Country Roads Take Me Home

Sunday, 25 July 2021

The Wandering Dawgs are hosting this week's Lens Artists Challenge, and they have chosen the topic of "along a back country road".I live in an area that many people in a large city like New York or Boston would consider "country side". Photographing the "country roads" here is challenging. So when photographing hills from these roads for another challenge, I had to think up a creative approach.

To me, a backcountry road can be any road that's off the beaten track. The route can be paved, gravel or dirt. It can take you through farmland, desert, forests, quaint small towns, or in the middle of nowhere. It may even be one with quirky roadside attractions or funny signs you see along the way.

I live among several quaint small towns with roads that traverse woodlands, farmland boundaries with roadside farm stands, and various brooks and streams with, in many places, ditches on either side of the road.

From the top of Grand View Road | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 38.8 mm | 1200 sec at f/5.6 | ISO200

Montgomery Township borders Princeton Township and is bisected by US Route 206, a one-lane, mostly straight federal "highway" that runs through Mercer, Somerset and Hunterdon Counties. Route 206 is just wide enough for bicycles and cars to share the road safely. But it has no sidewalks, and walking or taking on the side of the road can feel very unsafe. The speed limit is between 70-80 kph (45-50 mph). A few high traffic artery roads such as County Route 518 intersect Route 206 and are similarly wide and straight with similar speed limits and no sidewalks or curb to walk or park safely.

Burnt Hill Road
Burnt Hill Road | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 16.5 mm | 1200 sec at f/2.8 | ISO200

In Montgomery Township, Princeton Township and Hopewell Township, there are much smaller and very narrow farm roads that wind around these other roads, with some named for the town they connect. These one lanes are just wide enough for cars but have deep ditches on either side and, again, no sidewalk or curbing. There is no space for large trucks, bicycles, or room for pulling over to take a photograph. And because New Jersey is so densely populated, the traffic is high. I have talked with Bhavna about biking out to the Brick Farm Tavern, getting some exercise and rewarding myself with a pint at the end of the ride, but she’s adamant that it is unsafe and does not approve.

Country Road | 18 April, 2020 | Day 197 | Apple iPhone 11 Pro | iPhone 11 Pro back camera 6mm f/2

The best way to see photographs of these country roads is via Google Street View. I have linked to a Google Street View along a section of Cherry Valley Road, a tree-lined road that runs from Rocky Hill to Pennington. In Rocky Hill, the road begins as Princeton Avenue (it leads to Princeton), then becomes Cherry Valley Road when it crosses Route 206. From there, it runs along the border with Princeton (the northern part of the road is in Montgomery Township), all the way out to Carter Road, where it becomes Pennington-Rocky Hill Road, where it leads into Pennington. Certain sections of Cherry Valley Road are beautiful in the fall when the trees change colour, and on a sunny fall day, the light is spectacular. This is one of my favourite roads.

Servis Road | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 55 mm | 364 sec at f/5.6 | ISO200

I have wanted to photograph many sections of my favourite roads for the two decades I have lived here but I have yet to find a safe way to do so. There is no curb to park the car on Cherry Hill Road or Mountain View Road or along Province Line Road with its wonderful roller coaster rise and fall.

I admit that I did something a bit reckless a few years ago when I first attempted to photograph some of these roads. I didn't want to get hit by cars because I focused on composition instead of paying attention to traffic, and I certainly didn't want to annoy other drivers or, worse, get ticketed by the police for obstructing traffic. On a photo drive a few years ago, I rolled down my window and drove slowly with the camera sticking out of the window. That's how I took some of the images in this post. Don't do this!!

FYI, check out Jim Grey's photoblog, Down the Road, where he documents many of the old and new roads around Indiana. Jim is a film photographer.

Spring Hill Road
Spring Hill Road | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 32.1 mm | 171000 sec at f/5.6 | ISO200

Monday, 26 July 2021

My Schiit stack arrived last weekend, but I didn't use it until today. What is a Schiit stack?

A Schiit stack combines a Schiit Digital to Analog Converter (DAC) and a Schiit amplifier to interface between a digital source such as a smartphone. I ordered a Schiit Modi 3 DAC and a Schiit Magni 3 Heresy headphone amplifier.

To set up this stack, I needed RCA cables to connect the DAC to the headphone amp and a micro USB to Lightning cable to connect my iPhone 11 Pro to the DAC. The Modi 3+ has two separate micro USB ports for power and audio media transfer. I needed two micro USB cables. But I did not have a micro USB to Lightning cable, and finding one on Amazon proved fruitless. Instead, I ordered a female USB cable to Lightning cable and then connected a male micro USB to a male USB cable.

The Magni 3 Heresy only takes analogue input. To feed the signal from the Modi 3 to the Magni 3 Heresy, I connected two RCA cables which I ordered with my package.

The headphone jack is on the front of the Magni 3 Heresy. If I want to connect a pair of stereo speakers, I can use the RCA outputs at the rear. But for now, this Schiit stack is purely for using my Grado SR60s to listen to Apple Lossless audio from my iPhone 11 Pro.

Schiit Magni 3 Heresy and Schiit Modi 3+
Schiit Magni 3 Heresy and Schiit Modi 3+ | Monday 26 July, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | MD ROKKOR-X 50mm F1.7 | 1140 sec at f/2.8 | ISO 400

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

As I read Jason Fried's post, It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, I nodded my head. As a consultant, I don't work weekends or long hours, but before that, I would say I was a "company man". It's sad.

... people are working longer, earlier, later, on weekends, and whenever they have a spare moment. People can’t get work done at work anymore.

Work claws away at life. Life has become work’s leftovers. The doggy bag. The remnants. The scraps.

That’s just not OK. It’s unacceptable.

In his post, Thoughts on WordPress for Photographers, photographer Alexander S. Kunz writes about his challenges maintaining a WordPress based photography website over decades.

I’ve been blindsided by my love for the idea of open-source publishing and the community-driven WordPress universe but with regards to my photography website, I can honestly say that I didn’t see the forest for the trees…

Alexander goes on to describe his challenges, and I agree with all of what he wrote. He is considering a move to Squarespace, which I have also considered Squarespace as a new home for my 17-year-old WordPress website. Still, there are many challenges with moving thousands of images and blog entries.

Wednesday, 28 July 2021

The Online Photographer has a rant about smartphone contests.

Not long ago a friend here showed me a wonderful snap of his twin grandsons, toddlers in diapers, who were energetically helping each other climb up into the family refrigerator after bedtime. By chance they were as well composed as putti in a Renaissance frieze**. That's one example of the kind of thing a non-photographer grandpa can get a picture of only because of his unique access and familial intimacy. That's the kind of picture a smartphone can enable that an outside photographer coming in all prepared with serious kit would never get.

I just do not need to see some stupid dead-conventional anodyne desiccated "Abstract" shot with an iPhone as opposed to being shot with an ordinary camera. Who needs it? I've seen better pictures in clickbait slideshows.

Thursday, 29 July 2021

Alphonso Mango
Alphonso Mango | Thursday 29 July, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | MD ROKKOR-X 50mm F1.7 | 1125 sec at f/2.8 | ISO 3200

This morning Alphonso Mango did that thing he has been doing for several weeks now. Every day after I feed him breakfast, sit to eat my meal, usually at the computer so I can read the RSS updates from other blogs, he jumps up on the desk and insists on laying down on the keyboard. He nudges me and behaves in a very playful manner. I have no choice but to stop and play with him.

I found this interesting video on YouTube that discusses a rarely addressed top, namely the technical nuances of shooting film with darker skin with popular film brands such as Pro 400H or Kodak Portra 400.

Friday, 30 July 2021

This is my brewing guide for Chemex with Able Kone Filter. Brewing coffee with a Chemex carafe and Able Kone metal filter produce a bright-flavoured, full-bodied beverage.

Tonight we had an outdoor dinner and drinks with long time friends Frank and Jennifer. Frank is a photographer, and his wife Jen is the marketing and business brains of the operation. Frank is from New Jersey. Jen is from Alabama. They struggled greatly during the pandemic; business dried up overnight. Jen's father passed away in January and left her his house. They did some math and realised that with the hot real estate in New Jersey, it made sense to sell their home here and move into Jen's former home in Alabama. Frank is bracing for culture shock and adjustment.

Goose Island, Next Coast IPA | Friday 30 July, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | MD ROKKOR-X 50mm F1.7 | 1300 sec at f/2.8 | ISO 200
Friday 30 July, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | MD ROKKOR-X 50mm F1.7 | 1640 sec at f/2.8 | ISO 400

Saturday, 31 July 2021.

This week, Bhavna brought home two sugar apples from Patidar Supermarket, an Indian grocery store in North Brunswick Township. It was a rare treat for me. We set the two sugar apples in the cupboard inside a brown paper bag, and today one of them was ripe enough to eat.

sugar-apple or custard apple | Saturday 31 July, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | MD ROKKOR-X 50mm F1.7 | 16400 sec at f/2.8 | ISO 400

Sugar-apple, also sweet-sop, is the fruit of Annona squamosa, the most widely grown species of Annona and a native plant of the Americas and West Indies. The fruit was brought to the Philippines by the Portuguese, and it quickly spread throughout Asia.

The Annona squamosa fruit I ate in Bequia were pale green through blue-green with white flesh. Annona squamosa is unique among Annona fruits in that it is segmented, and the segments tend to separate when ripe, exposing the interior.

sugar-apple or custard apple | Saturday 31 July, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | MD ROKKOR-X 50mm F1.7 | 16000 sec at f/2.8 | ISO 400

As I ate the flesh of this deliciously sweet fruit, I had flashes of precious moments as a boy with my grandmother on Bequia. Whenever we visited, assuming it was the season for the fruit, she would take us to one of her trees to pick the fruit. I always had fun spitting out the seeds.

The Last Photo

Bhavna and I spent the day at Bhavna's cousin's home. They have just completed the construction of a pool and hosted a pool party with the first and second cousins. I have not processed those images yet, but I wanted to get a picture up for Bush Boy's Last on the Card project. When I looked at the Adobe Lightroom catalogue and saw this image, I was taken aback. What was this? It looks like a face with a pair of creepy eyes staring back at the camera. After cranking the exposure slide, I realised it was my failed attempt to photograph the wood-burning firepit. Per the rules, the image below is the unedited RAW file.

Creepy eyes
Creepy eyes | Saturday 31 July, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | MD ROKKOR-X 50mm F1.7 | 160 sec at f/1.0 | ISO 12800

Author: Khürt Williams

A human who works in information security and enjoys photography, Formula 1 and craft ale.

6 thoughts on “Country Roads Take Me Home”

  1. bushboy says:

    I love the whole series. The Cherry Hill road series is great. Your cat is typical that's for sure. Your Last Photo is quite wonderful Khurt. Thanks for joining in the fun ??

    1. Thank you.

  2. Thank you for taking part in the back country roads challenge with these beautiful roads. The way you captured the images was very creative but sounds scary!

    1. It can be worrisome. The roads here are not very much like the roads you featured in your post.

  3. Tina Schell says:

    Your roads brought back some fond memories of my time in Lawrenceville Khurt. I know exactly what you mean about the difficulties of shooting NJ roads without pullouts on the side! You found a clever way to capture your images but I agree, don't try this at home!!!

    1. Hi Tina, when I have the motivation and the time, I think I’ll start a photo project to document some of these roads.

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