Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Paducah Photo 09 Exhibit

Thanks to everyone wishing me luck in the PaducahPhoto09 contest and exhibit. From the galleries point of view the exhibit was a huge success. The opening night reception was packed with artists and art enthusiasts. I was impressed with the gallery and the work that had gone in to putting the show together. Exhibits of this size and nature are always a challange to produce so, my hats off to Michael Crouse, the gallery director, as well as his staff for a job well done.

I am sad to say that that I did not place but I was pleased nonetheless to have been selected as one of the 70 exhibits from 685 entries accross the country. The juror, Antonio Martinez, an art professor at Southern Illinois University, chose six photos overall, three places and three honorable mentions. I'm posting the winners for you to see and you can decide for yourself how you like them. Frankly, I'm still biased toward my photos, especially Three Trees and Seven Horses, but it's the jurors decision and what strikes him in deciding the winners. Again, I was proud to be a part of it.

The show will continue through August 29th. If you are in Paducah and have an extra moment stop by to see the exhibit. You'll have a chance to see some wonderful photography and show your support to the Yeiser Art Center. The gallery is located in the historic Market House on lower Broadway just a block from the river. Maybe next year we'll have better luck!

By the way, don't forget you can always order a giclee print of any of my fine art prints by going to my website Go to the Fine Art gallery for more information.

The winners...

1st Place - After the Water by Charity Valentine

2nd Place - When the Bough Breaks by Libby Rowe (a fellow Nashvillian)

3rd Place - Fallen Friend by Amy Bishop

Honorable Mentions

Clouds by Amelia Fletcher

#2 by Luca Tommasini

Support. by Karen Pierce

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Famous words from a famous Tennessean, Ms. Minnie Pearl.

What a fabulous day it was to jump on the Harley and head down the great Natchez Trace Parkway. With sunny skies over our heads and the wind in our face Beth and I set out to do a little exploring and indulging in some terrific Tennessee jewels along this grand road once known as the Devil's Backbone. The Natchez Trace Parkway which starts in Pasquo, Tennessee is within just a few miles of our home and makes it way 444 miles down to Natchez, Mississippi.

The 8,000 year old trail began to see modern day travelers in the 1700 - 1800's during a time of war between new settlers to the area and the native Indians that hunted the land, not to mention bandits that would seize the moment to raid and rob travelers along the trail. The trail was so unruly that wise travelers would often team up together and even traveled with postal workers that used the trail as a delivery route. Today, the All American Road trail is a beautiful byway of scenic farmlands, hiking trails and historic landmarks; safety in numbers not necessary.

Just a few miles down the Trace was our first stop in a little village known as Leiper's Fork. Settled in the 1790's by early pioneering families from North Carolina and Virginia, Leiper's Fork is today known as the only historic village on the Tennessee portion of the Natchez Trace Parkway. It is home to some of the most beautiful rolling hills of farmland in the Middle Tennessee area.

Beth and I went to the little town for one purpose - lunch. We pulled into a parking spot in front of Puckett's Grocery and Restaurant along with seven or eight other bikes. Obviously, this was a good choice. When we walked inside we stepped back in time a few years. The old market is dead set against the ways of modern restaurants. With grocery options in the back of the store and an assortment of makeshift tables and chairs, none of which matched, in the front of the store we knew we had found a source of good country cooking. A made to order grill was awaiting for our selection. Beth had a thick hamburger with garden fresh toppings and I had the home-style hot ham and cheese. Needless to say this was not your typical Burger King nor Arbys, neither of which could come close to the tasty sandwiches that filled our appetites.

After a good lunch we hit the Trace again heading several miles on down the road before making a rest stop at the old Captain John Gordon House. Captain Gordon was a famed Indian fighter commissioned by the government in the late 1700's to acquire land from the Indians. For his efforts he was given over 600 acres of land on the Natchez Trace trail along the Duck River. This was prime land perfect for agriculture and trading posts. The Gordon home was built in 1818 and was said to be one of the finest all brick homes of it's time but unfortunately the captain only spent one year in the house before succumbing to pneumonia and dying in 1819.

Just about 100 - 150 yards from the Gordon House is Highway 50 to Centerville, Tennessee. We decided to jump onto 50 all the way in to Centerville where we could catch Highway 100 back toward home. Not being familiar with Centerville we took in the scenery along the way. Much to our surprise, upon our arrival to Centerville we came across a sign to a winery that we had been told about just the night before, naturally we decided to check it out. What a hidden jewel out in the country!

Grinder's Switch Winery was nothing like what we expected but was everything you would hope for. A quaint little cabin in the woods in a primitive setting would not be what you'd expect in a typical winery but that's just what the the proprietors Joe and Gail Chessor had in mind when they opened the business a few years ago. Beth asked Joe how he got into wine making and when his wife gave him that look he just said it was a long story. After talking to him for a while it was obvious that it was his love of good wine that must have started it all which was lucky for us because we were able to take home a wonderful award winning Cabernet Sauvignon grown in the Chessor's vineyard and aged from Tennessee white oak.

Just before leaving, the Chessor's urged us to visit Minnie Pearl who had recently taken up residence in the side yard gazebo of the winery. You may have heard of the now famous Minnie Pearl statue dispute that had been covered by national media outlets several months ago but if not here's the scoop. A sculpture of the Grinder's Switch native was commissioned back in 2004 for about $150,000. The money was donated by an anonymous citizen with one restriction; she had to remain on the downtown square in Centerville. The city government said no problem, as they had hoped to see some additional tourists come to town to see the great Grand Ole Opry star. All was fine until a few years later when construction around the town square required that Ms. Minnie needed to be moved. After much hostile debate, the sculpture, commissioned by Bill Rains, was shipped down to a hotel in Linden, Tennessee for a short visit in the lobby. There is no connection to Linden other than the hotel management thought it would be nice to offer Minnie a place to stay while the city leaders in Centerville worked out their differences.

In the end I'm really not sure who had finally had enough, but one day out of the blue Joe got a call and was asked if he wanted Minnie to oversee his establishment. Joe said absolutely, afterall, what a better fit for his Grinder's Switch Winery; and the rest, as they say, is history. She's quite a sight and I'm glad we got a chance to visit with her.

After grabbing a few photos of the winery and Beth with Minnie we took off with another close by stop in mind. Just a couple of miles down the road from the winery was it's namesake, Grinder's Switch, Tennessee. Not knowing what to expect we traveled down an old unmarked two lane country road until we reached some railroad tracks. Just off to the left of the tracks was an old abandoned train depot and a simple little sign that read Grinder's Switch 1940. Apparently, back in the day, the area was a bustling spot for shipping and became famous thanks to the fictional tales of Minnie Pearl.

Once we finished our visit in Grinder's Switch we were back on the road again heading down Highway 100 with one more stop in mind before heading to the house. Just as we completed our full circle back to the head of the Natchez Trace we stopped for dinner at the world famous Loveless Cafe. Even though it was clearly early evening breakfast was the choice of our appetite's desire. You just can't beat those homemade preserves served up with the secret recipe biscuits that the Loveless is known for. If you've never been there or it's been a while since you were there, then it's time to go back.

Since shutting down the motel operations back in the mid 80's the business has expanded not only the restaurant but several shops including the Hams and Jams retail and mailorder shop. Recently, the new owners added a huge event barn behind the restaurant for special events and entertainment. Some of the shops include unique gifts and arts as well as a high-end bicycle shop. $25 later plus tip, Beth and I headed to the house catching the beginning of a rain storm a couple of miles before we rolled back into our driveway. We were a little wet but it was well worth the trip on the bike.

All in all it would be hard to beat such a great day but I can assure you, we will try.

To learn more about some of the places we visited in my blog go to the following websites.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Very Long Week

Wow, what a week it's been for us here in Music City and I'm talking about the entire city. At the time of this writing it's been a week to the very hour that we first learned of the former NFL Titans quarterback Steve McNair's shooting death on July 4th. That'll go down in history as a very sad day for all of Nashville.

Throughout the week there's been non-stop news coverage of Steve's death and all the speculation, condemnation and ridiculous accusational rumors that go along with it. Quite honestly, it's become somewhat numbing.

McNair's family laid him to rest just a few hours ago near his hometown in Mount Olive, Mississippi. Hopefully, along with that the city of Nashville can begin to close this chapter of sadness and move on. Certainly, with no disrespect to the family, it's time that we need to talk about something else. We need to rejuvenate our senses and put a foot forward in the healing process but unfortunately I can't do that until I first express my own anger and displeasure with one particular incident that took place Friday afternoon regarding the McNair murder/suicide.

I'm a fairly regular listener to a local radio station here in Nashville that's primarily dedicated to sports coverage 24 hours a day. That's alot of sports. So much so that the station has to pick up programming from national syndicated shows during different time slots in order to fill the required daily coverage. One of those shows is the Jim Rome Show which is broadcast live from Los Angeles. Rome is known for his unusual but "hip" delivery. He's also known for taking a lot of vacation time. He says he "takes a lot of vacation time because he gets a lot of vacation time". I guess I would too.

Rome took a week of vacation this past week and had several different guest hosts sitting in for him, one of which is a sports columnist named Jason Whitlock. Whitlock, a Kansas City Star and columnist is known for his controversial opinions and has his share of critics. I personally have never cared for his work and yesterday he more than solidified that for me as well as most anyone within earshot of Nashville that was effected by the Steve McNair situation. Even those who haven't followed the murder/suicide probably were uncomfortable if they were listening to Whittlock's commentary on Friday afternoon.

During the second hour radio segment Whitlock did a commentary on McNair being a bad husband and father. By all accounts we know that Steve loved his family especially his four boys. Just before the end of the segment Whitlock, who boasts of being unapologetic, brought in an "unexpected guest" that was suppose to be a former assistant coach to Steve McNair during his days at Alcorn State. The guest went into a question and answer session with Whitlock and told about fictitious events regarding McNair's "legendary tail chasing" days at Alcorn State. The segment was obviously a parody but it was done in such poor taste and total disregard to the respect of the McNair family who hadn't yet even had a chance to bury Steve. It was disgusting. Certainly, I don't condone what Steve did in his personal affairs but at the same time I can't imagine anyone using their public status as a platform of criticism in such a poor illmannered taste and then laugh it off. I only hope that Steve's family didn't catch wind of Whitlock's garbage attempt at humor.

The question I have is do we have such little regard for one's life or the great things that someone has done for so many simply be degraded like Whitlock did to McNair in a single moment and that it's OK do that without any backlash? I hope not. Our local radio station made a public apology to the McNair family and to the City of Nashville as well as made complaints to the program directors of the Jim Rome Show. It'll be interesting to see what angle the show takes in regard to Whitlock's outlandish remarks. I'll be tuning in Monday to see what Jim Rome says. I think he's a very professional reporter and will be disappointed that his show was used in such a sick manner Friday afternoon. We'll wait and see. Until then, it's my hope that we can remember what number 9 did on the field and his tireless efforts to help people less fortunate in the community. That's the Steve McNair that we want to remember.

Rest in peace Steve.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Photos Accepted for Exhibition

I'm really excited to report to you that I've had a couple of landscape photographs accepted for judging and exhibition at the Yeiser Art Center in Paducah, Kentucky. The show runs from July 18 through August 29. The competition, called PaducahPhoto09, has been in existence for 34 years and has attracted participants from all over the country. This years entries have been narrowed down to about 40 photographers.

The two pieces that I was honored to show were ironically both shot in Kentucky on a couple of different trips to Lexington. My personal favorite of the two accepted is titled "Three Trees and Seven Horses". As the title suggests this was originally a simple shot of some horses gathered around some trees on a nice December day this past winter. The shot was originally produced in color and had some remarkable clouds cast across a particularly blue sky that afternoon. I had drawn the attention of the horses when I first arrived. Once they were satisfied that I had nothing for them to eat they again began their casual grazing on the hillside. As quiet I as was the shutter of my camera got the attention of one horse. You can see him staring back at me in the photo above. He raised his head just above the horse in front of him and watched me intently while the others seemed disinterested. After about a half dozen shots I slipped back into my vehicle and drove away satisfied with the photos that I had made.

It was a several days later when I began processing the shots of the horses. I didn't like what I was seeing. Even though I had been fairly pleased with the shots I was making at the time for some reason it wasn't translating the same way as I had originally thought. Disgusted, I filed the images away.

In early March while working on some other images I revisited the horse photos. I decided to experiment with some color enhancements which also failed in satisfying my hopes for the photo. As a last ditch option I decided to produce the image in black and white. Upon first look I thought the shot had improved somewhat but I was still a little disappointed in the results.

I remembered a trick that John Lucas, a former employer, showed me years ago when I worked at The Crittenden Press in Marion, Kentucky. I was a rookie photographer in high school back then and was learning the trade from the ground up spending a lot of time in the darkroom. John introduced me to a photo chemical called Farmers Reducer. When processing a B/W print in this chemical it would essentially make parts of the image disappear creating a high contrast effect. Obviously, since I strictly shoot digital now-a-days there is no chemical darkroom and no Farmers Reducer. Instead, today, I use the the digital darkroom which in this case allowed me to not only convert from color to black and white but to also pull a very high contrast image out of my original color shot much similar to the old days of using the Farmers Reducer. I immediately fell in love with the image. Thanks for the tip John.

After some additional work cropping and adding a nice black stroke line around the image I gave it a title, "The Gathering Spot". I never really liked that name and as a result about 4-5 weeks later as I was looking at the image again it hit me as I was counting the number of horses in the photo. For some reason Lincoln's opening to the Gettysburg Address came to mind, "Four score and seven years ago...". Naturally, from that came "Three Trees and Seven Horses", possibly a bit of a stretch but Lincoln was born in Kentucky; work with me here, it's a left brain thing.

The second selection of my accepted photos is called "Kentucky Snow Farm", another play on words usually reserved for the phrase "Kentucky horse farm" as there are so many farms around the Lexington area that raise horses instead of plants and vegetables. On this day there were no horses, plants or vegetables, just snow.

My good friend and co-worker Mike Coster and I were heading over to our office in Lexington and got caught in a heavy snow fall, so heavy in fact that there was a limited sight distance while driving even with the windshield wipers on. Just a few miles from our office we decided to pull into the Keeneland Race Track area where I wanted to make a picture of the Keeneland clock while snow was falling on it. As we were leaving I saw a beautiful farm house across from Keeneland but didn't think I could get a good clear shot because of the dense snow fall. I was also disappointed that there were also no horses out and about; they had apparently made a good decision to stay out of the mess. I made the shot anyway and we left.

Upon returning to Nashville a couple of days later I pulled the image up and began processing it. I was right, the image was not very clear. I decided to once again ditch the color information in the file and turned it into a standard black and white image. This allowed me once again to begin manipulating the contrast levels which I did to the point of really bringing out the black detail of the house, trees and fence. I decided that I would really focus the image around the house as the anchor and use the lines of the fence and trees to balance the image. After experimenting with a few different crop positions and adding a black stroke line I decided to go with the panorama image you see to the right.

If you have a chance to be in the Paducah area stop by the art center and take a look at the originals. Below is a link for more information.

Wish me luck!!


Monday, July 6, 2009

I've Arrived, but First Things First

Well, hello everyone. What appears as true is true, I've arrived at the world of blogging. So here I am and here we go but first things first; why am I here?

Many people had suggested to me that I needed a blog. Why I wondered? Could it really be that my thoughts and ideas are so compelling that I need to publish them? Who exactly would want to read it and more over why would they care? I'm still not sure I completely understand but I do have a better understanding of what it's all about. Yes, I'll be the first to admit that it's pretty easy to get wrapped up into what someone has written, even when it's just an ongoing, endless and sometimes senseless ramble. See, you're into it now. I think I've got you. Read on.

Alright, so I've started a blog. What's next? It's got to have a name they said. Okay, that should be easy, let's see, what'll I call it? Grant's Blog? No, too simple. Grant Davidson Speaks!? Naah, again, who cares? Hmmm. How about 5th Floor? Yeah, 5th Floor; it's catchy, somewhat compelling and it sounds sophisticated. Great, 5th Floor it is!

What, you question me as to why I might choose such a name. You're right, I don't work on the 5th Floor, my house certainly doesn't have a 5th Floor and no, the 5th Floor is not the place of my favorite coffee house (I don't even drink the stuff)...alright you got me; it's a shameless plug for the title to one of my newest fine art photography prints. Catchy though, isn't it?

And so it goes, 5th Floor it shall be!

Now that I have sufficiently etched the name somewhere within your brain let me tell you a little story of how the print came to be.

My wife Beth and I took a trip to Chicago last fall, October to be exact, just a week prior to the presidential election. We went primarily to see the theatrical production of Wicked and to just explore the area. I had been to the Windy City but only for meetings so I'd never really had a chance to experience the city itself. Wow, it was fantastic. The fall weather was gorgeous and as you can imagine the city was beginning to anticipate a post-election party like no one had ever seen. The city was at a spectacular season ending peak!

With camera in hand Beth and I set out to see as much as possible in a four day whirl-wind adventure. She was the tour guide and had a great plan in place. My job was to keep up and pay attention. One of the things on our agenda was to see some of the great artwork that Chicago is known for. We visited the famed Chicago Art Institute and saw everything from primitive sculptures to post modern paintings and even saw Grant Wood's original "American Gothic" portrait of the old farmer with his pitchfork and unmarried daughter; priceless.

From there we ventured across Michigan Avenue to visit a much less conspicuous but historical structure known as the Fine Arts Building. The Romanesque design building was the original showroom for the Studebaker company's wagon carriages in 1895 but was soon transformed into an artist's retreat in 1898. Home to more than 160 artists some of the famed former tenants include sculptor Lorado Taft who some of you western Kentucky folks may recognize as the the artist of the Chief Paduke statue in Paducah, Ky. The building was also once the studio homes to L. Frank Baum, author of The Wizard of Oz and to Frank Loyd Wright, one of Americas greatest residential design architects. Wrights office on the 10th floor of the building offered inspiring views of Lake Michigan as well as reminders of the harsh winter ahead.

Being the only people in the building that looked like tourists, a gracious gentlemen suggested to Beth and I that we take the elevator up to the top floor and then walk back down in order to see some of the buildings wonderful offerings. What a treat. We stepped onto the elevator, a hand operated elevator, and was asked by the operator of nearly 60 years if we were going to the top, we obviously looked like tourists. We said yes and he went to work immediately shutting the brass accordion style doors behind us, and off we went. It was amusing and so interesting at the same time watching this man working the pulley system to lift us to our final stop. While on the 10th floor we saw some wonderful murals by a few of the original tenants who enjoyed success and studies all over the world. Needless to say I was inspired. I couldn't help but to be sucked into the very corners of the building breathing in the history and enjoying the awe of this great institute.

I had my camera working taking pictures to later reminisce but also to capture something intriguing. I knew there was something about the old nostalgic building that I could use but hadn't figured out what just yet. As we descended down the old stairway making stops on each floor it finally hit me halfway down that the stairway itself was such a important part of the building that I wanted to capture it and show it in an interesting way. If the stairway could talk it could have told countless stories of some of the great artists that had made their daily walk up and down the old decorative slate steps while steadying each step by holding on to the endless wooden oak handrail supported by ornate spindles for the entire trip. At the bottom flight of each step to the next floor the stairs spilled out onto a golden cream colored marble floor and balancing each floor was an old primitive looking bench much like a church pew. The combination of all these elements were perfect. I just had to get the right angle.

Beth had walked on down to the floor below me as I surveyed the options for my shot. I decided to stay on the 5th floor and shoot downward toward the most bottom portion of the staircase. Since I didn't have a view camera to correct lens distortion I decided to close down my lens as much as possible to maintain a sharp image from top to bottom. Lighting in the building was dim and cast an eerie shadow across the stairs from the corridor on each floor. Without a tripod I had to steady myself and hope for an image that remained in good focus. I held my breath for the split second required on the exposure and got the shot.

After some post-processing work I decided on a square format to match the shape of the stairwell. What you see to the right is the final image. Note how the square format in conjuction with the angle of the stairs give a false perseption of distortion to the image format. It looks good as it is but to see it in it's intended larger size is what I'm most proud of. I hope you enjoyed the story and the picture now known as 5th Floor.

Come back often as I hope to blog about a lot of things including more photography, Harley-Davidson adventures and just cool stuff in general. Comment as you wish, I'd love to hear from you and your thoughts.


To see more about the Chicago Fine Arts Building go to

Also, to see more of my work go to Search Grant Davidson to view my current work online and to vote and make comments about the artwork.