Friday, April 20, 2018

Spring blooms dress up the neighborhood

Since I began visiting Southern states and communities a few years ago, I've come to look forward to the spring blooms ... especially azaleas. In fact, in our first visit to Savannah, Ga., in March 2017, the wealth and prominence of azaleas there -- throughout the various neighborhood squares (parks) and at Bonaventure Cemetery -- bloom was what I most remember.

Azaleas populate the landscapes in North Carolina as well, and several azalea bushes are among the plantings we inherited when we bought our property here last July.

Because I made a point to swing through our neighborhood in January after a rare, heavy snowfall, I decided the other day to made a spring swing through Wynford Place and record the various colors in bloom.

Like on our property, azaleas and flowering dogwoods are popular in Wynford Place. You'll see a lot of those in the pictures with this post.

As always, to view a larger and sharper version of an image, click on the image. This is particularly helpful when accessing the blog while using a mobile device. To view a full gallery of images from this shoot, follow the link in this sentence.

Photo geek stuff: I took all photos with a Canon 6D and Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di VC PZD lens. All compositions were bracketed for three exposures for processing in Photomatix high-dynamic range (HDR) software. All of the pictures in this post are HDR images.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Pics from the office window -- Episode 2

In January, I did a post here about pictures I took through the window of my upstairs office at home. It wasn't anything exceptional, really. And I wasn't expecting there'd be reason to return to that concept or add to it very often.

But I've learned that things like that can change quickly, as has been the case since January. One change is that I've had three trees removed -- a dead one perilously close to the garage, and two that would impede the sun's access to the garage roof, where we are going to install solar panels in the next month or so.

On Easter weekend, we put up a swing set for the benefit of grandchildren when they visit, and just this week we had our roof replaced. The latter was fortuitous; the original tiles were on the house when we bought it last July. The house was built in 1993, and there was evidence of repair when we looked at it and had it inspected. So one of the things we tried to negotiate with the owners was to replace it before we bought it.

They wouldn't do that, but they did buy a 10-year roof warranty. Everything else about the house was dreamy, so ... we went along with it. In September, there was a hail storm, and this spring, we decided to check the roof more closely to see if there was sufficient hail damage that our insurance company would pay for a replacement. There was, and the insurer did pay for it. So we lucked out.

The photo leading off the post shows the new roof -- on the detached garage in the background (where the solar panels will go), and over our sun room in the foreground. Roofers were still here today, finishing their work, which is why  you see some tile pieces on the foreground portion.

That photo also shows a tip of the playground in the middle, and while the removed trees are actually in this view, you can't tell because it's too far away.

There will be a reason to do another post in this series once the solar panels are installed. At this time of year, we have prime sunshine on the garage roof from about 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. After that, other trees start dropping shade on it. We'll be watching it regularly to see if things get better in the summer ... and/or if we have to eliminate any more trees (which I really hate to do).

As always, to view a larger version of an image, simply click on the image. This is particularly helpful for visitors accessing the blog using a mobile device.

You can see stumps from two of the removed trees in the photo above. The smaller one on the left was the dead tree. The much larger one on the right was difficult to let go of because it was huge. But in addition to blocking sunlight from reaching the solar panels, it was even closer to the garage than the smaller one. So we feel we eliminated another possible damage risk down the road. You can see a section of the new swing set in the foreground. The photo below is the most I can see of the swing set from the office window right now. The third removed tree was behind and to the left of the swing set. The tree removers ground the stump to be a little below ground level so kids wouldn't have a stump to have to maneuver around when using the swing. In the bottom left corner of the photo below, you can see a little bit of the mulch left behind by the grinding of that tree stump. 

Above: Packages of roofing tiles in the driveway the morning that roofers began their work this week.

Above: I mentioned in a separate previous post that one of the joys of the new home is finding spring flowering trees in the yard. We encountered a magnolia tree (tulip tree) in February, and now we're enjoying four flowering dogwoods sprinkled in different places. This one is in a place that I can see from the office window. 

Above: Another spring ritual is conifers dropping their seed, and because we have a lot of pines in the vicinity, there is a ton of these all over the yards, walks and driveway. In addition to seed, the pines release tons of pine pollen, which is easily spotted because it is bright green. I'm allergic to pollen, so I'm back to taking allergy medicine after going years without having to do so in my latter years in Indianapolis.

Above: If you saw the first office window post, you remember this chair in the neighbor's yard. In January, there was snow on the ground, so this is a little different. In the right foreground are roof tiles from a shed in the neighbor's yard.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Wake Tech South campus is a visual gem

When I did my campus and "game day" project in Indiana a few years back, I looked forward to exploring the campuses that I visited. They took me to new places and parts of the state.

True, there was so much alike at every campus; each school had arenas, stadiums and other athletics facilities, a student center and a library, for instance. But each also had its own personality. That personality could be found in its choice of architecture, its landscaping or even how it exploited its proximity to a natural resource such as a lake or forest.

I visited and photographed the "big four" universities in North Carolina -- Wake Forest, UNC-Chapel Hill, NCSU and Duke -- all before I ever moved here. On Saturday, I drove a couple miles from home to the 138-acre South campus of Wake Technical Community College to take photographs.

The South campus is also referred to as the Wake Tech's main campus; it was the original location when the multi-site system opened in 1963. I'd passed Wake Tech more than a dozen times while driving down U.S. 401 on the campus' western perimeter since moving to North Carolina in July, always in intrigued what lay behind the natural buffer of streets.

After my visit Saturday, I can say that behind those trees is a striking, nicely landscaped (and very well maintained) campus with buildings -- certainly the administration, physical education and library structures -- that pleasantly convey an eye for distinguished architecture.

Old McCullers Road serves as the northern boundary of Wake Tech South, which is located in an unincorporated area between Raleigh and Fuquay-Varina. As you drive by on 401, you can see portions of the aqua-colored glass facade of Montague Hall (the administration building), set off by its bright orange brick accents, between the tall tree buffer. Montague is the building featured in the photo leading off the post.  Not far from Montague is the all-orange-brick physical education building.

There is a huge amount of parking available -- all on open lots. I can't remember seeing so much parking space available at a campus before. And Wake Tech did well to landscape access to the east parking lots with another mini-forest and a creek, over which students and visitors use a wooden foot bridge to reach campus and vice versa.

While doing my "game day" visits in Indiana, I stumbled upon some campus gems. It started with a February 2011 visit to Hanover College* to shoot a basketball game. When I saw how pretty Hanover College was (it overlooks the Ohio River) -- even in winter -- the light bulb went on upstairs to maybe check out other campuses in the state, although I first came back to Hanover that fall for a football game.

To view a larger version of any image in this post, simply click on the image. This is particularly helpful when viewing the blog using a mobile device. To see a full gallery of images from my shoot at Wake Tech Community College, follow the link in this sentence

Photo geek stuff: I shot all photos with a Canon 6D and Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di VC PZD lens equipped with a B+W polarizing filter. All compositions were bracketed for three exposures to enable me to process them through Photomatix high-dynamic range (HDR) software. Almost all of the pictures in the post are HDR images.

* The idea to pursue the campus visits as a project came to me when I was at Hanover in 2011, although I'd already made one visit to another campus (Franklin College) for a football game in 2009.

Two more views of Montague Hall, the one above taken from the side opposite that shown in the lead-off photo, and the one below taken through several of the many trees offering shade in a nicely landscaped relaxation area a few yards behind the location shown above. 

If Montague Hall is not the most distinguished building on campus, then the Physical Education facility is. Above and below are two views of the bright-orange brick structure. The second photo below has the building in the background of a path leading to the aforementioned relaxation area, which is shown from one angle in the third photo below. 

The Student Services Building (above) shown from one end of the structure. Below is a show of the building's dual access doors at the midpoint of the structure. And just beyond the Student Services Building is the campus bookstore (second below). 

The south side of Howell Library (above), which faces one of the many parking lots on campus. Between Howell and Building E (the building for computer and engineering classes) is the snaky concrete walk shown below in a picture taken sideways from the top-floor overlook of the library. The library, Building C (math and science), Pucher/LeMay Hall (computer labs and IT classrooms) and Holding Hall, the campus' first building, form a square with a clay based plaza shaded by trees and sprinkled with picnic tables and, at this time of year, flowering spring trees. You see samples of the plaza in the second and third photos below.

To access massive parking lots on the east side of campus, students and/or visitors cross over one of two wooden pedestrian bridges over a creek (first photo below) before arriving at the lot (second below).

More parking can be seen on the south end from this view from the top floor of Building C.

The side of Pucher/LeMay Hall facing the plaza (above) and the campus bus stop (below), on the west side of Holding Hall (second below).  

A natural area of trees (above and below), which use picnic tables to invite students and faculty to enjoy the scenery, separate the campus from busy U.S. 401 on the west side of campus. The road you see below is an access drive on the campus side of the buffer, which is to the right.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Finding leisure, ocean waters ... and things to photograph at Topsail Island, N.C.

Lee Ann's daughter recently rented a house right on the beach at Topsail Island, N.C., and invited us to join her clan there for a few days the week after Easter. All of us hoped to be able to experience classic beachside weather.

Alas, temperatures never got quite high enough to make that possible (it's been an unusual winter-to-spring season everywhere, it seems). But there were three days of mostly sunshine, and we all used that to gaze out onto the ocean from a beachside deck. It's extraordinarily relaxing. Even more relaxing, it seems (amazingly), when there are adult beverages involved. Who knew?

Topsail Island is a 26-mile-long barrier island off the coast of southern North Carolina and is a drive of a little over 2 hours from our home outside Raleigh. The commercial hub of Topsail is Surf City, which was a 3-mile drive from where our rental house was located. (I'm pretty sure this is NOT the Surf City USA that pop singers Jan and Dean sang about in the early 1960s, even though there were some pretty wicked waves along the shore several days we were there. But I digress ...).

I picked a couple of the nicer days there to explore and photograph the commercial center as well as to pursue the expected shoreline photos. I lucked out on the very first evening when I strolled the beach during the golden hours of sundown. One of the shots from that night is the photo leading off the post. The sunrise shots you see lower in the post were taken by Lee Ann using her iPhone X. It was the only morning we were there when there wasn't serious cloud cover at sunrise.

As usual, click on any image to view a larger, sharper version. This is particularly helpful when accessing the blog from a mobile device. To view a full gallery of images taken at Topsail Island, click on the link in this sentence.

Photo geek stuff: I shot most of the images while at Topsail Island with a Canon 6D and Tamrom 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di VC PZD lens equipped with a B+W polarizing filter. I used an iPhone X to take a few images. For each of the shots with the 6D, I bracketed for three exposures for processing in Photomatix high-dynamic range (HDR) software. Some of the shots in this post are HDR images; some are not.

In my recent beach trips, I've gotten into these long-range beach view shots, such as the one above and two below. They provide perspective, landscape, people ... and -- with those people being quite a distance from the lens -- a little bit of mystery. Below is a shadows composition; on the left, I give viewers a tiny slice of what is causing those geometric shapes and lines. 

Above: Another composition from my late-afternoon shoot on the first night. You can spot the fiery yellow and orange of the setting sun between the two houses in the middle, with the skies above it displaying the resplendent resultant colors.

I tried to do a couple sand closeup shots this time. One of them is shown above. While on a stroll non-planned photo shoot during the week, I came upon the elaborate sand castle and, to the right, moat you see in the photo below. This was taken with my iPhone.

Two views of the north end pier, the one above coming just as I hit the top of a stairs down to the beach, and the one below about 10 minutes later as I approached the pier on the beach.

Compositions from under the pier, the one above using the water and pier post lines as focal points. Below, I pulled back to make the undercarriage A-frame support beams the focal point. 

Above: The pier from the opposite side.

Above: I've learned that most places require a fee of some kind to walk on their piers or fish from them. That was case in Surf City. I really wasn't looking to get on the pier (although some day, I'll fork out the cash to get pictures from the perspective of the pier back to the shore). So to get this shot of the pier walk, I squeezed the lens as best as I could through an opening in the chain link fence blocking my access. 

Above: Gulls traveling over a house along the beach.

Three of Lee Ann's sunrise shots appear above and below. The one above was taken just as the top of the sphere peeked above the horizon (click on the image to pull up a larger version to appreciate the speck of bright yellow). The two below were taken within a minute or so apart as the top of the sun rose above a thin line of clouds.

I arose about 15 minutes after sunrise on the day we left, and this is what I first saw when I looked outside. We would catch a bit of rain on the return trip as we neared home.

In downtown Surf City, you'll find lots of souvenir shops (including the one above), a recreational furniture store (first below), a Sotheby's Real Estate office (second below) and an art gallery (third below), among other commercial enterprises. 

Normally I'm irritated when utility lines clutter a prospective photo subject. In the case of the modest commercial mall above, I saw a novel composition -- the lines along with the buildings, with a construction crane at the far left added as a second element. And if you're wondering about that construction crane, if you walk around to the left and view the site across the street from the IGA store (not pictured here), you see the scene below.

Back to the modest commercial mall ... the above is the main access (below all those utility wires, I mean). It's in the fourth building from the left in the photo with all the wires.

Above: I snickered when I saw this sign because I'd never heard of blood worms, so I had to look it up when I got home. They are a larvae found on the bottoms of pools and ponds ... and are used as fish food. There you learned something new, if you were unaware like me.