Thanks for stopping by my blog.  I plan on using it share my images and also what is going on in my life.  There will also be some pipe and tobacco reviews from time to time.

I've not been very active on the blog due to work and life changes, but my goal for 2023 is to make more new images and post more new content here.

I post more regularly on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/rustedrailsmokes/

Look away or is it looking ahead?

December 30, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Look AwayLook AwayWhen I lived in Aiken, South Carolina Hopeland Gardens was a great place to visit for the variety of photographic subjects there.

 

As 2021 ends, it's time to reflect the passing of the year.  Personally, it was full of some happy memories and some not so good ones.  I'm looking forward to 2022 and some big changes which are coming soon.

 


Steamy Morning

December 29, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Steamy MorningSteamy MorningThe Norfolk Southern celebrated their 30th Anniversary in style during 2012 as they brought Nickel Plate 765 and the Southern 630 out onto the NS tracks as goodwill ambassadors.

Early morning in Wiliamson, West Virginia and the 765 is bringing its consist to the depot where NS employees and their families will be treated to a ride over the Pocahontas Division.

Learn more about this piece of living history.

The Norfolk Southern celebrated their 30th Anniversary in style during 2012 as they brought Nickel Plate 765 and the Southern 630 out onto the NS tracks as goodwill ambassadors.

Early morning in Wiliamson, West Virginia and the 765 is bringing its consist to the depot where NS employees and their families will be treated to a ride over the Pocahontas Division.

Learn more about this piece of living history.


BRP Tunnels

September 18, 2021  •  1 Comment

BRP TunnelsBRP TunnelsThe North Carolina section of the Blue Ridge Parkway features a number of tunnels.

At sunrise, the light is just starting to illuminate the darkness as I stop long enough to grab a quick snapshot out the windshield of the scene

The North Carolina section of the Blue Ridge Parkway features a number of tunnels.

At sunrise, the light is just starting to illuminate the darkness as I stop long enough to grab a quick snapshot out the windshield of the scene


River Reflections

May 03, 2020  •  1 Comment

River ReflectionsRiver Reflections - Augusta Georgia

The old Southern Railway bridge is still used by trains and leads from South Carolina (on the far shore) into downtown Augusta, Georgia. Usually the surface of the river is rippled by boat traffic or wind, but this day it seemed extra "smooth" and ready to be photographed. 

Why Post Process?

When I started in photography and even digital photography I was completely of the school that post-processing was somehow "cheating" or bad.  The idea was to get the perfect "Straight-from-the-camera" shot that accomplished everything you wanted it to.

Later on when I moved to Lightroom; I discovered Silver Efex,  which allows you to create a variety of black & white conversion effects.
 
I use SilverEfex Pro 2 for 90% of my black & white conversions and often use ColorEfex Pro 4 on color shots or to pre-process before moving to silverefex to finish up.
 
I really like how you can control the amount of the effects to best come up with the results you want.  Each image requires a different combination to end up with what you want. You get those options.

I've learned that I get the most enjoyment from photography by post-processing to make them "my own".  Taking a RAW file and tweaking it to come up with an image that "says" what I want it to. Sometimes it is easy, but sometimes it can be a long process. But the end results are worth it to me.

 


Wide World of Railroads

April 18, 2020  •  2 Comments

 

Dark Fog Color

The Wide World of Railroads is a series I began in early 2012 where I use a 1 to 3 (1:3) crop-ratio to create "faux"-pano style shots of railroad scenes.

This shot of the CSX in Folkston was one of the first times that I shared a photo in the ratio.  I like the way that the crop brings the train into the shot as the main actor.  In this case it seems to work so much better than the original image.

As I'm shooting railroad scenes, I use the grid in the viewfinder of my Canon DSLR to try and imagine how the shot will look when cropped.  It requires me to think differently.. because of needing to allow space at the top or bottom (or both) for cropping later on.

Another ratio which is gaining popularity is the 16:9 ratio which is the same that is used on a HDTV. With so many images being seen on HDTV's these days, it is a natural also.

What is your favorite ratio? Have you tried some shots in untraditional ratios?


A morning with the Green Dragon

February 01, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

I woke up much earlier than I expected this morning and not being able to get back to sleep, decided to get up and make coffee and have my morning bowl of joy, I mean my first pipe. It's a cold morning here in Georgia (well for us) and the smell of coffee quickly filled the room.

Looking through my jar rotation, I found myself drawn to the jar of Green Dragon from The Country Squire like it was calling out to me, sort of like a Ring. I remembered that the Green Dragon is part of the Middle Earth series named after locations in the Lord of the Rings series.

Opening the jar, I saw the combination of darker and lighter Virginias and was greeted by a sweet note similar to fresh cut grass or hay. The cut is ribbon and ready to pack.

My normal morning smokes (on work days) are usually aromatics but this had no topping and its own sweetness. I chose one of my favorite pipes, a Morgan Bones Timberwolf which is based off of the Canadian family. The tall bowl works great with Virginias and particularly with Ribbon cuts.

The smoke followed the same path as the jar note, sweet high notes with a little support in the mid tier. Flipping to the webpage, I was reminded that this is a combination of air-cured (light) and flue-cured (dark) Virginia's according to the blender. It compares quite favorably to Orlik Golden Sliced which is a summertime favorite of mine. The sweetness paired well with the bitterness of the coffee (black as the color of my soul, or something like that)

Finishing the bowl and my first cup of coffee, I was ready to tackle the world.

If you have never tried one of Jon David Cole's blends from The Country Squire you are missing a real treat. Blended in shop from choice tobaccos, you'll quickly understand why the Squire is still going strong in their 50th year.


Looking for love in all the wrong places

January 27, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Looking for loveLooking for loveHe was looking for love in all the WRONG places.

 

He was looking for love in all the WRONG places. 

 

This little guy found his ideal mate I guess in the head of my antenna.  Unfortunately for him, it was a little stiff.

 


On the way up.

January 25, 2020  •  2 Comments

shapes and anglesOn the way up

 

I've found that by changing my perspective, I can really see life through a different lens.

In photography, we have a choice of focal lengths which can change the focus from the large (It's a fair) to pulling in details from within that view (the lines and angles of the wheel).  The same is true with our view on our lives in general.  I catch myself so focused on the wide view which can be overwhelming, instead of paying attention to the details. 

2019 was a challenging year in many ways for me.   

Professionally, workload at times was overwhelming.  I like to be in control of situations and with so many projects all hitting at once, I usually felt that I was just trying to fight the fire in front of me instead of being able to come up with a strategy to prevent them in the first place.

Photography wise, I took fewer pictures than ever.  I did have a few enjoyable excursions which reminded me why I enjoy making and sharing images, but too many times I didn't make the effort to stop and take a photo I should have.

Writing became a challenge also.  When I'm on the downside of the Ferris Wheel of Life, it becomes too easy for me to turn inward and start to focus on what doesn't seem to be right instead of keeping the Fair in mind.  This blog languished because I didn't know what to write or how to share what was going on.  The image we want to project to the world versus the reality of life we all face.

Onward to 2020.

I've been seeing the meme started by Dolly Parton showing how we project ourselves in different social media outlets.  Social media sharing tends to be those high points.  We present ourselves on LinkedIn as the professional we are in our day-jobs.  Instagram is about pretty images and snaps of the beautiful.  Facebook (personal pages maybe not commerical ones at least) are the images of the life we want our friends to see.  I don't have Tinder, but that is the lover we see ourselves as I guess and what we are looking to attract.

Looking at my accounts, I know I do this also usually.  I have friends who do open themselves up (at least to a close circle) on Facebook with the challenges and more personal aspects of their life.  As an introvert, that is probably one of the most difficult things for me to do.  Only my wife and my closest circle of friends really know what is going on from day-to-day beyond the Public Persona.  Being me, its hard to think of being that open to others, too much risk and too many memories of how that openness has hurt in the past.

2020 has honestly started off great for me.  I'm making more photographs.  I feel better about myself.  I see that confidence coming across in my professional and personal life in unexpected ways.  I'm also back to writing more and feeling more willing to lower the veil a little from time-to-time about what is happening behind the scenes in the day-to-day life.

I'm enjoying writing my blog again.  It's really a letter from me to the world.  I'm honored that folks take the time to read what I write.  More importantly, I'm writing in my personal journal again and putting on paper those things that I'm not ready or willing to even post here.  I'm feeling more creative and trying to take the chance to make new images when the chance presents.  That creativity flows over into my professional life where I'm finding new ways to attack problems with more decisiveness.

I hope you be along for the upward swing. 

Gene

 


Back in the desert again

January 15, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

I spent a way too quick weekend in Tuscon and didn't take my regular camera as I didn't expect to have much time for photography.

Thanks to my friend I got to enjoy some of beauty of the Southwest and was reminded why I have always loved the region.

I look forward to visiting again soon and being able to make some more serious pictures next time.



The Art of Travel and Luxury Bullseye Flake

January 04, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

I spent the first Saturday of 2020 reading The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton on my Kindle while enjoying several bowls of Luxury Bulleye Flake  in several of my favorite pipes throughout the afternoon.

After several days of rain, it was nice to see the sun make an appearance bringing with it cooler temperatures and a crisp breeze.  

The Art of Travel was an interesting read to me.  The author combines his thoughts on travel and relates them to famous travelers of the past.  He writes in an engaging prose which kept me engaged.  I can also relate to his observations on travel which was a bonus. 

The key point that I got from the book was the differences between our imagined world of travel and what we find when we actually engage in it.  The thought of flying off to some exotic location versus the reality of airport parking, TSA lines, crowded or delayed flights and the let down we sometimes get from the reality of the locations we've dreamed about or only experienced through pictures or the writing of others.

We find in the book that this is something that has occurred to travelers for many years.  Some travelers acknowledge the fact in their writings while to others it is avoided and the locale remains dreamy or perfect to their readers.  Today I equated this to the travelblog posts on Instagram where the weather always seems perfect, locations are never crowded and around every corner is another picture.  We don't usually see the less savory parts of the day such as traffic jams, less than ideal hotels or foods that don't match our tastes.  I realize lots of the travelbloggers are sponsored by the hotels or locations they visit and part of their "job" (and future gigs) is to present them in their best light.  That doesn't make it reality though.

de Botton does a great job of giving the entire picture in the essays on his travels.  He discusses how even in the most exotic of locations, we still can be blogged down by thoughts of the work or world we left behind.  I know that happens to me.  Even on vacation, thoughts of work creep in and I think about what will be waiting for me when I return to the office.  When that happens, I have two choices:

  1. Give into that stream of thought and be transported back to my work world.  Instead of sitting on the beach watching the waves, now I'm back in the office in my mind.
  2. Stop.  Acknowledge the thought and then focus on something in the present and start thinking about what I'm seeing or doing or reading.

I'll admit, I've been guilty of the first one quite often in the past and sometimes I can't get it out of my head.  One of my goals (I hate that word) for 2020 is to focus more on the present and enjoy it while I can.  Today, that means reading a good book, enjoying one of my favorite tobaccos and sipping on a nice drink.  Work will still be there Monday morning.

I'll be reading more by the author as I work towards reading 100 books this year and will be sharing reviews of some of them here.

Tobacco Notes:

Luxury Bullseye Flake by Peter Stokkebye is a delightful blend of Virginias and Perique, with a touch of black Cavendish — thinly sliced into neat bullseye coins. 

The coins can either be folded into larger pipes or broken up into a ribbon and smoked in smaller ones.  I prefer to use larger pipes as during the smoke you can taste the different component tobaccos as they burn in succession.  The perique doesn't overwhelm the Virginia and the Cavendish gives just a hint of extra sweetness.  It can be purchased in bulk and I always keep it in my normal rotation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can read some reviews about it on Tobacco Reviews and see what others have to say about this classic blend.

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