Monday, September 10, 2018

Are Halloween decorations now considered a home improvement?

I started taking pictures of Halloween merchandise displays at Lowe's and Home Depot home improvement stores recently, maybe partly because it struck me as early for Halloween ... but maybe also partly because it was not something I would expect to find in those stores.

(A quick sidebar: Until about four years, I had been in a Lowe's, Home Depot or Menard's store a total of maybe five times in my whole life. Since then, I've been in them probably five times 30. It seems that now there is always some kind of home project going on that necessitates a trip to one of those.)

But after several visits to both stores in the past two weeks, I suppose I'll think to go there again in the future ... if I ever need something to dress up the yard at Halloween. In the interim, enjoy these findings I made at the two stores.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

The arts play a huge role in ongoing redevelopment of downtown Cary

Two years ago, while I headed to Raleigh to photograph the campus of North Carolina State University, I drove through downtown Cary. My phone's Maps application had routed me there, not knowing there was construction going on, which forced me off the designated route and made me figure out a way to get back on the main course.

But I noticed some rather recent development (perhaps it was "redevelopment") in the Cary downtown that prompted me to make a mental note to check back if I ever got the chance again. Of course, in April 2016, I wasn't even close to pulling up stakes in Indianapolis and moving to North Carolina; that would come a little over a year later. But I got the chance to revisit the downtown last Thursday.

What I got to take in at a gradual pace was a heavy focus on arts-oriented features and an impressive layout of shops, knick-knack mini-malls, and two impressive architectural anchors -- the arts center and Downtown Park. At the heart of it all are the impressive fountain in the Downtown Park (see photo leading off this post) and the arts center. According to the town's web page about the park and fountain, the fountain is lighted at night, something I didn't get to see or appreciate.

But I did see many of the park's other amenities, which include open green space (a modest meadow in front of a performance stage), benches, movable tables and chairs, a bocceball court, a foosball table and a couple tables equipped with chess and checkers to entertain gamers.

There also is a spattering of installation art throughout the grounds, which seems appropriate considering that the arts center -- the former local high school -- is across the street at the intersection of Academy Street and Dry Avenue, which emerges on a bend at the north terminus of Kildaire Farm Road.

Going north on Academy street from the park and arts center, there are two churches of photographic note on opposite sides of the street -- First Baptist Church (first image below) on the west side of the street and First United Methodist (second below) on the east.

A little northeast of Chatham Street, is one of Cary's two local craft brewers -- Bond Brothers Beer Company. When I concluded my shoot after a couple hours in the hot August sun, I made my first visit to this brewery and enjoyed a few 10-ounce samples of its cream ale (Cary Gold) and two IPAs (Short Stride and Local). I have done a separate post about my visit there at my craft brewery blog, North Carolina Craft Brews.

Further north along Academy Street, across the railroad tracks where the town has its passenger train depot, is the town chamber of commerce and, across the street, the expansive and beautifully landscaped town hall and community center complex. It is on these grounds that the town holds its annual Lazy Daze Arts and Crafts Festival on the last weekend of every August, an event I attended last year and did a post about here (see like earlier in this sentence).

Among the latest short-term art installation concepts the downtown area has adopted -- and I'm not kidding about this -- is dressing up the trunks of selected oak trees with white tutus.

I timed the visit to be late in the afternoon in order to exploit the dramatic natural lighting. As always, to view a larger, sharper version of an image in this post, simply click on the image. To view a full gallery of images from my shoot of downtown Cary, click on the link in this sentence.

Photo geek stuff: I used my Canon 6D and Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di VC PZD lens, which was equipped with a B+W polarizing filter. I made three frames of different exposures (1/3 stop increments) for each composition, melding those three into one during post-processing using Photomatix high-dynamic (HDR) software.

The town's current post office (above) along Academy street in front of which is a piece of installation art (below) that also serves as a bench. There is additional construction going on property adjacent to the downtown park, behind the bend of Kildaire Farm Road into Dry Avenue, where a new post office and parking garage will be built.

Above: Another piece of installation art, not far from the baptist church.

Another installation art (a perspective shot above and close shot below) at the corner of Academy and Chatham streets.

Above: Kitty-corner from the newspaper hawker statue, at Academy and Chatham, is the Fidelity Bank building.

Above and below: Sprinkled in several places along Academy street are 12 granite benches sculpted by Jack Mackie in the shape of musical instruments found in the Carolina Piedmont and Appalachian areas and etched with verse culled from the classics as well as North Carolina poets.

Downtown Park features a bocce ball court (above) and well-maintained floral and foliage planters (below).

Above and next three below: Some art installation and arts-oriented shots of things I came upon in Downtown Park. 

Above: This tree outside Cary Public Library is festooned with one of the 12 tutus bedecking oak trees throughout the downtown area as part of a short-term art project. 

Above: The exterior of the Cary Chamber of Commerce. 

The backside entrance to Town Hall (above) and a detail shot of an upper section of the entrance (below).

Above and next three below: Shots from the plaza areas behind Town Hall.

Cary Arts Center (above) -- a historic structure considering that it started years ago as a school in the Cary school system -- is an anchor of the downtown redevelopment, sitting at the junction of Academy Street and Dry Avenue. A stairwell leading up to the entrance presents a geometric photograph (below).

Above: Inside the arts center's theater.

Above and below: Inside remnants of the arts center's former use as a high school. 

Above: The local transit system's route banner intersperses a pleasant greeting among its display of the routes it is running. 

Above: One storefront along Chatham Street, just a couple doors from its intersection with Academy Street. 

Above: Next to the wine store, right at the Chatham-Academy intersection, is Ashworth Drugs, from which this detail shot was taken.

Above: An art installation in the Ashworth Village shopping center along Academy Street, south of Chatham Street.