Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Revisiting Charleston and its charms

 When we were in Charleston, S.C., a year ago, a trip that would lead to our joining a vacation "club" (for lack of a better word), I was pretty certain we'd be back.

Lee Ann and I spent several days in Charleston last year but didn't get to see or do nearly everything we wanted to accomplish. Our time there this year was even shorter, and while we scratched one or two new things off our list, there is still more.

In the late afternoon, we did return to Waterfront Park, a wonderful amenity for the community. I was fortunate to a nearly full moon and a passenger plane flying over the city to use for composing pictures this time, too.

The photo of the park fountain leading off the post doesn't include the plane, but it does include several other nuggets -- the children on the left, the aforementioned moon, the Charleston Bay in the background, the cool color spectrum on the horizon and a sailboat on the water where the setting sun is still shining bright. And if you really indulge me the stretch I'm about to make, click on the picture to bring up a larger version (if you haven't already), then look closely behind the sailboat. That teeny structure is Fort Sumter. Hey, I warned you that it was a stretch, but it is there!

The fountain in the lead-off photo is actually one of two in the park. This one is more centrally located, although it's on the park's north end. The other fountain, at the far north end, greets pedestrians accessing the park at the junction of Queen and Conrad streets. It's also the one where children gravitate toward because there's no barriers to stop them from getting intentionally doused. The pavilion and pier you see in my photos can be found on the extended walkway from this second fountain, too.

We also made it back to Jestine's Kitchen, where we enjoyed the touted fried chicken last year. This time, I opted for the delicately fried catfish on special, and it was divine. Lee Ann returned to her friend chicken livers, and was very satisfied. We also ate at a place supposedly known for its barbecue and ribs, but I was not impressed.

As always, click on any picture to pull up a larger, sharper version, which is particularly important if you access the blog from a mobile device. To view a full gallery of my shots in Charleston, click on the link in this sentence.

Photo geek stuff: I shot everything you see here with a Canon 6D equipped with a Tamron 28-300 f/3.5-6.3 Di VZD VC lens and used a polarizing filter when I was outdoors until dusk, at which time I swapped out the polarizing filter with a UV filter. I bracketed all shots for three exposures, melding a good number of all three for each composition in post-processing using Photomatix high-dynamic range (HDR) software. In some situations where using HDR software was impractical, I composed a shot with single frames.

Above and below: Two examples of integrating the moon into the photograph. The one of the flag pole above also includes the airplane (the speck to the right of the pole just below center).  


Above: Another look at Waterfront Park, facing south, a view that shows the row of Palmetto trees along the east perimeter. The Palmetto is South Carolina's state tree and it appears in its state flag.

Above: The plane now heading north after circling over the city ... and the glowing sunset. That's the Queen-Concord street fountain ... and the pier and a portion of the pavilion.

Above: On the night we were there, this gentleman was performing by himself outside the pavilion.

Above and below: Shots taken almost at dark (I brightened them in Camera Raw to bring up detail). In the image below, you can better see Fort Sumter in the background.


Above: A view of the U.S. 17 bridge connecting Charleston with Mount Pleasant.

Above and below: Two more shots integrating the moon, the one above taken almost near dark, and the one below taken earlier. In the one below, don't miss the little boy peering through the fence in the bottom left corner. That's Fort Sumter (again) on the far right of the horizon.



 Above and next two below: Scenes fron the fountain at Queen and Concord streets. 



 Above: St. Philip's Church in the background, looking south on Church Street from the City Market.

 Above: Carriages carrying tourists stack up at this intersection near City Market. 

Above: Somebody left a coffee and a bag of treats unattended on a bench, no doubt mindful that I'm on the prowl to photograph unusual things. 

Above: A scene off East Bay Street downtown. Across the street is S.N.O.B. (Slightly North of Broad), a restaurant Lee Ann and I enjoyed during our visit last year.


Above: In Mount Pleasant, across the Cooper River from Charleston, this mural by Portuguese artist Odeith on the side of a Moe's Southwest Grill restaurant stirred controversy last year (and perhaps still) because of perceived zoning issues raised by municipal zoning authorities. The mural depicts images of John Lennon, Al Capone and Marilyn Monroe (supposedly these people were selected to help represent the areas of music (M), outlaws (O) and entertainment (E) [i.e., Moe] in our culture.

Next Up: Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

Monday, April 24, 2017

Savannah, Part V: Tybee Island

I'd not heard of Tybee Island until a year or two ago, when it was the target destination of a couple shopping for a home near the ocean on HGTV's "Beachfront Bargain Hunt." The show follows and records couples as they shop for homes to buy on or near beaches in their dream locales, and on this particular episode, a couple wanted to live on Tybee Island.

As we prepared to leave Savannah and head north to South Carolina, Lee Ann and I decided to stop at Tybee Island first to check it out for ourselves.

Although temperatures had cooled by about 15 degrees (they had been in the low to mid-70s in Savannah the previous three days), it was still sunny and mostly gorgeous when we arrived. We had heard almost all visitor parking on the island is metered, so we stopped first at the Tybee Island Light Station and Museum, hoping we could stray from there to explore the beach afterward.

The bad news the day we got there was that the lighthouse stairwell rail was undergoing repairs and cordoned off to visitors hoping to climb to the top to enjoy the vistas and panorama. The good news was that museum staff, hoping to curry favor (and perhaps spur merchandise sales), invited visitors to park in the lighthouse station lot while doing what we had hoped to do while we were there -- explore the rest of the island (or at least as much of it as we could). We also got free admission to Fort Screven across the street and access to the fort's Battery Garland museum.

It was from the top of the fort that I looked back and took the photo of the lighthouse and surrounding property that you see leading off the post. The elevated position also offers nice vistas of the ocean and beach.

As always, click on any picture to pull up a larger, sharper version, which is particularly important if you access the blog from a mobile device. To view a full gallery of my shots on Tybee Island, click on the link in this sentence.

Photo geek stuff: I shot everything you see here with a Canon 6D equipped with a Tamron 28-300 f/3.5-6.3 Di VZD VC lens using a polarizing filter when outdoors (I did without the filter when indoors for the Battery Garland museum shots). I bracketed all shots for three exposures, melding a good number of all three for each composition in post-processing using Photomatix high-dynamic range (HDR) software. In some situations where using HDR software was impractical, I composed a shot with single frames.

Above: This probably was my favorite photo from the day at Tybee Island. I wasn't sure if this dad and two kids were racing toward shore to scatter the seagulls or whether it was a stab at genuine family frolic with no ulterior motive (the skeptic in me leans toward the former explanation), but I happened to turn toward this scene at just the right moment.

The lighthouse in optimum lighting and color (above). Much later in the afternoon, I caught the shot below of the sun positioned behind the lamp. From the ground, it looked as if the lamp were turned on and not revolving. 


Above: Some people get a charge out of playing with gulls by tossing food in the air, and the hungry gulls play along. I saw this on a couple occasions at Tybee, and would see it again later in North Myrtle Beach, S.C. From a photographer's perspective, it presents an opportunity to capture a bird spectacle photo.

Above and next three below: These swings are scattered throughout the beach, and I made a point to collect evidence that people use them. The shot above includes the lighthouse in the composition, while the others were taken from the opposite direction.




Above: This photo was a close runnerup favorite photo of mine from Tybee Island. Bird and man in pursuit of different goals while strolling the shoreline, the gull feeding on a jellyfish stuck in the sand, the man simply indulging a joy of being near the water.

Above: I don't end up liking very many of the "gulls in flight" photos that I attempt when I'm at the beach, but I do keep trying. This is one of the rare ones that I have been happy with.  

When I saw this barrier of boulders, I spent about a half-hour trying to capture the perfect "wave crashing against rocks" shot, experimenting with different settings (mostly to vary the shutter speed). I humbly admit that "perfection," if it's possible, still eludes me. This simply was the best of the lot, and I use the term "best" quite loosely.

I think the bird above is an Anhinga, a species found in warmer climates and one that must air dry its wings after each water submersion because unlike most other waterfowl, it does not possess oil glands to waterproof its feathers. I would see more of these later on our trip in South Carolina. The bird below perched on this post not far from where Lee Ann and I dined at the North Beach Grill on Tybee Island.


Ever since our trip to Wrightsville and Atlantic beaches in North Carolina in Summer 2014, Lee Ann has me primed to look for and compose shots integrating tall, beachside grass blades. The photo above is was one such attempt at Tybee Island. Below is the pedestrian bridge from the parking lot to the north beach, near North Beach Grill, where we had lunch. It shows, in the background, one of the vessels that passed through while we were there. We did not see any sailboats, however.


Above: An attempt to illustrate the vastness of the beach and water.  

The lighthouse property contains several buildings, one of which is the lighthouse keeper's residence quarters (above). Admission to the attraction entitles visitors to tour the home, where the two shots below were taken. There are quite a few more of the keeper's house interior at the full gallery. I included the one of the old phone in this post because I hadn't seen one of those in a long time and figured many visitors here might be in the same boat.



The exterior of Fort Screven (above) and interior shots (next two below) of exhibits in the Battery Garland Museum.



From the top of Fort Screven, vistas such as the one above and two photos below can be enjoyed. The one above shows the metered parking lot and a portion of the North Beach Grill as well as the ocean. The second below features the wooden pedestrian access to the beach from the parking lot. 




Next up: Charleston revisited

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Savannah, Part IV: Bonaventure Cemetery

If there is one thing you'll see plenty of when you visit Savannah in late winter or early spring it's oak trees adorned with Spanish moss and azalea bushes in beautiful bloom.

On our third and last full day in Savannah in early March, we invested in an afternoon guided tour of Bonaventure Cemetery, which was generously sprinkled with -- you guessed it -- oak trees adorned with Spanish moss and bountiful azalea bushes. The cemetery is along a scenic bluff overlooking the Wilmington River on the eastern outskirts of town.

Bonaventure became well-known after being featured in the movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and in that vein, it no doubt sparks interest in the various "haunted Savannah" tours that are available to tourists (we didn't do any of those -- this time). Bonaventure is the final resting place for novelist and poet Conrad Aiken; Julia Backus Smith, dubbed Savannah's fastest woman runner; and Johnny Mercer, a multi-hit songwriter (Accentuate the Positive, One for My Baby, Moon River, The Days of Wine and Roses) as well as the founder of the Capitol Records label.

Also interred there is sculptor John Walz. Many examples of his craft can be found in grave markers throughout the cemetery. Before he died in 1922, Walz had carved scores of tomb monuments for those interred in Bonaventure Cemetery. One of the most notable of Walz's monuments can be found at the grave of Gracie Watson.

Gracie's parents ran the well-known Pulaski Hotel in Savannah, where young Gracie amused and charmed guests and local residents during her short life. Gracie contracted pneumonia in 1889, and after she died at the age of 6, her father, W.J. Watson, visited Walz and handed him a picture of Gracie. According to the tour guide, so overwhelmed with grief was Watson that he turned and left without saying a word.

Walz understood, however, and he proceeded to make the monument. Watson would say later, our guide told us, that Walz's sculpted likeness of his daughter was perfect. The monument has been at her grave ever since, and the only damage it has sustained through the many years is a slight nick on the girl's nose, apparently caused by the impact of a toy tossed at the marker by a visitor. Many visitors, in fact, stop at the grave every day and leave some form of remembrances -- pebbles, toys, etc. Today, the grave is protected by an iron fence with a locked gate.

Walz's grave marker in the cemetery is not anything close to the many elaborate works he created for others. So simple is it, in fact, that I failed to even notice it and photograph it while I was there. The one thing that distinguishes his market, however, is a representation of three sculptor tools carved into the top of the marker. You can see it at the Find a Grave website.

As always, click on any picture to pull up a larger, sharper version, which is particularly important if you access the blog from a mobile device. To view a full gallery of my shots in Bonaventure Cemetery, click on the link in this sentence.

Photo geek stuff: I shot everything you see here with a Canon 6D equipped with a Tamron 28-300 f/3.5-6.3 Di VZD VC lens equipped with a polarizing filter. I bracketed all shots for three exposures, melding a good number of all three for each composition in post-processing using Photomatix high-dynamic range (HDR) software. In some situations where using HDR software was impractical, I composed a shot with single frames.

Above is the full Mercer family plot, with Johnny's marker the second from the right, next to that of his wife (on the far right). Despite years of Mercer's rumored romantic attachment to actress Judy Garland, Mercer never left his wife, and they were buried together. A close up his marker appears in the first photo below. Nearby is a bench (second below) etched with his best-known songwriting credits. 




Above: This section of the cemetery is dedicated to military personnel.

Above is the full burial plot of beloved 6-year-old Gracie Watson, with a closeup (first below) of the girl's story in the marker just inside the gate. The grave was so heavily visited that cemetery officials at some point erected the iron gate to protect it from intentional or unintentional vandalism after a toy tossed at the marker by one visitor chipped the nose on Gracie's face (third below). People still bring her toys, which -- if small or pliable -- they can squeeze through the iron bars (second below). 




Not far from Johnny Mercer's plot is the one for Conrad Aiken and his parents. His parents died together in a homicide-suicide when Conrad was just a boy; their grave is the first photo below. Conrad's death info is etched into the slab on the bench (above and second below). In the upper left corner of the slab is the curious words "Cosmos Mariner, Destination Unknown" (third photo below). On one of his many visits to the cemetery and his parents' graves, Aiken would often sit on the bluff overlooking the Wilmington River watching shrimp boats come and go. One day, one of the ships that passed was named Cosmos Mariner. Curious about the name, Aiken looked up the ship in the shipping news, where the entry read simply "Destination Unknown." The story is relayed at this link.





 Above: A strikingly scenic fork in the cemetery road. 

Wymberley Jones DeRenne was a heavy collector of history books and historical documents who built libraries to house his collection, much of which contained duplicates. He and his family were buried in the plot shown below which contains shelving for a library that holds at least one copy of many of his collection. He made arrangements for workers to periodically check on the condition of his books in the tomb and to address any issues that would imperil the collection's quality.


One view of the Wilmington River (above) from the cemetery bluff, and a view of a bridge over the river from another point in the cemetery (below).


 Above: Another scenic vista featuring oaks and azaleas.

Next up: Tybee Island