Delivered to You

As with most things in life, finishing up my Catoctin ebook took a little longer than expected. But now, I am happy to say that it is available through the Amazon Kindle store! I’m always amazed at how these books turn out. It has been such a helpful project for me to process my experiences over the years. Oh, and if you have Kindle unlimited, it’s yours for free, so check it out!

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And for those of you who have been following me for a while and are on my email list, I’ll be sending you a free copy of this ebook soon. How do you get on this list, you may ask? Just head to benpanter.com and subscribe to the monthly newsletter by putting in your email. It’s as simple as that.

So that took longer than planned, but the good news is that in the process, I was able to get my print store up and running. I have prints of my final 12 images from Catoctin available to purchase at several sizes, from 8×12 to 24×36 inches.

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Getting this store set up was an adventure in frustration all on its own. I had only recently started using Crated.com as my print store after my last residency. I go to log in to upload my Catoctin images and find out they have since shut down with very little warning! So I searched and searched and searched some more for another high quality print fulfillment service and online store…. and after many hours of finding dead ends I arrived at my current solution. I won’t say there aren’t quirks to it, but I think it will serve me well for the foreseeable future.

I’ve also been able to move over my Acadia Residency images to this new platform, so they are available for purchase as well. And soon, hopefully I will have Rocky Mountain, Toronto and Ireland images available as well. That is my fall goal. In the mean time, check out all the prints that are available. I’m really proud of them.

And of course, if you’re interested in seeing my work but don’t want to buy a print right now, just head over to my website and see my most recent work from Catoctin. Hopefully it will be enough to inspire a trip of your own to that park.

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Catoctin Ebook on the way

Over the past couple weeks I’ve been able to spend a little more time seriously compiling an ebook from all my Catoctin residency images. It is a pretty slow process for me, because I’m very interested in making reading it an insightful experience, not just a photo album. There is much more to it than just selecting the images (and that process alone takes a lot of debate and second-guessing).

This time around I pulled together all the images that I could potentially include and came up with 3 main categories for them to fit into. In this case, I found it was most straight-forward to divide them by primary subject matter: forest, stone and stream. Next I separate the images into those categories and begin to order them, specifically looking for good pairings of images that would make for an interesting spread. At this time I also experiment with different layouts of images on each page so that it feels balanced and leaves enough space.

Next on the agenda is final edits of images. All the photos have been processed so far, but most have not received that last little bit of attention that puts them over the top. So one by one I go through with fresh eyes and ask myself what could be improved or enhanced.

Finally, I get to the writing. Each category has a page of writing dedicated to it, explaining why those photos or that subject drew me, or maybe just sharing a story about some related experience. The intent is to give a bit of a window into how I think about the images to come. Also, depending on the image, I may add some specific details on individual pages.

Then of course come proof-reading and some final tweaks before it’s ready to make public.

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But in all honesty, I like the process. I wish I could devote more time to it than I am able to with life, work and family,  but the process itself is very beneficial to me. It helps me really think about the photos I took and what my experience was really about. It also allows me to spend a lot of time with my images which allows me to narrow down the ones I will fully develop and print.

So, I would say I’m about half way done right now, but I hope to be able to devote a little more time to it over the next week or so, so I feel like I’m about 2 weeks from completing it. And soon after I’ll be able to finish my prints and make them available through my Crated site.

Below are just a few screen shots of some spreads in process. I look forward to letting you see the full book.

The Littlest Views of Catoctin

As I get a little more space after the residency I’ve been reflecting on my highs and lows, and what from the experience I will carry with me the most. One of those things I’ve found a little surprising. It isn’t the park itself, or my own photographic exploits. Rather, it is my 5 year old’s photography in the park. I knew that he would want to participate in photographing the park with me, so we brought an old smartphone specifically for that purpose.

At the beginning of the week he pretty much just took pictures of things I was taking pictures of. But by the end of the trip, he was finding photo opportunities on his own and it seems like he really was loving it. What a joy to watch. That’s not to say it didn’t grow tiresome at times, especially reviewing the photos afterwards. Like many of today’s smartphone photographers, where one photo would do, he took 30 or so. However, he really became proud of the photos he was taking.

And it wasn’t just random point and shoot. I guess through watching my process, after finding a suitable subject he would approach it from several angles, raising and lowering his camera until he got the framing just the way he wanted it. I think that process was especially neat to witness for me, because it is sometimes hard to attribute the same kind of talent or intent to a photograph as it is to a drawing. But through my observation of his methods, I have a much greater appreciation for the execution of his expression.

I look forward to letting him loose with a camera more often.

Below are some of his best photos. I did do a small amount of basic editing on these, the same that I would do to any digital photo that I planned to show, but the actual taking of the photo was all Jed. He chose the subjects and how he wanted to take the picture. Pretty impressive, right?

 

The Journey’s End – Saying Goodbye to Catoctin

And we’re back home! Another adventure is in the books and it is time to get back to our semi-normal lives. It has once again been an incredible experience of being able to slowly explore everything Catoctin Mountain Park has to offer. This time more that any other residency has literally been at a child’s pace the entire time, meaning we spent a lot of time contemplating the little wonders along each path. Hopefully my photos were imbued with some of that sense.

The last couple days of our stay were a little on the rainy side, so we had to pick and choose our outing around storms, but we still managed to get in a lot of fishing and photography. Below are some spots we encountered just a few hours before driving home. I was especially happy to find an unsuspecting fly fisherman trying his luck along the stream since that is what it has been especially reserved for.

And so now I enter editing mode, looking through all the shots I captured. Of course I’ll be looking for the stand out images I can turn into prints, but I’ll also be searching for a narrative thread around which I can begin to create a book about this park and my experience.

Big Hikes and Little Streams

We’ve continued our adventures in Catoctin Mountain Park with great gusto! Melissa and Flint were here for the long weekend, but after they left it was up to Jed and I to explore the rest on our own. Yesterday we did a hike up to Cat Rock, which is actually in Cunningham Falls State Park. It was a lot of up for Jed, but he powered through and made it all the way to the top for our lunch. And there we were met with a few surprises. First, lots of millipedes, probably 4 to 5 inches each. I also managed to get close to one of the skinks, which normally run away so fast that they just look like a little brown and blue blur. But most exciting of all was this guy:

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Those of you who are up on your snake species will recognize this as a Copperhead, one of the two venomous snakes in the park (the other is a pine rattler). This was a very young one, probably just 14-16 inches long, and fortunately he didn’t move the whole time we were there, which was fine with us!

Jed and I have also been spending a little time on Big Hunting Creek. Jed’s been tossing in a line and I’ve been wandering the shoreline, searching for the right photos. I really think that these quiet wetland creeks are coming to define the park for me. Sure, it has some nice hikes to high lookouts, but it seems like the core experiences of the park are nestled in these valleys. At least that is where I have found the most life and peace.

So, we’re wrapping up our trip soon. I plan on visiting a few more of my favorite spots again between rain showers (the sun decided to hide in our last few days here) and then it will be back to home. I’m including a few shots below that I’m liking right now, with some simple edits tied out on them. It probably isn’t how they’ll end up, but at least you can see some of my experimentation in process.

Rest at the Edge

Last night I got the chance to hike up to Wolf Rock and Chimney Rock by myself while Melissa watched the boys after dinner. I took the much steeper trail than what Jed and I had taken earlier to Wolf Rock, but it was more direct. It was slightly strenuous, but it was nice to be completely alone. In fact, I only saw 4 other hikers the whole time, and they were all leaving the trail just as I was starting up.

I revisited Wolf Rock, this time approaching from a different angle, getting much closer to the “wolf” itself. I can definitely see how it got its name. I think if I were in to climbing, I would have been tempted to climb it or one of the many other places along that ridge.

Then I proceeded on to Chimney Rock. It has probably the best view of the park and consists of several tall rocks protruding out on a high ridge. It was great to have time to slowly explore my way around the rocks and figure out a way to the top. I found that I had to navigate through a narrow cut through the rock in order to get to the very edge. Once there I kicked back and enjoyed a little time at the edge, looking over the whole mountain and valley. Below I shared a few photos snapped with my phone along the way.

Catoctin Excitement on the Weekend

We have been keeping busy! Jed and I have been hiking and fishing every day, slowly but surely reaching all corners of the park. And now Melissa and Flint are here for a long weekend of even more hiking, camping, art and of course, s’mores. I’ll just share a few images I’ve been making because it’s time to fix dinner and the trails are calling my name!

Experimental Directions

I’m writing this on Wednesday evening, sitting in the library and soaking in the cool after a hot day (90!). Jed and I have managed to explore a lot of the park and despite some scrapes and bruises, he’s powered through and done an awesome job (next time you see him you should tell him so). Today we even did the Wolf Rock hike. It’s not too far in terms of mileage (3 miles round trip), but there is significant elevation gain and lots of rocky, uneven terrain. I didn’t get the chance to edit any of those photos yet, but I’m sure I’ll get to post them later.

Now I’m at the point where it would be helpful to decide what type of imagery I want to focus on for the park. That will help my decision making process for what I hike to much easier. So, I’ll share with you 1 style of editing I’ve been trying out. One feature of Catoctin that has jumped out is the vibrant green everywhere. I’m not sure if it is always like that or if it’s just the time of year, but the leaves, grass and every plant in between seems to be the same shade of bright yellow-green. So much so that it’s almost overwhelming in color photos. So I’ve been experimenting with a digital process that emulates black and white infrared photography. Now, to any purists out there, it’s probably not even close to the real thing, but if I view it not as emulation but rather just one more possibility for how I process a digital image, then I’m fine with the results. So, I’ll post some samples below. Let me know what you think.

Little Explorations in Catoctin

We’re now full tilt exploring Catoctin. Yesterday we hiked to Cunningham Falls. Melissa carried Flint, I carried all the camera stuff and Jed blazed the trail. The falls were impressive, but since it was a weekend it was pretty crowded. I think Jed and I will take an alternate route there another day this week.

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Blue Blazes Whiskey Still trail

Melissa and Flint headed back home last night because she’s still working, but she’ll be back for a long weekend next week. This morning Jed and I went to Hunting Creek Lake and he fished for a little (but came up empty). Then we explored a little of the William Houck Campground and the surrounding area before heading home. In the afternoon we hiked the Blue Blazes Whiskey Still trail, which is where I’ll be leading my photography walk later next week. It’s just an easy trail meandering along a gentle stream, but I’m looking forward to the walking tour I’ll be delivering to hopefully inspire some budding photographers.

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William Houck Recreation Area

Last, I thought I should mention all the wildlife we’ve seen so far. Nothing huge, but lots of variety for only a couple days. In no particular order: Pileated Woodpecker, Baltimore Oriel, Eastern Milksnake, a giant millipede, and then of course frogs, trout and a salamander. Hopefully there is more yet to come!