and press my luck farther.  For some reason, the hawk jumped from the tree and soared down to the driveway, getting about twenty feet closer to me than it had been before.  I’m glad I was able to react fairly quickly and get this shot, because after that a school bus drove down the road and scared the hawk away to the neighbors’ back yard.

This is a slightly cropped down version of that one lucky shot, and given the amount of time I had in which to take the original, I am very pleasantly surprised with how it came out.  First, I’m glad the focus ended up correctly, some of my shots from further away were not so lucky.  I’m also glad that the camera chose a fast shutter speed for this one, as I know my whole body was shaking (a result of not grabbing a coat before heading out into the 30 something degree afternoon), and I ended up with a really clear shot of the hawk.

After a little work cropping the original shot, I’m really happy with the composition of this photo.  I got the hawk pretty much centered vertically, but pushed off to the left of center horizontally.  By doing this, I was able to include a little more of the shadow it was casting out in front of itself, which I really liked.  It seems like the hawk is just staring down at its own shadow.  If I had to assign an emotion to that face staring down, it would be an intense determination, with maybe a little bit of curiosity thrown in as well; but I’m certainly no expert on the emotions of birds of prey.

All in all, I feel like this is one of the better stories I’ve had to go along with a picture in a while.  I always enjoy writing about the context of my pictures, and it was a desire to share the stories behind some of my pictures that was one of my main reasons for starting this blog in the first place.

Hope everyone’s having a great new year so far!


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Against the Odds

Posted by Ben on January 7, 2010

This picture comes from a walk I took with my parents and uncle a few weeks ago along the greenway near our house.  The path in this area is a giant wooden walkway over some wetlands.  We saw a bunch of wildlife there, including a couple of great blue herons and even a deer along the banks.  What really caught my eye, however, were the stumps coming up out of the water like this one, with baby trees growing from their tops.  This was by no means the only example, just the one whose picture turned out the best.

There’s not a whole lot to say about the picture artistically.  I switched the camera to the “vivid colors” mode, which brought out more of the reddish-brown coloring of the tree and helped show the color of the late day sun on the stump.  Composition-wise, I like the way this turned out.  I think the somewhat choppy water makes for a nice background for this shot.

It just seems strange to think that a tree could take root on such an isolated spot, but it clearly has (you can even see its roots digging into the stump).  I mean, what are the odds of a seed just happening to settle on the top of the stump, or perhaps it was deposited there by a bird or something else.  But despite all of that, it did, and it seems to be doing well.

As I mentioned before, my winter break is rapidly coming to a close.  Right now, I’m planning on heading back to Blacksburg next Thursday, giving me a couple of days to relax there before jumping back into classes.  While I definitely enjoy being home and being with my family during breaks, it’s pretty much inevitable that I start feeling restless towards the end of them.  I guess I start thinking about all of the things that I want to do and the people I want to see again when I get back and then realize that its still over a week away.

It also seems like the time when I think about all of the things that I want to do differently the next semester, having hopefully learned from the mistakes and missteps of the past.  I talked about this a little in my last post, but I feel like I have a much better grip on what I want to do.  And sure, I know some of these things are going to push me past my “comfort zone,” but if I’m going to be serious about making changes in my life, I know that’s what it’s going to take.  Who knows, maybe this more proactive stance will make this the semester where things go the way I hope they will.

It all starts with a couple of steps in the right direction, and I’ve got a few more days to figure out just what those steps are going to be.


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New Toys

Posted by Ben on December 28, 2009

It’s been another busy week here at home, preparing for and then celebrating Christmas with the family.  I had asked for a couple of new accessories to go with my camera for Christmas and have had a lot of fun playing around with them so far.  The pictures below come from a drive my dad and I took through the country around Raleigh, specifically from a place called Perry’s Pond a little ways north of Zebulon.

One of my new toys was a Neutral Density (0.9) filter.  The two pictures below were shot at the same shutter speed (1/10 second), aperture (8.0), and ISO (200).  The one on the left is with a circular polarizing filter and the one on the right with the new ND filter.

The ND photo is exposed much better than the polarized one.  The filter basically works by reducing the amount of light (of all colors) that reaches the sensor.  It lets you use longer exposures even in daylight without overexposing most of the shot.  Here’s another shot of the dam with the ND filter (1/5 second this time):

I also got my hands on a copy of Photoshop CS4 Extended Student Edition.  I’ve really been wanting to play around with a copy of this for a long time now, just to see what I could do with it.  Here’s my first real attempt at modifying an image from the other night.  This was also taken out at Perry’s Pond.

I think it turned out pretty well (I know it’s not straight, but I liked it better this way 🙂 ).

In addition to these two things, I also got a nice full-size tripod, which I look forward to using.

Overall, it was a very nice Christmas.  It was good to see family and friends again, and I’m still enjoying being able to relax at home for a couple more weeks.  I’m definitely looking forward to going back to school, seeing all my friends again, but I’m not quite ready to get back to work yet.


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A Moment of Reflection

Posted by Ben on July 16, 2009

These pictures comes from a recent hike I took at Umstead State Park in Raleigh.  I had some time to kill between getting off of work for the afternoon and my plans for the evening, and I had been meaning to get back to Umstead all summer.  Our high school cross country team would meet here for practices over the summer, but I had only come back a few times since then.

My trek started off down the Company Mill Trail, which has changed in the few years since I last used it.  The steep steps at the beginning have been replaced by a more meandering set of switchbacks.  After crossing the first bridge, I veered off onto the Inspiration trail, which follows a tiny creek for a short way and has little signs pointing out different types of trees along the path.  After some exploring down this trail and a smaller one that branched off of it, I returned to the main path.  It was nice to be able to take my time and enjoy the scenery and surroundings; something it was difficult to do while running, and to tell the truth, something I didn’t really care that much about during high school.

Eventually the trail winds its way down to Crabtree Creek, which runs through the park.  At the end of a big stone wall on one side of the trail is a place where the rocks have fallen and you can climb over them to get to the area on the other side.  Making my way carefully over the rocks I found myself right down by the edge of the water on a tiny path that followed the creek downstream for a ways.  Naturally, I followed it.

Seeing a large rock not too far from the shore, I splashed through the shallows, climbed up, and took a seat.  This was the view I had from that perch, looking upstream.


I sat there for a long time, just taking in my surroundings.  Even closing my eyes for a while, I was shocked by the tranquility of the place I had found.  A slight breeze was blowing through the woods, causing the leaves in the trees to rustle softly, and alleviating the heat of the late afternoon.  There was also the sound of birds chirping from the branches above.  Most soothing though was the sound of the water, cascading down a short fall a little way upstream to settle into the relatively still pool at my feet.  Slight ripples in the moving water marred what was otherwise a perfect reflection of the woods on the other side of the creek.  There were also shafts of sunlight that filtered down through the trees to illuminate the scene.

Looking downstream, there was a really neat tree growing up out of the shallows of the creek.


I realized after sitting there for a while that I had found a very special place.  I know everyone deals with stress differently, but the two things I’ve found that help me are running and finding places like this where I can just sit and think, removed from the causes of my stress, and really appreciate the beauty of the world around me.  While my internship this summer is not nearly as stressful as my last semester at school, even the small things will eventually build up and need to be released.  When I’m at school, there are plenty of these places that I’ve found that I can go; some that I’ve shared with others and some that I keep to myself.  When I’m home on breaks though, they are a lot harder to find and to get to.

So, I sit.  I close my eyes.  I don’t have to worry about projects or deadlines or anything else.  It gives me peace and quiet to work though some of the things that have been bothering me lately.  Gradually, a feeling of calmness washes over me.  The whole time I’ve been sitting here, I’ve only seen one person run past on a trail on the other bank of the creek.  The solitude found in places like this is also refreshing.

I realize after a while that I’m not far from the site of my accident almost four years ago.  A misplaced step during a normal group run had ended my cross country season the day before the first meet.  I was able to get back to it eventually, after surgery and about ten months of recovery.  I used to wonder what would be different in my life if that had never happened.  I’ve still never beaten my pre-injury 5k best.  Since coming to college though, I’ve learned not to dwell too much on things like that.  There’s no way to change it, and I can’t really complain about the way things have ended up.  Besides, it gave me a great experience to use for college admissions essays 🙂

I probably could have sat there for a very long time, watching the sun slowly set behind the trees and the deep blue sky turn dark.  But I had places to be, and probably would have had trouble making my way back out of the park in the darkness.  Eventually, I made myself get up.  I walked around and took a few more pictures, then scrambled back across the fallen rocks to climb back up that stone wall to get back on the main trail.

My walk back to the car was rather uneventful, but I left the park with a sense of inner peace, the strength of which I hadn’t felt in a very long time.

For those of you who stuck around through my rambling, here’s another pretty picture from my time down by the creek:



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More Focus Experiments

Posted by Ben on June 14, 2009



As the title implies, I was playing around with the manual focus functions of my camera the other day.  This picture was taken in my backyard as the sun was going down.  The flowers in question are daylilies.  I do enjoy being able to easily manually focus this camera as opposed to my older one which automatically focused every time.  I like how both of these pictures turned out.

The flowers look really good in the first one, with the blurry background drawing attention to the flowers themselves.  I also like how the sun shining through the trees came out in that shot.  The second picture is just the opposite, with the background in focus.  The flower in the middle of the foreground is blurred, but still looks pretty cool.  The camera’s exposure changed with the change in focus, causing the flowers to show up much darker in the second picture.  Another cool thing in the second picture that was completely unintentional was the flower bud in the middle of the foreground lining up perfectly with the tree trunk behind it.  At first I had thought this was some kind of weird lens flare from shooting towards the sun.

Sorry for another long pause between pictures.  I’m leaving this Thursday for my study abroad trip to Switzerland and Italy, so starting Friday (hopefully) I’ll be uploading pictures and details from Europe!


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