Sunday, November 11, 2018

Charm, church, chimes ... and fall colors found at Chapel Hill's Southern Village

Autumn colors are really starting to show in North Carolina this week, and I thought to take along my camera on a drive to Chapel Hill on Thursday.

My destination was Southern Village, a planned residential and commercial development on the Southside of Chapel Hill, but I had a feeling that at some point I'd run into a situation where I could photograph something new (to me, anyway) adorned by fall yellows, oranges and reds.

Not only did I see trees in those colors at Southern Village, but I also came across a photogenic stone facade church with a distinct bell tower on one of the marketplace's quadrants.

Christ United Methodist Church is its name, and while I was into my second or third photo, a young lady who'd seen me taking photos came toward me and asked if I was doing a project for the church. I told her no and explained my interest in photography ... and churches as subjects ... but was particularly struck by the architecture of this one.

She then began to tell me how great of a church it was, how she'd been a member since (I forget the year now), that they do a lot of charitable work, etc. I think she was making a pitch to interest in joining.

I was mindful of the autumn colors in leaves near the church, so I tried a few angles to integrate them into my shots. The one I liked the most I present at the top of this post in the lead-off position.

After  photographing the church, I decided to capture the character of the commercial portion of Southern Village, which is laid out in an oval surrounding a landscaped amphitheater at one end and a parking lot at the other. One-way traffic flows around the oval, Market Street, with additional parking available along both sides of the pavement.

As usual, click on any photo to view a larger, sharper version. A complete gallery of my shoot at Southern Village can be found by following the link in this sentence.

Photo geek stuff: I shot everything with my Canon 6D and Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di VC PZD lens. I bracketed all my shots for three exposures to meld together later in Photomatix high-dynamic range (HDR) software during post-processing. I used the aperture priority shooting mode and tried to use ISO 160 under most circumstances, adjusting it upward in full shade conditions.

Above and next two below: Additional views of the church and its bell tower. I was around for the 2 p.m. ring, which plays the familiar Westminster chimes. 

The church's playground area (above) and separate building for offices (below). The latter is across the street from the church itself. 

Above: The steeple as seen adorned by fall colors from the far end of the Market Street oval.

Above: A slice of the west portion of the commercial district at Southern Village. 

Above: The Lumina Theater, an independent, locally owned cinema, anchors the north end of the oval.
Above: Al's Burger Shack gets rave reviews from what I've read about it. Southern Village is one of the local burger joint's two locations, the other being in downtown Chapel Hill.  

Two more slices of the commercial portion of Southern Village. Town Hall Grill and several medical offices anchor the northeast quadrant (above), while State Farm Insurance, Southern Village Pharmacy and Red Room Hot Yoga are among businesses operating out of the southeast quadrant (below). A piece of installment art sits outside near this area (second below). I didn't see any identification sign near it to tell me more. 

The Market Street oval is on a hill, so the upward angle view of the amphitheater exterior above is not a distortion. Below are stairs leading up to the amphitheater, and the second photo below shows the view of the seating area from the stage area looking north. 

Friday, October 26, 2018

Spur of the moment side trip in Ohio
conjures lots of fond, family memories

For many years in the 1990s, the period when I was helping to raise my four children in Indianapolis, I would treat them to a meal out of the house on Saturday nights. More often than not, we'd end up at a Bob Evans restaurant, which had a menu offering a lot choices.

The meal choices included popular items on the special kids' menu, which made eating out for the five of us pretty affordable on a weekly basis. The kids had their favorites (one of my daughters made it a point to frequently order two potato sides -- french fries and mashed potatoes -- with her entree). They probably remember that I ordered the fried (and, for a while, cajun seasoned) catfish dinner and side garden salad with Italian dressing (but no onions) more often than not.

All my kids are over 30 years of age now, but I still think about them -- the small, dependent versions -- every time I pass a Bob Evans.

In 2014, when Lee Ann and I started making trips from Indianapolis to North Carolina to visit her son and his family in the Raleigh suburb of Cary, we'd drive along U.S. 35 in Ohio, and I'd again think about the kids when we'd pass the exit for Rio Grande, where the Bob Evans Farm Restaurant Museum attraction is located. (Bob's first restaurant opened in 1946 in Gallipolis, which isn't far from Rio Grande). In all the many times we'd drive that route, I'd often thought about taking the Bob Evans Farm exit to check out the attraction, but we never did.

On Monday, we were eastbound on U.S. 35 in Ohio, returning to North Carolina from a short trip to a family wedding in Indianapolis, when we both realized we were hungry, and Bob's sounded like a good fit to address that. It had been a long while since either of us had been to a Bob's.

The restaurant on the Bob Evans Farm property isn't anything special. That's it in the picture leading off the post above. I don't recall seeing catfish on the menu when we were there, so I opted for the cornbread coated fried cod. It wasn't as good as I had hoped, and Lee Ann wasn't fond of the turkey dinner she ordered. So in that sense, the visit was a slight disappointment.

The farm itself -- which had hosted its annual festival the previous week (and remnants of the celebration were still evident) -- was interesting from what I could see. We hadn't planned to spend a lot of time checking it out (in fact, Lee Ann went to the car as soon as we finished our meal, so I scurried to take the landscape photos in this post).The farm has several buildings and a few markers and lots of acreage.

Above and below: The two sides of the same historical marker telling the Bob Evans story.

Above and next three below: The area where they hosted the farm festival the weekend of Oct. 12-14.

Above: As I  mentioned in the text above, I didn't spend a lot of time grabbing these pictures. I didn't learn the background or history of this home, but as the red sign on the far left indicates, the long green cart with red wheels in front of the home is offered as a place for people to stand for pictures that put the home in the background.

Above: An attempt at something artful in at least one of my pictures. I don't know ...  

Perspective and closeup shots (above and below) of a barn whose history is explained in the sign in front (second photo below).  

Above: The restaurant road sign promoting the farm festival is still up, even though the festival was the previous weekend.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Early voting was brisk at the site that
I visited this week in Wake County, N.C.

In most years in the recent past, midterm elections have been drawn paltry crowds to the polls. But the political climate in the United States today is so inflamed (and dire, one could argue) that voters have excellent cause to get to the polls this fall.

Early voting started in North Carolina on Oct. 17 (and it ends this Friday). Until this year, I had never taken advantage of early voting. I'd always gone to the polls on election day. But this year, I didn't want anything last-minute to get in the way of my ability to cast a vote, so I went to Wake Tech Community College on Monday to take care of that business.

Wake Tech is one of 10 early voting sites in Wake County, N.C., where I live. I knew before heading to the poll that early voting was up considerably nationwide, so I kind of expected I might run into a bit of a wait. But there was no line to speak of (I think there were one or two individuals in front of me when I arrived) when I arrived. But when I looked inside, there were as many as two dozen stations where early voters could work on their ballots, and at least 20 of them were occupied.

Not long after I exited the site, I turned back to look to see if there was a line forming yet -- and there was. Which is why I decided to pull out my phone camera and take the pictures you see in this post, leading off with the line I saw after I exited the voting area.

The bottom of the lead-off photo and the first two photos below show a service I did not realize was provided -- curbside voting for handicapped citizens unable to climb the stairs to the line you see above.

The grassy areas near the voting access area at the college were littered with political signs, as shown above and below. One of the most controversial items on the ballot in North Carolina this fall were six proposed constitutional amendments promoted by a Republican super majority in the two state legislative chambers (first photo below). Three of the amendments -- one protecting the right to hunt, fish "and harvest wildlife" in North Carolina, another implementing an undefined or unexplained increase in victims' rights, and another lowering the cap of annual state income tax increases to 7 percent (it is now 10 percent) -- were viewed as red meat items to draw more Republicans to the polls to support the three amendments the legislature really was interested in -- 1) creating a voter-ID requirement for in-person voting in North Carolina in future elections (a federal appeals court struck down a recent previous effort to enact a voter ID law, saying it targeted African-American voters, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Republicans' appeal of that decision), 2) shifting certain judicial appointments from the governor (who is now a Democrat) to the legislature, and 3) reducing the size of the nine-member election board to eight -- and shifting from the governor to the legislature the duty to appoint members to that board. 

Above: On the right in the photo above, you see the stairs to the upper level of the physical education building where voting occurs at the Wake Tech campus. On the left are tables where Republican and Democrat poll workers have literature available about their candidates on the ballots. This election is the first to have judicial candidates run as members of political parties. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

View from the office window:
Photographing elusive cardinal

For a couple months, I've seen a cardinal or two foraging for food or nest-making material on the roof of my sun room as I've looked out the windows while working in an upstairs office.

Of course, each time I saw a cardinal I immediately thought "pictures!" but this colorful bird can see me through the same window I saw him, and the moment he saw movement inside the office -- i.e., me dashing across the room to grab my camera -- he made himself scarce.

The more I saw the cardinal(s), the more I wanted to photograph them. So about two weeks ago, I decided to set up my camera with the appropriate long-range lens and keep it on my desktop at all times unless I was using it out on a shoot. Several days passed without any luck.

It finally paid off early the morning of Oct. 1 -- a few hours before I would leave the house to do the Lake Benson photo shoot (see previous post). The pictures in this post are the result.

Photo geek stuff: I had to make some quick adjustments on the camera's shutter speed and ISO to make things work on my Canon 6D and Tamron 28-300mm Di VC PZD lens set at the maximum focal range (300mm) and an ISO of 4000 (remember, it was very early morning, just a couple hours after dawn). So there is some noise in the images, and at 300mm, and because of that -- and because I had to shoot through a window, I had so-so luck with optimum sharpness.

Monday, October 8, 2018

It's a beautiful day ... at Lake Benson

About the headline ... any baby boomers out there remember the San Francisco band called It's a Beautiful Day? The band's signature tune, released in 1968, was "White Bird." No? (sigh)

When I made my visit to Lake Benson Park on Oct. 1, it was, as the headline conveys, a beautiful day. As mentioned in my previous post, Lake Benson Park is located about 6 miles due east of Lake Wheeler Park in Wake County, N.C. Each has walking trails, boating, fishing, playgrounds and picnicking facilities.

Lake Benson also has the Garner Veterans Memorial, a nicely landscaped collection of stone monuments to military veterans situated near the park's entrance on Buffaloe Road.

Unlike the Lake Wheeler shoot, which I did under heavy overcast skies, I had sunshine and some picturesque cloud patterns at Lake Benson on Oct. 1. Because of the sunshine and the fact that I'd be dealing with glare on the water, I the Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di VC PZD lens (on my Canon 6D camera) with a B+W polarizing filter. I'm sure it had much to do with the rich sky and water colors -- and the detail in the lake surface, including and especially with reflections. The photo leading off this post is a good example of that.

I had thought I'd be shooting most of my full-range lake shots from the main beach and lake access area close to the main pedestrian walk. But there were people sitting on benches there, and rather than disturb their relaxation and/or meditation, I decided to explore a dirt trail I saw heading northwest of the main beach access.

About a quarter- to a half-mile into the trail, I came upon a modest opening in the shoreline brush. The opening wasn't huge, but it was pretty easy to reach ... and plenty wide to enable me to get the lead-off photo. I took two versions of this scene. The first was taken with the lens set at 37 millimeters; for the second, I pulled back to the widest focal range -- 28 millimeters, which enabled me to incorporate more of the shoreline foliage (on the bottom).

As always, to view a larger, sharper image, click on the image. To see a full gallery of my shoot at Lake Benson, click on the link in this sentence.

Photo geek stuff: I took three exposures of every composition to meld later in high-dynamic range (HDR) Photomatix software during post-processing. I set the camera on aperture priority and adjusted my ISO levels in dark conditions to allow for optimum shutter speeds so as not to blur images.

Because of the limited open access to the lake from the trail I was on, I decided to explore the kinds of shots I could get integrating the interfering brush and foliage. Some of my results appear in the next six photos. I probably had more "misses" than "hits," but ... I present them anyway in the spirit of at least trying ...  

One of the park residents spotted me when I took the photo above. I was quite a distance -- at least 40 yards or so, with my lens at maximum focal range (300 millimeters). But that wasn't safe enough for this guy. Within a minute or two, he was in the water with a companion and swimming away from shore (below). 

Above: In this composition, I was interested in seeing how the shallow, rusty-colored soil bottom near the shoreline would appear juxtaposed with the regular depth lake water.  

Before I reached any of the openings where I could shoot decent lake pictures, I came across some photogenic scenes along the trail. Above, the reflection on a small pond near the trail. Below, a viceroy butterfly that had just dropped onto this foliage.

Above, an insect (spider) on the edge of the aluminum rim you see below the bird feeder in the photo below. The second photo below is a closeup of the barn-like structure in the background of the first photo below.  

A portion of the playground area (above) and a long-range view of one of the shelters in the park (below). 

Above and next two photos below are scenes from the Garner Veterans Memorial near the front of the park.