Photo Of The Week: A Late Harvest

blogged February 7, 2016

I was finally able to get some shots of a soybean harvest this past week.  No one can remember a harvest this late.  These were planted back in mid to late June.  They usually are harvested in November or early December but the wet weather never let up making the fields too wet to support the big harvesting machines.  Finally, this past week, four days of dry weather solidified the good earth and the Soybean Harvesters rolled.

These kinds of shots don’t generate a lot of interest on photography sites like flickr but they’ve always done well as stock photography.   Crop foundations, agricultural support associations along with branding and advertising agencies are the usual clients. Of course it helps if the scene is appealing.   I used a Nikon D7100 with a 70 to 300mm lens which saved me a lot of walking.  Its a huge field. Now I’ve got to finish processing the shots and get them to the marketplace.  Thanks for the visit and have a great week ahead.

Photo Of The Week: The Trees at Center Grove


I’ve written at length about the Center Grove Cemetery on our farm and the fact that many North Carolina Veterans of the American Civil War are buried here. You can check the archives if you’re interested in learning more of the facts and seeing some of the tombstones. I’ve also posted many shots of the cemetery in all of the seasons and just about every weather condition one can imagine, but  I’m still searching for the definitive image of the trees that shade the old cemetery.

I was out again this past week before dawn for another try.   What I really want is a shot that includes the newly risen sun starring through the dead hulk of the old Oak that dominates the east face of the cemetery but it is the wrong time of year. I’ll be back mid spring to try for that composition when the Sun has had time to backtrack to that position. Last week’s effort concentrated on the silhouettes of the trees against the early light of dawn taken from a very low perspective. I’ve tried this before but I’ve always started with the Camera setting in Adobe Camera Raw at “Vivid” which is usually the setting dialed in for all of my cameras.   This time, I used the “Camera Neutral” setting in Camera RAW  that turns down the the contrast and saturation settings to the lowest point.   The result, when I opened the image in the Camera Raw Conversion panel was a rather dull look. My aim was to protect the highlights and give me a good starting point to ramp up the dynamic range as much as possible.   The result is the shot above. I was right pleased with it as far as dealing with the scene as it presented itself. What it lacks is a lot of oomph or “wow factor” that will only come with a more dynamic sky, ie, one with more pre-dawn clouds to reflect the still below the horizon sun. Maybe next time! In the words of “Arnold”……I’ll Be Baaack!!” Have a great week. Thanks for the look….and the read….

Photo Of The Week: The Cardinal In The Wetlands

Blogged 1/23/16

Blogged 1/23/16

I could almost sense the thought balloon hanging over his head. “What on earth are you doing down here in this miserable weather?”   It was pretty nasty. We’d had a good smothering of freezing rain and sleet Friday and a ton of rain overnight. Saturday brought high winds (45-50 mph gusts here on the farm) and a pretty good dusting of snow showers. The flakes were still stirring when I trudged down to my make-shift bird blind near the wetlands here with camera and a sack of sunflower seeds in tow. The bird blind is nothing to write home about. A jury rigged shack really, pieced together with old tobacco sticks, burlap and wire ties. It serves to keep me behind the curtain so to speak. My thought was the leaden sky and the random snow showers would be conducive to some bird shots. No sooner had I spread a handful or two of sunflower seeds around the river birch than Mr. Cardinal showed up and gave me that look before flapping off, no doubt spreading the word that some lunatic was giving away sunflower seeds on the edge of the swamp. .

I was using the Nikon D7100 camera with a 300mm lens, which on the small sensor D7100, lengthens its reach to 450mm, more than enough to crank in the birds which take their sunflower seed up into the River Birch to crack open.  I used the usual settings save for one change. With the high wind, and the nervous nature of the birds, I switched from Aperture priority to Shutter Priority, setting my shutter speed to 320 and the lowest ISO I could get away with. I have but two gripes with the D7100. One is the small buffer. The other, and the one that really bugs me, is the location of the quality button. I am forever hitting it by mistake during shooting unknowingly changing the quality from RAW to one of the JPEG configurations which I am loathe to use.  My other cameras have the Quality button tucked away in a less precarious spot. It’s one reason why I’m giving the just announced Nikon D500 a close look. There’s much to like, including the location of the quality button, and speed. The D500 is rated at 10 frames per second. It’s also pricey at two grand. The XQD memory card it uses is also pricey: a 32gig will set you back more than a hundred. As I said, I’m thinking about it, just as Nikon wants me too. Stay warm everybody. See you next time. Jh

Photo Of The Day: Atmospherics

Blogged January 17, 2016

To say its been an unusual winter in coastal and eastern North Carolina would be an understatement.  To say its been an usually warm winter would not be.  Many mornings, its seemed more like late summer than winter with clear blue skies and temperatures in the 70’s to the low 80’s.  When we’ve had clouds, more often than not, its been all clouds, overcast with no sun.  Those kinds of days are not conducive to spectacular dawns like the above.

 I’ve often thought that we have more picturesque mornings when colder weather prevails in advance of a front which brings clouds and precipitation and that was the situation heading into this weekend.    A heavy frost and broken clouds welcomed the dawn with a fabulous show.  I took 20 shots or so as the sun moved closer to breaking the horizon.  The shot above was number 10 and marked the zenith of the light show that morning.

There isn’t a lot of prep.  I have an app that tells me the position of the sun, the time of the dawn and sunrise etc and I always check “Weather Underground Radar” for the zip I’m in.  A walk to the field takes maybe 10 minutes.  I seldom use filters on morning shots. Sometimes if the dawn is very bright, I’ll use a split neutral density filter.  As for settings:  As low an ISO as possible, f/22, manual exposure and spot metering particularly after sunrise.  I also remove the UV filter from my lens. It helps cut down on the number of sun flares on the glass.    The most important setting is probably your alarm clock.  You’ve got to be there before the show starts.  There’s a very short window for getting good dawn shots.  If you see it happen before you’re on location, its over.  Thanks for the read and the look.

Photo of The Day: Cover Photography

Tobacco Road Posted to Flickr July 22, 2013

Tobacco Road. Shot with a Nikon D700 camera several years ago using an 812 warming filter.

I suppose all of us in the business of shooting and marketing photographs are in the publishing game to some extent or another.  I’ve had my moments.  My first big project was in the mid 70’s when I did a multi page article and photo essay on the mothballed ocean liner SS United States which was then in permanent layup at Norfolk International Terminal in Hampton Roads.  It and several additional follow up articles/ photo essays were published in Sea Classics Magazine. The slides from the “United States” project  are now among the best sellers on my photography web site (Click on “John Harding Art Prints” in the upper right.)  Several additional photo essays have followed along with work for a guide book, several regional magazines, scores of blogs, advertising agencies, branding and marketing firms and so on.  Who knew there was a calling for pictures of cotton fields in bloom.   The one thing I had not done is a hardback book cover.  Then, last month, Little Brown in New York contacted me about using the above shot as cover art for a new nonfiction book due out soon.  I don’t think I’m at liberty to say more so I won’t except the author’s last book was a best seller.  They had seen the picture on one of my sites.  I suppose it bolsters the old adage, keep the faith.  You just never know what is going to come your way.  Sometimes it is good news!  Thanks for the lookin.  See you next time.

Photo Of the Day: The Camellia Expedition

FAA 1/1/2016 Flickr 1/3/2016

I always look forward to reading about those exotic photography expeditions that grace the slicker photo magazines these days.   There are a couple in this month’s Digital Photo Pro that had me drooling with envy.  Oh to be able to do something like that, I thought!   I’m not complaining.  I had my innings in my younger days traveling to upstate Maine, Alaska and so on.  I just wish I knew then what I know now and that I had the gear of today back then.  Such is the drumbeat of life.  The reality now is that at my advanced age, the infirmities that go with it, not to mention the  cost and rigors of travel,  such exotic expeditions are just the stuff of daydreams.  Just driving the 45 minutes to Emerald Isle on the coast of  North Carolina for a few snaps at Lands End is my idea of an expedition these days.  And so it was this past weekend when I gathered up my gear and my boots and ventured out into the Camellia patch here on the farm.  It was no cakewalk.   The boots were a must.  The farm is like a swamp these days thanks to the constant rain which has turned the good earth into a muddy, black soup.  The plywood gave my tripod something to “sit” on.  Otherwise it would have sunk to the ball head.  It really is that sloppy here.   Once I got all set up, I waited for the sun to rise over the canopy of towering lob lolly pines that shade the camellia beds.  The trees provide a sort of natural neutral density filter which allowed a long exposure.  Three shots and I had what I wanted.  The result is the shot above.  I was right pleased with it.   It’s not Acadia National Park in Maine or the Grand Tetons, its just a Camellia bloom but at my age, you really do learn to make do with what you are able to do or to dance with with what brung ya as the old timers say.  I’m one of them.  Thanks for the read.  Stay Nimble.  See you next time.





Photo of The Day: Sunset in the Bean Field


I don’t usually venture out for a sunset shot here.  The sight lines are such that I have to hike up to the far end of the field to get a nice long, unobstructed view and even then the tree line comes into play before the sun hits the pure horizon.  But as we all know, there are no rules.  The sun was just about to drop below the tree line when I turned the corner into the open fields and the light was fading fast.  Not enough time to make the trek to the other end of the field so I quickly fired off  two shots with the D800E.  I know, its on the dark side but I really do like the light and shadow play on the soybeans.

If you’re wondering what on earth are soybeans doing in the field in January, the answer is…..Rain.  We’ve had two weeks of heavy rain over the past 20 days and the ground is like soup.  Far too wet to get the harvest machines into the field.  Like most places in the Southeast USA, the weather has just been crazy.

Thanks for the look in and have a great 2016.