The art of motorcycle photography

Jims wreckresized"Jupiter's Travels: Four Years Around the World on a Triumph" is a novel by journalist Ted Simon. In 1973, he navigated the earth traveling over 64,000 miles and crossing 45 countries.

The story is fascinating and great reading for any motorcyclist or traveler. However, the book only had a few pictures. Simon spent four years traveling. Fast forward to 2013 when he published "Jupiter's Travels in Camera: The photographic record of Ted Simon's celebrated round-the-world motorcycle journey." I was lucky enough to get a copy and see the pictures that his book described.

Today, every motorcyclist is a traveling reporter. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are full of motorcyclists' stories. On any given day, we see motorcyclists with their bikes, friends, routes, locations, points of interest and their selfies. With the quality of smartphones, it only takes a second to snap a memory, and just like that, you are now your own journalist.

With many great motorcycle trips under my belt, I wanted to do more than capture my travels with my iPhone. During the Hogs and Rags annual rally, we hire a photographer to capture the day's events. I reached out to Kia McMillian, who has taken pictures at a few of our events, and I asked her what camera she was using because they turned out very nicely. She said she used a Canon D7 Mark II. In our conversation, Kia mentioned that it is more than a camera, but the photographer and the lens that make a good photo. After studying various reviews, I bought myself a Canon also.

After a year of shooting in auto, I knew I wanted to know more about photography. Being a fan of the Fayetteville Technical Community College Continuing Education program, I signed up for the Fundamentals of Photography class taught by Johnny Horne. On the first night of class, he shared many of his photos. I quickly appreciated his wisdom, experience and expertise. He emphasized the importance of knowing your camera and said that, in the digital age, a good picture is important, but we needed to learn how to use photography software to make the best picture we could.

Here are a few pointers I learned with my photography. A clean bike makes a better picture. Learn to frame your image and the "rule of thirds." Know what you want before you shoot. Instagram, Facebook and Twitter all have various optimal picture size. Check out what you want to do and plan to optimize the screen. If you are using your phone to take a video, remember to turn your phone sideways to take advantage of the screen.

Technology is changing so quickly that being able to safely keep your pictures over time seems to be an art unto itself. We think our photos will last forever on a drive or in the Cloud. I recommend that you print your valued pictures. Today's images are data. In the 80s, we saved our data on cassettes. Things change, so I recommend that you print your important pictures. For the last few years, I've started printing a yearbook on Shutterfly. This year, I went a step further and put a calendar together for a few friends to celebrate our travels. I hung it on my wall at work, it makes for an excellent conversation piece and a good reminder that there is life outside of the office.

Motorcycling is one of the most exciting things a person can ever experience. While you are traveling along the road, don't forget to stop and enjoy the moment and capture it.

If there is a topic that you would like to discuss, you can contact me at Ride safe!

Photo by Jim Jones 

Can you improve your relationship with money?

06 N1607P49008CIn your life, you will have all sorts of relationships — with your family, your friends, your coworkers and even with civic groups and charitable organizations you support. But have you ever considered another key relationship — the one you have with money?

Of course, this type of relationship has several aspects, such as saving, spending and investing. And your fellow Americans clearly face some challenges in these areas. For example, in a recent survey by financial services firm Edward Jones, only 21% of respondents reported that they feel happy when thinking about saving money, while 92% said they see room for improvement in their financial health. Yet only one in four plan to improve their spending habits. Furthermore, just 26% said retirement was a top savings priority.

If you share some of these concerns, what should you do? Here are a few suggestions:

• Identify your money-related emotions. Try to recognize the emotions you feel in connection with saving and investing. Do you get nervous about spending? Does putting away money for the future give you satisfaction or not? Do you worry that you don’t know how much you should be investing, or whether you’re investing in the right way? Clearly, these types of questions can cause some anxiety — and, even more importantly, they may lead you to make poor decisions. Emotions are obviously closely tied to money — but they really should not play a big role in your spending, saving and investing choices.

• Develop a financial strategy. By developing a sound financial strategy, you can reduce money-related stress and help yourself feel empowered as you look to the future. A comprehensive strategy can help you identify your goals — a down payment on a new home, college for your children, a comfortable retirement, and so on — and identify a path toward reaching them. Your financial strategy should incorporate a variety of factors, including your age, risk tolerance, income level, family situation and more. Here’s the key point: By creating a long-term strategy and sticking to it, you’ll be far less likely to overreact to events such as market downturns and less inclined to give in to impulses such as “spur of the moment” costly purchases. And without such a strategy, you will almost certainly have less chance of achieving your important goals.

• Get an “accountability partner.” Your relationship with money doesn’t have to be monogamous – you can get help from an “accountability partner.” Too many people keep their financial concerns and plans to themselves, not even sharing them with their partners or other family members. But by being open about your finances to your loved ones, you can not only avoid misplaced expectations but also enlist the help of someone who may be able to help keep you on track toward your short- and long-term goals. But you may also benefit from the help of a financial professional — someone with the perspective, experience and skills necessary to help you make the right moves.
Like all successful relationships, the one you have with money requires work. But you’ll find it’s worth the effort.

Taking the fight to Raleigh

04 students and teacherNorth Carolina is experiencing an economic boom. Forbes ranks North Carolina as the best state in America to do business. CNBC ranks North Carolina third of all 50 states in the same category, and North Carolina has ranked in the top five years now. Much credit must go to the Republican majority for their efforts on tax reform and fiscal restraint.

Despite being the fifth most populated county in the state, Cumberland County doesn’t seem to be sharing in this boom. While the state’s economy grew last year by 2.4%, we lagged behind at 1.7%. Unemployment in Cumberland County is 4.6%, 35% higher than the state average, and while the average income for the state is $46,117, here in Cumberland County it is only $38,780.

There are a number of factors that go into making a vibrant economy, but I think three of the most important are education, transportation and quality of life. While I was on the board of education, we started the academy system, which gave students the opportunity to choose a school based on their interest in a specialized curriculum, such as finance, health professions or a classical education. We also built 12 new schools. I would now like to go to Raleigh to gain additional state support for students attending school in less affluent areas like ours.

Commerce also needs good transportation. Wake, Durham, Guilford and Mecklenburg counties seem to constantly have major road construction in progress. Cumberland is the fifth largest county in the state, yet our area seems to never get its fair share of infrastructure funding. Maybe it’s time for the state government to combat the urban sprawl in the Triangle and Charlotte areas by diverting some attention to Cumberland County. With my experience as a County Commissioner and chair of the Joint Planning Board, I feel I can make a strong case for that.

Certainly, quality of life has a lot to do with a company’s decision to invest in an area. This is something we can point to with pride. The progress we have made in the past few decades is truly impressive. There is nothing that can be mentioned, whether it be theater, museums, entertainment, sports teams, dinning, parks, a revitalized downtown or whatever, that we do not have. The only thing we don’t have is an image that matches up with reality. People who are not from here do not appreciate what a vibrant community we are. They don’t know the many wonderful people who have worked so hard to get us to this place. We are an untapped resource, a diamond in the rough that can be a tremendous economic asset to the whole state. That’s a message I would be honored to take to Raleigh.

All my adult life I have tried to help make Cumberland County a better place to live. I have volunteered on over 20 boards and served on both the school board and as a county commissioner. For the first time in my life, I am in a position to give it my full-time attention. I know I have the desire to do it. I feel I have the experience to do it well. All I need is your help to get there. I humbly ask you to vote for Diane Wheatley for the North Carolina House of Representative in the 43rd District.

Thank you and God bless,
Diane Wheatley

State’s economy flourished in 2019

05 N1906P49009CI gather from my social-media feeds and hate mail that North Carolinians are supposed to be infuriated at the way things are going in our state. I have my frustrations with certain politicians, to be sure, but I’m not infuriated. Nor am I alone.

 North Carolina continues to boast a thriving economy, prudently managed finances and many popular places to move to for jobs, incomes and quality of life. The growth isn’t equally distributed, of course. It never has been. But compared to its peers, North Carolina is doing rather well.

 Consider the latest job-market data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. North Carolina employers added about 94,000 net new jobs in 2019, up 2.1% from the previous year. That growth rate exceeds that national (1.4%) and Southeastern (1.6%) averages. Indeed, our state had the ninth-fastest rate of job creation in the nation last year.
 Comparisons like these can vary over time. Did 2019 just happen to be a good year? If we look at a longer-term trend, the outcome is still positive. Since 2013, North Carolina employers have added about 500,000 net new jobs, a 12.2% increase in overall employment. That rate exceeds the nation’s (10.9%) and the region’s (11.7%).
 Our region, the Southeast, includes lots of other fast-growing states — most of which are also governed by fiscally conservative legislatures, by the way. Nevertheless, if North Carolina had simply added employment at the average regional rate since 2013, we would have ended up with 18,000 fewer jobs by the end of 2019.

If we had only matched the national rate, the job count would be 52,000 lower.

 We mainly desire a strong economy because of the benefits it confers on private individuals and households. But if you want your government to deliver necessary public services at an economical price while saving against a rainy day and otherwise leaving you alone, a flourishing economy is highly preferred to a floundering one.

 According to the latest figures from the state controller’s office, revenues to the state’s general fund for the first six months of the 2019-20 fiscal year are up $471 million over the same period of the previous year. General fund spending is up, too, by $317 million. The lack of a final budget agreement between Gov. Roy Cooper and the General Assembly doesn’t mean expenditure levels were entirely frozen.

 On a cash basis, the general fund budget has run a $542 million surplus halfway through the fiscal year. Keep in mind that revenues and expenditures don’t distribute evenly across all 12 months, however. The April revenue numbers, reflecting prior-year tax payments, tend to have an outsized effect on state finances, for example.

Still, it would be fair to say that North Carolina’s financial picture was solid as we began 2020. The state has $1.2 billion in its rainy-day reserve plus hundreds of millions in various other reserve accounts. It also has a whopping $2.15 billion unreserved credit balance in the general fund.

If there is a budget deal, that balance will fall — and that will be fine. The budget passed by the legislature contained valuable construction projects and welcome pay raises for public employees. The point is that, failing some unforeseen disaster, North Carolina will have sufficient revenues to address the state’s immediate needs while continuing to accumulate reserves to shield taxpayers against the downside risk of a future recession.

Conservatives may see these figures and conclude some additional tax relief would be a good idea. Progressives may see these figures and conclude there would be no financial risk if North Carolina expanded Medicaid and other entitlement programs.

I agree with the former and disagree with the latter, no doubt shocking no one. However you think state policymakers should respond to the current moment, I think you should take seriously the idea that North Carolinians who reject apocalyptic rhetoric from both parties are being quite sensible. They can see things are good and getting better.

The gentleman’s guide on what not to give for Valentine’s Day

03 IMG 2091 What is the most frightening day on the calendar for men? Spoiler alert: It is also the day of the year that is most likely to be disappointing for women. Give up? It’s Valentine’s Day. In theory, it is a day filled with hearts and flowers, candy, love, romance and possible whoopee. In reality, unless handled with kid gloves, it can be a day that will live in infamy, filled with recriminations and accusations of insensitivity. A day that can end in sleeping on the couch for the unwary male after the dreaded words, “If you don’t know what you did, I am certainly not going to tell you.”

  Let us begin by examining the origins of this most Stephen King of holidays. Hop into Mr. Peabody’s way back machine and travel back to third-century Rome. At that time, Claudius II was the Emperor of Rome. Claudius was having a difficult time getting guys to join the Roman army. Based upon nothing in particular, Claudius concluded men weren’t signing up for the Legions because they were too attached to their families to go adventuring in the Army. Claudius’ solution was to ban guys from marrying. If they had no family ties, then the men would happily join the army. Easy peasy. Problem solved.
Valentine was a Catholic priest who didn’t think that banning marriage was a great idea. Valentine began performing marriage ceremonies in secret. This was well before people could run off to Dillon, South Carolina, to get hitched. Valentine was the only option to get married at the time. Demonstrating the adage that no good deed goes unpunished, word of the secret marriages got back to Claudius.
When Claudius found out what Valentine was doing, he hauled him off to jail. Unlike the Mayberry jail, Valentine was not free to go like Otis Campbell, so he stuck around for his punishment. Valentine became friends with the jailor’s daughter while he was waiting to be executed. On the day he was to be beheaded, Feb. 14, 270 AD, Valentine left a goodbye note in his cell for the jailor’s daughter and signed it “From your Valentine.” From this rather dark origin comes our present Valentine’s Day. Valentine was rewarded for his troubles by being canonized as a Saint. His skull can be admired in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Rome if you are so inclined. It is not coincidental that if a man messes up his Valentine’s Day gift for his lady love, he may also find his head chopped off.
In the interest of avoiding romantic discord, disappointment and figurative beheading, the rest of today’s column will explain to men what gifts not to consider for Valentine’s Day. As you have noticed, ever since New Year’s Day we have been bombarded by advertisements for Valentine’s gifts. Do not always trust advertisements. Put some thought into your present. Undoubtably the worst Valentine’s Day gift I have ever seen advertised is the ad that accompanies this column for pre-arranging her funeral. It is a triumph of attempting to turn a silk purse into a sow’s ear that even our old friend Don Draper from “Mad Men” would admire. “If You Had No Idea What To Get Her For Valentine’s Day ... Imagine How Overwhelming Arranging her Funeral Would Be.” Despite what the ad copy says, pre-arranging as a couple her funeral arrangements is not a good gift idea.

  Anything short of pre-arranging her funeral as a Valentine’s Day gift has to be better on a scale of one to a zillion. At least if you don’t call the funeral home, you will be better off than the moron in the ad who decided on the Deluxe Golden Slumber double casket for his lady love. However, there are certain other gifts that are ungood and should be avoided.

 As a public service to men everywhere, the following Valentine’s Day gifts will not get you where you want to go. Do not give her a one-way ticket to Wuhan, China. All household appliances such as vacuum cleaners, irons and lawn tools are verboten. Do not take her to a romantic dinner at Arby’s. A certificate for a free oil change at Jiffy Lube is out of the question. Never give a box of frozen Gorton’s fish sticks. Do not give her a broken flux capacitor with the thought she might enjoy trying to repair it.
A case of Mad Dog 20/20 wine will not be appreciated. No woman wants a year’s supply of Johnson’s Turtle Wax. Resist the temptation to take her for
a night on the town to see a revival of “Godfather 3.” She does not want a set of new floor mats for your truck.
  Beyond this set of guidelines on what not to give her, you are pretty much on your own. As our old friend Stephen King once almost said, “A lot of things happened on Valentine’s Day, and not all of them were good.”

Be afraid, be very afraid of Valentine’s Day. Or to paraphrase William Butler Yeats who once nearly wrote, “She has spread her dreams under your feet: Tread softly because you tread upon her dreams.”

Good luck. 

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