Ron Longwell Photography: Blog en-us (C) 2017 Ron Longwell Photography. No reproduction of any kind without prior written permission. (Ron Longwell Photography) Tue, 31 Oct 2017 20:43:00 GMT Tue, 31 Oct 2017 20:43:00 GMT Ron Longwell Photography: Blog 120 79 Fall at Fall Creek Falls Pic by Ron Longwell/ There is nothing more delightful to my soul than fall. The colors are a huge part of it, of course, but the way autumn captivates my heart has more to it than color. The cool weather, the moisture, and the sweet smell of composting leaves are different notes to creation's yearly symphony.

I returned last week to Fall Creek Falls State Park, my new great escape in middle Tennessee. I had planned to be there at sunrise to photograph, but a front moved in the night before and socked in all of middle Tennessee with clouds. There would be no sunrise, a development that allowed my wife a few extra hours of sleep and thus confirmed her conviction that God loves her deeply.

Pic by Ron Longwell/

No matter. The Cumberland Plateau was still engulfed in clouds and mist when we arrived, adding its own touch to the landscape. I frequently say that the best weather for photography is pretty much the worst weather for just about everything else, and that proved true this day. There's something magical about the way a low-hanging mist weaves its way through rocks and trees, concealing then revealing subtle shapes and patterns.

Pic by Ron Longwell/ And water adds something to landscape photography and enables images that would be impossible otherwise. Even though it was a brisk 38 degrees, it was a thrill to be there.

Pic by Ron Longwell/ After a few hours of driving around, gawking, and photographing when the rain slowed to a gentle drizzle, we were damp and cold and hungry. So we decided it was time for lunch and retreated to the lodge for to warm up and enjoy a couple of club sandwiches.

Renewed and refreshed, we headed back out. Some of the fog had burned off and we decided a hike was in order. There was an overlook above Cane Creek Falls that we'd seen from the other side of the gorge the last time we visited. Unreachable by car, you can only get there on foot and we'd decided this was the day. After a short hike, we arrived at the overlook to see this:

Pic by Ron Longwell/

 It was still a bit foggy, but the colors popped and it was breathtaking. While we were taking it all in another couple showed up and remarkably, he was hiking barefoot. In 40 degree weather. We talked to them a bit and he said something about the Native Americans believing that walking barefoot brings you closer to the earth. He seemed to be enjoying the hike immensely, and I was thoroughly enjoying my waterproof boots. To each his own.

We stayed at the overlook a while longer, just enjoying the scenery and the roar of the water before heading back. On the way back I made a few more images.

Pic by Ron Longwell/

Once back at the car the afternoon was getting kind of long in the tooth and with no prospects of a sunset, we decided to head home. The day had given us all we had a right to ask of it.

Fall's not over though. There are more places to visit, and more to come . . . . 

(Ron Longwell Photography) autumn foliage fall color hiking landscape photography tennessee state parks Wed, 01 Nov 2017 11:00:00 GMT
Springfield Falls Pic by Ron Longwell/ I went to Pennsylvania this past weekend to visit my Dad. At one point on Saturday morning, I had a couple of unexpected hours to kill, so I decided to visit a place I hadn’t been to in decades. This is Springfield Falls, located on Hunters Run in Leesburg, PA. It’s one of those out of the way places mostly only known to locals. As a very young man I proposed to a girl here. Because the Lord looks out for children and fools, we never made it to the altar.

On Saturday, I had the place totally to myself, and I spent a wonderful hour or so there basking in the peaceful serenity of the place. The image above is my favorite, but here are a few more.

If you like these, you can check out my new Waterfalls gallery where I've collected my best waterfall images. I hope you like what you see.

Pic by Ron Longwell/ Pic by Ron Longwell/ Pic by Ron Longwell/ Pic by Ron Longwell/

More to come . . . .

(Ron Longwell Photography) landscape photography leesburg falls mercer county pa middle tn photographer pennsylvania pennsylvania waterfalls springfield falls tennessee landscape photographer waterfalls Thu, 17 Aug 2017 14:24:53 GMT
Fall Creek Falls State Park

The other day I shared a short post about our initial visit to Fall Creek Falls State Park with a photo of Cane Creek Cascades. I want to share a few more images with you today and talk a bit more about the park. Fall Creek Falls State Park really is a gem of a place. Their own brochure describes it as "a paradise of more than 26,000 acres, sprawled across the western top of the rugged Cumberland Plateau, one of the most scenic and spectacular outdoor recreation areas in America." Yep, that about gets it right.

I've always gravitated to places like this. In Pennsylvania, I found a haven at Ohiopyle State Park in Fayette County, where the Youghiogheny River passes through a rugged and beautiful hardwood-lined gorge on its way toward its rendezvoous with the Ohio and Allegheny Rivers near the appropriately named Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh (Go Steelers!).

In northern Virginia where my brother lives, we have the many creeks and rivers in Shenandoah National Park, the Wolf Gap Recreation Area in the George Washington National Forest, and the beautiful Shenandoah River State Park. All of these places provide a soothing balm for our souls when the busy-ness of the modern world gets to be too much. 

And now I live in Tennessee, closer than I've ever lived to my favorite place on earth, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I've long expressed my deep love for the Smokies in numerous posts on the blog. The Smokies around Gatlinburg was the only place our family ever went on vacation when I was growing up, and so in a sense, I feel like grew up in the Smokies. But while I now live closer than I ever have, the Smokies are still about four hours away. That's close enough to make a number of weekend jaunts throughout the year, but not quite close enough for a day trip.

Enter Fall Creek Falls State Park, which I've now come to call Smokies West. It has most of the terrain features that I love about the Smokies, but on a smaller scale. And at less than two hours from my home, I can visit just about anytime the mood strikes. And I expect the mood to strike often.

The predominant feature of the park is the Cane Creek Gorge. As it flows through the gorge, Cane Creek drops several hundred feet in less than a mile, starting with a 45 foot drop over Cane Creek Cascades, which is the image I shared the other day. Less than 50 yards further downstream is the image you see at the top of this post. And if you notice, Cane Creek seems to come to an abrupt end toward the center of the frame. At that point, Cane Creek drops some 85 feet over Cane Creek Falls. Sadly I wasn't able to get an image I liked of the falls at the Cane Creek Overlook. There's a better vantage point for the image I wanted to take, which I could see on the other side of the gorge. It's accessed, I think, by a one-mile hike from the Fall Creek Falls Overlook. But by the time we got to the Cane Creek Overlook, we just didn't have time to drive back around and hike in. Next time.

The image above is Fall Creek Falls, which drops 256 feet. It's one of the highest waterfalls in the eastern United States, and is the highest free-fall waterfall east of the Mississippi River. To put that into perspective, Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Falls, drops only 188 feet.

Just to the right, out of frame, is the much smaller Coon Creek Falls, which shares the plunge pool with Fall Creek Falls. There wasn't a lot of water flowing from either Fall Creek or Coon Creek on the day we were there, but there was a little more coming from Fall Creek, so I decided to focus on Fall Creek Falls and exclude Coon Creek Falls.

What you also can't see in the image above is the people that were playing at the bottom of the falls. The image below is a wider frame from a different vantage point, and you can just see, at the bottom center of the frame, three people. Seeing people really helps bring some scale to these falls.

There are seven falls in the park. We saw six of them briefly. The other that I actually photographed is Piney Creek Falls, shown below. This is another one of the falls that I'll spend some more time at and try and find some other compositions. I'd like to see more of the falls themselves than I can see in this image. So I guess I'll just have to go back and spend more time there. ;-)

Fall Creek Falls really is a magical place. Beautiful streams, rugged rock formations, and virgin hardwoods combine to make this park someplace special. “In God's wildness lies the hope of the world," John Muir said, "the great fresh unblighted, unredeemed wilderness. The galling harness of civilization drops off, and wounds heal ere we are aware.” Fall Creek Falls State Park is all that and more. It's a bountiful place to explore with a camera, a peaceful place to hike, and a great place to recalibrate your soul.

More to come . . . .

(Ron Longwell Photography) appalachia cane creek cascades cumberland plateau fall creek falls state park landscape middle tennessee landscape photographer middle tennessee nature photographer photography spencer tennessee tennessee landscape photographer tennessee nature photographer tennessee state parks van buren county water waterfalls Thu, 20 Jul 2017 15:51:35 GMT
Food, Glorious Food!

About this time last year I started photographing food. It started out as an exercise, an effort to find something to photograph when it was just too darn hot outside for my typical nature work. I've done a fair bit of product photography in the past, so I understood lighting and product placement. And I've always loved looking at food websites to find new recipes to try and licking my lips at the luscious imagery. So food photography seemed like a natural outlet to explore and I decided to give it a shot. This was my first image:

I was pretty happy with it, so I kept going. After only shooting a few images, I decided to try to shoot a whole new portfolio of food images. I set the ambitious goal of one new well-planned food image every week. The goal was 12-15 images I was proud of. There was a learning curve, to be sure, as there always is with any new endeavor. As I had predicted, the lighting was fairly straightforward. The big surprise had to do with what can loosely be called food styling.

I discovered that great food images don't just happen by accident. It's not merely the result of cooking something good, placing it on a plate and aiming your camera at it. No, great food images are planned. Meticulously planned. And painstakingly styled. Yes, styled. Welcome to the world of food styling. Yep, that's a thing. There are books written about food styling, including what most food photographers consider the Bible of food styling, Delores Custer's monumental book Food Styling: The Art of Preparing Food for the Camera. It's a beast of a book, cram-packed full of way more than you could ever imagine about something you've probably never even heard of.

But if you want to be a photographer, a good one anyway, you're going to have to come to grips with food styling. Most professional food photographers employ professional food stylists.

In what is certainly a gross oversimplification, food styling involves making sure food looks mouthwatering to the camera. As it turns out, that's a very different thing from merely cooking good food. It involves things like buying three cartons of blueberries to find the twenty or so that are perfect and will look fantastic in your image. In fact it often involves buying three times as much food as you need so you can sort through ingredients or so you can prepare a plate twice (or thrice) because the first time around it didn't look quite right.

Food styling involves buying special plates, silverware, napkins, and a myriad of other props, based solely on how they're going to appear in a photograph. It involves keeping a kit of tweezers, eyedroppers, brushes, needles and other things that will allow you to nudge, tweak, drip and brush your food in just the right way to make it look good in a photograph. Because I married well, I now have a cabinet all my own in our dining room just for my food photography props. It's important that food photographers marry well, I think.

So in food photography, the photography is the easy part. Ninety percent of good food photography is food styling. It is an intensely detailed and laborious process if you're going to do it right. And because of that, it's not for everyone. Some photographers can't handle the laborious and meticulous nature of this kind of creativity. That's okay.

Fortunately, I learned long ago that I have precisely the kind of twisted personality that can handle thankless, meticulous detail work without mumbling to myself or lashing out violently. So I've found a great deal of satisfaction in food photography. And let's be honest - it's not all painstakingly detailed. You do usually get to eat the food when you're done, so there's that.

I haven't been paid yet for any of my food photography, but I'm hoping that door will crack open sometime soon. In the meantime, I'm gonna keep at it. It's fun, and it's a different kind of creativity than landscapes. I find it a really good balance. And it's oh so good when the memory cards are full and you can sit down to something as delicious as it is beautiful.

For the time being, I invite you to check out some of my food photography here. And while you're at it, feel free to wander around my nature galleries too. Since moving to Tennessee last year, there are some new images in my Appalachia gallery you might like.

In the meantime, bon appétit!

More to come . . . .

(Ron Longwell Photography) food photography food styling middle tennessee food photographer middle tennessee photographer tennessee photographer Wed, 19 Jul 2017 09:59:37 GMT
Cane Creek Cascades Cane Creek Cascades

According to the Scottish poet Robert Burns, "The best laid schemes of mice and men go often askew, and leave us nothing but grief and pain, for promised joy!" He didn't actually say it that way, of course. He wrote it in Gaelic, but since Rosetta Stone doesn't offer a language course in Gaelic (I've actually checked), Google's English translation will have to do.

I thought about that Burns' quote yesterday morning. My plan had been to get up, make breakfast for my family (a frequent Saturday tradition), and then spirit my wife away to the mountains for a day of sight-seeing and photography. But we awoke to plumbing problems at the house. Two hours later I had them mostly sorted out, but my wife was in the middle of housecleaning and held herself hostage until it was finished. Of course I did my best to talk her into leaving it be and running away with me, but she held fast. "You know, if you were to help me out we could leave faster," she said. Sigh.

Another 45 minutes and we were in the 4Runner speeding off toward the mountains. Fall Creek Falls State Park was our destination. The park had been on my short list of places I needed to see since we'd moved to Tennessee last year. Fall Creek Falls has been described to me by more than one person as “the prettiest state park in Tennessee.” Yesterday was the first time in nearly a year that I'd been able to squeeze it in, and I needed it yesterday. Desperately.

My mom passed away a little over a month ago and tending to the aftermath of her loss had left me with a serious need for the mountains and a bit of quietude. Fortunately, Fall Creek Falls is only a couple of hours away, and by 3:00 we were there, the stress of the previous month already fading into the background. The rumors did not disappoint. Arguably the pinnacle of the Cumberland Plateau's spectacular natural areas, Fall Creek Falls boasts more than 26,000 acres of lush streams, virgin hardwood forests, and waterfalls, including the tallest waterfall in Tennessee.

The image at the top is Cane Creek Cascades, not even tall enough to merit waterfall designation, but beautiful nonetheless.

All in all, it was a great first visit. As a landscape photographer, the first visit to a new location is often mostly a scouting trip, an effort to get the lay of the land, discover hidden treasures, and make plans for future visits. The mountains are beautiful any time of year, but fall is my favorite time, and after 8 years in Texas, I'm already planning to make this fall the most photographed autumn of my life. Fall Creek Falls State Park is definitely on the list of places I'll visit this fall.

More to come . . . . 

(Ron Longwell Photography) appalachia cane creek cascades cumberland plateau fall creek falls state park landscape photography spencer tennessee tennessee state parks van buren county water waterfalls Sun, 16 Jul 2017 18:32:17 GMT
Last Day of the Semester Image Everyone needs a good headshot, I think. And by "good" I mean something not taken with your own iPhone and a selfie stick. ;-) No, we can do better than that.

So I made a quick photo of my son tonight. The light was nice, which is usually all it takes to get me excited. But tomorrow is the last day of the semester for him, which puts him in a bit of a celebratory mood. What that means for me is that his usual protests at the suggestion that I take his picture were somewhat subdued tonight. Hey, you have to strike while the iron's hot, right?

(Ron Longwell Photography) Shelbyville photographer headshots last day of the semester middle Tennessee photographer Tue, 25 Apr 2017 23:16:42 GMT
Great Smoky Mountains Quick Trip I made a quick, and much too short trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park last week. It was the first time I'd been there since the wildfires last year. As has been reported, the downtown area of Gatlinburg fared fairly well, but if you venture very far off the parkway going through town, you start to see a lot of rebuilding. Clearly the town was at serious risk.

One of my favorite short drives is the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. It's only 5.5 miles around, but I can get lost there for hours making images. It was a little early for a lot of foliage, and there was definite fire damage around the early part of the loop road, but Roaring Fork was flowing well and so I made a few water images I'm happy with. I also found a lot of Trillium growing along the lower half of the loop. Trillium are hallmark spring wildflowers in the park, commonly found in the mid to lower elevations along shaded creeks. Below are a few images from the trip.

An image of a family of White Trillium, a common spring wildflower commonly seen in the mid to low elevations of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

(Ron Longwell Photography) GSMNP Great Mountains National Park" Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail Smoky landscape photography spring wildflowers, Wed, 19 Apr 2017 11:00:00 GMT
Super Sale Going On NOW Michelle Carpenter Photography I'm pleased to announce that going on now through Saturday, July 9, we're having a SUPER SALE! All photographic prints and gallery wraps ordered from my website are 25% off the listed price. All you have to do to get the discounted price is use the coupon code RLPSummer25.

If you're looking for a beautiful image showcasing nature's beauty to grace your home, I'd be honored if you check out my images and pleased as punch if you'd order something you like for your wall. I should also add that if you see a photo on one of my blog posts that you like (sometimes those don't make it to my galleries), let me know and I can make those available as well.

In addition to the images in my portfolio, I've got galleries featuring Texas, Landscapes, Rustic Living, Americana, Details, and Hot Wheels.

Thanks for your support, and have a fantastic Independence Day!

(Ron Longwell Photography) Fri, 01 Jul 2016 11:00:00 GMT
Autumn at the Arboretum This past weekend, a few of us visited the Dallas Arboretum for their annual Autumn at the Arboretum event. I first heard about this event a couple of years ago, but it's taken me this long to work a trip into my schedule. This year they brought in 75,000 pumpkins to decorate the garden! It was a beautiful day - and by that, I mean not too warm, which is basically my standard for what constitutes a good day in Texas.

And there were a boatload of people, which made photography a challenge, at least for me, since I usually prefer to not have people in my photos. But I've learned the art of isolation, and so with a bit of patience, I can usually find a way to photograph what I want without the people.

For those of you in the area, the event will be going on through November 25th, so make plans to go.

Below are some of my favorites from Saturday.

(Ron Longwell Photography) Autumn at the Arboretum Dallas Arboretum autumn fall pumpkins Tue, 29 Sep 2015 21:07:08 GMT
What Every Father Wants I remember the day like it was yesterday. November 9, 1995. My wife had just given birth to our first, and as it turned out, only child. A stout little red-headed boy. We named him Nathan, which means "Gift from God." As the nurse placed him in my arms, I looked into his eyes, as he looked back into mine. And at that moment, my heart exploded with emotion and I was bound inseparably to this precious soul that God had entrusted to my wife and I. As tears streamed down my face, I said my first words to him, which I'll remember till my dying day: "Hello, little man."

That was nearly 20 years ago, and I can honestly say we named him correctly. In every way, he has been a gift and a blessing, and has become my absolute joy in life.

Every father I know prays his son will grow up to be a better man than he is. And as he prays that prayer, he also prays that God will give him the wisdom and the patience to raise him, hoping that his meager efforts, poured out with love, will produce something even more than what he's invested.

Over the years, our relationship has morphed from father to coach to counselor to friend. We've wrestled together, played together, fished together, hunted together, hiked together, occasionally argued, and rarely fought.

A friend of mine has compared Nathan to a Labrador Retriever. It's hard not to love a Lab. They're always good-natured, full of fun and mischief, and tend to make you happy just by being around. If you've ever been around a Lab, you'll understand what I mean. It's the rare person who meets Nathan and takes the time to get to know him who doesn't end up loving him to death.

His two great loves in life are music and dogs. He's got a gift with music, and plays trumpet, guitar (self-taught), and just about anything else he decides he wants to play. We suspect he'll find a way to make his living in a music-related field. And dogs - he's got a way with dogs too. I've never seen a dog he couldn't make up to. Give him half an hour and even the most skittish dog will be on its back and wagging its tail.

Nathan's generous to a fault and has one of the most tender and compassionate hearts I've seen. He loves with an openness and a tenderness that few possess. He hurts deeply when others hurt. As a result, hurting people find a friend in Nathan.

My son's not perfect, but then none of the rest of us are either. He's faced some challenges over the last few years and I've watched him go through some things I wouldn't want anyone to have to go through. But he's faced it all with courage, grace and dignity. Being a good man is not about being perfect (as my Dad always said, "They killed the only perfect man.") Being a good man is defined more by how you face your failures and what you make of them. Nathan's doing a better job of that than I would have.

Nathan is a gift from God, but he's also a child of God. A few years ago I had the privilege of baptizing him when he gave his life to the Lord. It was one of the proudest moments of my life.

I count being a father as one of the greatest joys of my life. Over the last 20 years, I've watched that baby that nurse placed into my arms as he's grown from a little wriggling giggler into a full-grown man. And now, looking back, my heart is full as I realize that my prayer all those years has been answered tenfold. Nathan is one of the finest men I know, and in many ways, he's a better man than I am. There are few people I trust more and who I'd more want to have on my side in a pinch. I've treasured every precious minute with him and look forward to watching him make his way in the world, marry and raise a family of his own. With his heart, he'll be a wonderful husband and a great father.

Proverbs 23:24 says "The father of a righteous son will rejoice greatly, and one who fathers a wise son will delight in him." I delight in you, Nathan, and couldn't love you more!

(Ron Longwell Photography) Father's Day bringing up boys parenting raising a man Sat, 20 Jun 2015 20:49:24 GMT
Details, Details, Details While I absolutely love grand, sweeping vistas, I am equally captivated by the small, the simple, and the intimate. The details of a landscape interest me as much as the landscape itself. So I'm always on the lookout for them. And often, if you're in the car with me, I'll slam on the brakes all of a sudden at a place of stunning blandness, because I saw a flower, or a rock, or something else small that caught my eye.

On our recent trip to the hill country, the early morning light and dew made it hard to reach our destination. I kept stopping to photograph details. This red Indian blanket is like a million others we saw that morning, lining the roadside between Brady and Llano, but the way the early morning light was hitting it, making the micro-dewdrops sparkle like little diamonds, was arresting to me. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

More to come . . . . 

(Ron Longwell Photography) Abilene nature photography Indian Blanket Llano Texas Texas Hill Country, Texas wildflowers dewdrops flower red Thu, 11 Jun 2015 12:18:27 GMT
A Fungus Among Us With all the rain we've received in Texas lately, some of us are seeing things pop up around us that we don't normally see. Everything is greener than it usually is, but all that moisture is sprouting mushrooms and fungus that rarely show their heads in this arid land. I awoke this morning to see this little cluster of mushrooms sprouting from the mulch in my flower bed. The light was soft and the details of the little gray mushrooms really popped against the brown mulch. I hope you enjoy it.

More to come . . . .

(Ron Longwell Photography) backyard photography brown details gray macro mulch mushrooms wood Mon, 01 Jun 2015 11:00:00 GMT
Greater Is He - Free Download

This past weekend, I went on a men's retreat with a large group of dudes from church. During the course of the weekend, one of the speakers reminded me of a passage I'd not thought of in a while. The passage is 1 John 4:4, which reads, in its entirety:

"You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world."

When it was read this weekend, it hit me hard, and I thought of a photo I'd taken recently at the Abilene Zoo of a large, full-maned male lion. As Christians, we believe that Jesus lives in us, who Scripture calls the Lion from the tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5). The impact of the scripture and the photo that came to mind is that we have a lion living in us, and we have nothing to fear.

Immediately I knew I had to create the art you see above, which I am offering free to the world as a full-resolution download by clicking on the image above and following the download link. Print it and hang it on your wall, make it the screensaver on your phone or on your computer as a reminder that "if God is for us, who can be against us?" and that "in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us." (Rom. 8:31, 37).

More to come . . . .

(Ron Longwell Photography) 1 John 4:4 Christian faith greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world lion more than conquerors Thu, 21 May 2015 02:52:52 GMT
Abilene Zoo A group of us from the West Texas Photographic Society took a short field trip to the Abilene Zoo this past Saturday. There was a bit of wind, but there were a lot of clouds, which made the light nice and soft even - perfect for photography. I've been to the zoo a number of times over the last six years, and it always surprises me that we have as nice a zoo as we have in Abilene. And with the recent passage of a city bond and the consequent influx of another million dollars for zoo renovation, it's only destined to get better.

We were told upon entering that at 10:00, zoo personnel would be taking one of the camels on a walk around the zoo and that it would start in front of the lion pen. We weren't all that interested in the camels, but ended up in front of the lions at the appointed time nonetheless. The highlight of the morning was was watching the behavior of the lions when the camel appeared. In fact, before we even saw the camel, the lions came alive. They knew something was coming, and it was like someone rang the dinner bell. They absolutely came alive, and with desperate intensity, walked to the edge of their pen and stood at alert. The image above shows the intensity of the stare of the male simba. Lions are so majestic and intense when they're on alert.

Below are a few of the rest of my favorite images from the morning, the first a close-up of the lion's massive paws.

More to come . . . .

(Ron Longwell Photography) Abilene Zoo African Crowned Crane Bobcat Lion Pink Flamingo wildlife photography Sun, 10 May 2015 22:17:11 GMT
Dyess AFB Airfest 2015 After several years without the annual airshow at Dyess Air Force Base, due to budget cuts, the powers that be finally saw the error of their ways and reinstated the annual AirFest for 2015. The AirFest has always been a staple of Abilene's yearly calendar of community activities, and everyone was glad to see it return.

I always go and make some pictures, mostly because I can't help myself. Let's face it - military hardware is cool, and when it's as big as building or can fly at Mach 2, well, the word "impressive" just doesn't seem to cut it. I only had a few hours yesterday, but my friend Steve and I went forth valiantly, had a blast, and made a few images.

Here are my favorites:

(Ron Longwell Photography) AH-64 Apache B-1 Bomber C-17A Dyess Air Force Base Dyess AirFest F-22 Raptor F-35 Lightning II aviation military aircraft military helicopter Sun, 03 May 2015 18:52:17 GMT
Road Trip Last weekend my wife and I made our annual pilgrimage to the Texas hill country to photograph wildflowers. Admittedly, we were kinda late this year, and the bluebonnets were beginning to show their age a bit. But April had been a crazy month for me, and other obligations simply prevented an earlier trip.

The plan was to leave Friday afternoon from Abilene, drive to Brady for the night, and then up early on Saturday for a leisurely drive to Llano and then down scenic Highway 16 to Fredericksburg, with a side jaunt to take in the Willow City Loop. Things mostly went according to plan, except we had to delay our departure on Friday afternoon because a large and brooding super cell was passing through the country between Abilene and Brady. With reports of tornadoes on the ground and baseball-sized hail, we decided we'd just sit at home and wait for it to pass. By 6:00, we'd decided it was safe to leave, so we loaded the car with a small bag of clothes and my small mountain of photography gear, and headed out.

Aside from a few drops of rain, the trip to Brady was uneventful. But the clouds and the light were spectacular! Just south of Santa Anna, I slammed on my brakes because I saw the explosion of color at the top of the post. The sun was low in the western sky and its light labored over the small hill to the right of the frame and just kissed the tops of some of the flowers.

I usually see red Indian Paintbrush, but here, pinks, yellows, oranges, and reds were all growing out of the same patch of dirt, accented by a few bluebonnets and assorted daisies.

A bit further south, we began to watch this cloud formation as it moved east. I knew I had to photograph it, but needed something interesting on the ground to complement it. This field provided just what I needed, and I made this image. The color was strange and surreal, as it often is in the midst of a passing front, and I struggled with the color as I processed the image. In the end, I decided the image was about mood and texture, and the color was merely a distraction. So I converted it to black and white and I like it much better. As much as I like color photography, sometimes an image says more when you silence the color and allow the mood and texture to speak for themselves.

We hit Brady, and the sun was just setting, and the clouds were reflecting a rich deep pink that was almost lavender as the front moved further east, leaving a beautiful shade of blue in its wake. But the hotel just would not provide the photographic interest for the bottom of the frame, so we raced off down a side road in a desperate race to find something more compelling before the color disappeared. The cardinal rule of landscape photography is to never waste a spectacular sunrise or sunset. Find something - anything - to put in front of it, but by all means don't let it get away. So this is what I found. In some ways the image was slightly more intriguing if I turned the camera to the right and let the fence row diminish into the background, but I lost the bulk of the clouds. And since the image was really about the clouds anyway, I chose a straight-on approach.

I thought these three images were a great start to a photography trip, especially on a travel day where the only real goal was to get to our motel without getting swept away by a tornado. As it turned out, these three images set the tone for the whole trip.

More to come . . . .

(Ron Longwell Photography) Indian paintbrush Texas bluebonnets Texas hill country, Texas wildflowers bluebonnets clouds colors landscape photography sunset Thu, 30 Apr 2015 11:00:00 GMT
Indian Paintbrush IMG_4588IMG_4588

As I see it, there are two iconic wildflowers that mark the Texas spring: Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrush. They are iconic because they are both quite showy, and because they tend to grow up together. And by together I mean two things: 1) often in the same patch of dirt, and 2) in the same growing season. The end result is that where you see one, you often see the other. And the fact that they both occupy almost precisely opposite sides of the color wheel makes it even better. I think God designed it that way as a delight to our eyes and a testament to his creative goodness.

So today I invite you to enjoy the spring through one of my favorite images - a single Indian Paintbrush nestled nicely into a visual bed of bluebonnets. Enjoy.

More to come . . .

(Ron Longwell Photography) Indian Paintbrush Texas wildflowers bluebonnets landscape photography wildflowers Wed, 08 Apr 2015 21:50:38 GMT
Wildflower Season

One of the finest things about living in Texas is spring wildflower season. In Abilene, it all happens a bit later than in most of the rest of the state. I've been watching reports come in all week from places like Brenham and San Antonio and Marble Falls, where the bloom is coming on strong. But in Abilene, we've got but a few small bluebonnets and assorted early flowers, but are still a few weeks away from anything approaching a full bloom. And so we wait, still not sure what kind of year it will be in and around Abilene.

As a hedge against nature's year-in, year-out fickleness, I planted a wildflower garden in my backyard a few years ago as a way to ensure that no matter what kind of year we had and what else might or might not be happening outside the confines of my own shire, I'd have my own little world of color to enjoy.

Last week I saw the first sign of spring in my yard: the grape hyacinths were emerging from their long winter's nap. Grape Hyacinth is a small delicate little flower that just happens to emerge in my yard for a few weeks each March, brightening my world and validating my stubborn refusal to mow my grass in the month of March. You can see them below.

And then this week, my little patch of Four Nerve Daisies began to bloom in my wildflower garden, which you saw at the beginning of the post. They're the only thing blooming in my wildflower garden at the moment, but the reason I planted them in the first place is that they almost bloom year round. If you get 3-4 warm days in January, which we get here fairly regularly, the little buggers will start showing yellow. They'll shrivel up again when it gets cold, but by this time of year, they've decided winter is done for and are in full regalia.

Soon the Purple Coneflower plants will start to poke up from the fresh layer of mulch I laid down this weekend, followed by the Shasta Daisies and then the Lantana, which by the end of the summer will have taken over the whole garden, giving the butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees something to enjoy.

Yep, spring has sprung in the big country, says my backyard. Hopefully soon the rest of the area will catch on as well.


(Ron Longwell Photography) Daisies Four Nerve Daisies Four Nerve Daisy Grape Hyacinth Texas backyard photography spring spring wildflowers wildflower gardening Sun, 29 Mar 2015 22:29:02 GMT
Telling a Story or Conveying Emotion I often hear photographers talk about the importance of telling a story with a photograph. I guess I understand that when you're talking about photojournalism or lifestyle photography. But how do you tell a story with a landscape? Story implies narrative. It implies actors and movement. Those ideas don't really apply in landscape photography. OR at least they don't with me. Maybe I'm dense (it certainly wouldn't be the first time I've wondered about that), but telling a story in a landscape photograph just doesn't connect with me. It's a goal I don't know how to fulfill. So I've decided to quit worrying about it.

What makes a lot more sense to me is making an image that helps people feel what I felt when I was there. I can wrap my mind around that. And even more importantly, I can wrap my heart around that.

Take the image above, for instance, which I've titled "Heaven's Gate". I could tell you the story about the evening we spent at Morton's Overlook in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park last summer. And I've done that in a previous post. But what I'd much rather do with my this photograph is help others experience that magical place - admittedly in a smaller, less complete way - the way we did that evening as we watched the sun bow to the encroaching darkness. This image comes close to that.

In the end, photography (at least for me) is about emotion. And I'll be the first to admit that I don't always convey it as well or as deeply as I'd like. But that's not because there's emotion involved. When I photograph something in nature, I can assure you that I always feel something deeply. It's what makes me stop the car or halt my hike and begin looking through the viewfinder. I've seen something that makes me feel something. Sometimes it's color, often it's light. I have some kind of connective emotional experience with every landscape I photograph. Nature changes me, calms me, soothes me, and enlivens me all at the same time; it always has. And THAT is what I want to convey in my images. I want to record the feeling, the sentiment, the pulsing heart of the place that for whatever reason at that moment in time, means something desperately important to me.

So that's my new goal, my new compass bearing, my new direction. All ahead full. ;-)

(Ron Longwell Photography) GSMNP Great Smoky Mountains National Park Morton's Overlook emotion in photography golden hour landscape photography mountains sunset Wed, 18 Mar 2015 11:00:00 GMT
Brad Paisley - Entertainer of the Year! It's no secret to those who know me that I am a HUGE country music fan. I have been all my life, really. To quote a now old song, "I was country when country wasn't cool." To me, and to thousands of others, country music tells the stories of my life. Country music has nurtured me through bad relationships, it's helped me celebrate some of the high points of my life, and it's given voice to an untold myriad of emotions at various points throughout my misguided youth.

Country music has changed since I was a kid, and like most change, some of it's been good and some of it, in my judgment, has not. And, as long as I'm expressing myself, I'll just say that I'm not a fan of what has been called "hick-hop" and "bro-country." Song after song about drinking beer in my pickup truck while trolling through town on a Friday night with my hot girlfriend just doesn't do it for me. Nor, by the way, did the cheating songs that marked the country music of yesteryear.

In my mind, one of the very best country artists today is Brad Paisley. And before you rise up and call me a hypocrite, I know that Brad does drinking songs. To me though, Brad's songs are different from the hormonal teenage drinking songs that seem to dominate country music these days. Brad's songs are clever and humorous and strike a chord of authenticity in a way some of the others don't. Brad has a keen grasp on pop culture, and an uncanny way of writing and singing songs in a way that makes you go, "Yeah! That's so freaking true!" He continues to churn out a steady stream of cunningly satirical songs from a uniquely redneck perspective that refuse to sacrifice a catchy tune and pure unbridled fun just to provide some social commentary. But he also has a way of tapping into the deepest wells of human love and devotion to describe the desperate longing of a man for the love of his life. He clearly has his finger on the pulse on American pop culture and gives us songs that touch most of us (or at least just me) right where we live.

I appreciate Brad's emphasis on the song. In my view, a singer is always in service to the song. The song should always be the star, not the singer. I lose patience with singers who, in an effort to showcase their own abilities, overshadow the song rather than serve the song. I think Brad gets that. In fact, I know he gets that, because I've heard him talk about it. Brad Paisley is a consummate storyteller.

In the end, though, Brad's songs just make me feel good, which is all that really matters.

Oh, and he's also a wicked good guitar player. One of the best musicians working today, in fact. A musical craftsman. And he is my son's hero. A talented budding guitar player himself, my son sees Brad Paisley as Thor and the Telecaster as his hammer. So when we were in Lubbock over Christmas and saw the sign advertising that Brad would be coming to Lubbock in March, I spent money I didn't have and bought tickets immediately.

The concert was this past Saturday night at the United Supermarkets Arena at Texas Tech in Lubbock. As it turns out, it was the final night of Brad's Country Nation tour. Honestly, it was the best concert I've ever been to. It was fun, exciting, moving, and did I mention fun? It was a thrill ride from start to finish, and will go down as one of the most entertaining nights of my life.

Of course I took my camera. ;-) And so with a few of my favorites, let me give you a small visual taste of what we experienced on Saturday night. I make no claim to being a concert photographer, and was only shooting for myself on Saturday night. But trust me when I say the pictures don't do the show justice. Thank you, Brad, and please keep doing what you're doing!

(Ron Longwell Photography) Brad Paisley Country Nation Tour concert photography country music guitars Wed, 11 Mar 2015 11:00:00 GMT