Friday, May 13, 2016

Historic Fort Sumter, Charleston, S.C.

This post is devoted to my trip last month to Fort Sumter in Charleston, S.C., which I took on a ferry during which information about the national monument is delivered by a crew member using a public address system. The whole tour lasts two hours, half of which is consumed by the ride to and from the fort (30 minutes each way).

At least one person on our boat on the trip back remarked that one hour on the fort grounds wasn't enough. Like me, she was equipped with a camera, so she had tried to take a lot of pictures while also absorbing the various exhibits, witnessing the solemn, daily ceremonial raising of Old Glory, and visiting the museum and gift shop.

I agreed with her on one thing; the hour at the fort, which is on an island in Charleston Harbor, went by fast. I didn't feel nearly as shortchanged as her, though, because the herding back to the boat after our time expired came just as I grabbed the last few photos that I had pursued.

I didn't make it to the gift shop or museum, either, but I didn't feel shortchanged about that. I felt the real value of the national monument was what was on display out in the open when we got there -- the brick and mortar walls in various conditions of repair and the various cannons positioned near many of the embrasures (holes used for cannons to fire through) that are now sealed shut. A detailed list of the armaments on hand in the fort on April 12, 1861, can be found at the fort's Wikipedia page.

If you're hoping for good perspective shots of the fort -- that is, photos encompassing a full exterior taken from the boat -- your luck hinges on the time of day you make the trip. Our ferry took off for the fort at 9:30 a.m. (the first of the day), and because the fort's position in the harbor was east of us, we had sun in our face (a backlight situation) almost the entire way. Only when the boat swung wide left (north) as it made its approach to the fort's dock, then turned west to complete the docking, did I have time to get a shot with favorable light on the structure. The photo leading off the post is what I saw when that happened.

Click on any image in this post to view a larger and sharper version (which is particularly useful when accessing this post from a mobile device). To see a full gallery of shots from my trip to Fort Sumter, visit my galleries at

Photo geek stuff: I bracketed exposures for all of my photos on the trip to Fort Sumter so that I could process them in Photomatix high-dynamic range (HDR) software afterward, although there are several photos below processed from single frames. I used a Canon 6D equipped with a Tamron 24-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di VC PZD lens and a Polarizing filter. Most of the three shots for each image were taken at ISO 160, boosting upward accordingly to adapt to darkening available light. I used an aperture of f/8 or f/9. The shutter became the variable camera setting to render my different exposures. 

Note: In the days ahead, I'll be filing posts on my trip to the city of Charleston, S.C., and to Boone Hall Plantation in suburban Mount Pleasant as well as post looking at some of the fine culinary offerings Lee Ann and I tried at various restaurants in Charleston. I'm not finished processing all of those photos yet, so you might not see any of them for a few days.

Above: We were back to a mostly easterly view when I took this shot during the ferry's approach to the fort. I decided to try and boost as much detail back into the image by working the shadows slider. If you click on the image to see a larger, sharper version, perhaps you can see folks at the very top of the fort ... and others filing into the fort entrance in the lower right.  

Above and below: Our boat was greeted at the forst by these winged creatures. 

Above: The fort's official welcoming. 

Above and next four below: These were taken during the solemn flag raising, for which staff recruited a couple dozen visitors to volunteer getting the large flag in proper position to hoist up the flagpole.

Above: Note the incredible variety of materials, shapes and sizes of masonry in this composite.  

A cannon positioned at one embrasure (above), and several on display on the fort's interior lawn (below).

Above: A visitor learning the history of this display gave me what I considered a great backlight composition. I considered using this for my lead-off photo.   

Above: Note the patchwork repair and deterioration. 

Above and next five below: Visitors found several opportunities to examine ... and reflect.

Above: A final look at the fort from our departing ferry, as the next tour boat arrives. 

I got a good dozen or more shots of the Charleston coast from the ferry. You can check out most of them in the full gallery at my Smugmug site. I chose to include two in this post, both from the return trip. The one above is the cable-stayed Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge connecting Charleston and the suburb of Mount Pleasant. This is pretty average shot; I've seen quite a few splendid shots elsewhere on the Internet. The photo below is a park alongside the Charleston docking points for the ferry, near Liberty Square.  

Above and below: The Fort Sumter ferry tour dock and its awaiting passengers. 

Above and next three below: Images from Liberty Square, where people can access the Fort Sumter tour ferry as well as the South Carolina Aquarium next door.

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