Compared to major metropolitan areas like Chicago, Washington D.C., New York and Los Angeles, Charleston is quite small, but tourists find its downtown neighborhoods, city market and restaurants charming, the architecture striking and the peninsula's two waterside parks irresistible. And I'm one of those.
In May, I made my third visit to Charleston in 13 months. I've covered a lot of territory on the peninsula, and still, I didn't have any sense that what I was seeing in May was "old hat." The third visit was the first, too, in which my lodging accommodations were actually in the downtown area. In fact, unless you have thoughts of making a lot of visits to one of the half-dozen or so well-known plantations outside the city, staying downtown is all you need need when visiting Charleston because there is so much to see and do there.
And if you really want to get out and visit something beyond downtown Charleston (and there are very nice places like that), you could do like I did my first two times -- plan such trips for the day you leave. Just get up and check out of your lodging early so you have all day to drive around before heading home or to your next destination.
This post is devoted to the first three of four days we spent in Charleston. The opportunity to get out and explore was limited those days because of rain, in varying degrees, on each of those days. I'll do a second post on the best day of the lot, the fourth day, when we had the sunshine we remembered and enjoyed on the first visits.
The overcast skies actually gave me a new look at Charleston. It cast a different background on the sites I'd seen and photographed previously, so I didn't mind. In quite a few cases, I got a lot of purple in the my sky blues, for instance. I did without the polarizing lens on those days, too, but still managed to get nice detail of clouds, thanks in part to the Photomatix high-dynamic range software that I used in post-processing. The only thing I minded was dodging the raindrops while out and about, and having to dash back to the hotel trying to protect my gear in the race to get there.
You can see evidence of the considerable downpour in several pictures in this post, and in some cases, I'll point it out to you in the captions. A great example is the photo leading off the post, a reflection shot taken at a modest pier in Waterfront Park. You can tell from the dark skies that a downpour was imminent, and indeed, the skies opened up about 30 minutes later.
As always, click on any image to bring up a larger, sharper version. This is particularly useful if you access the blog using a mobile device. Click on the link in this sentence to view a full gallery of the images I made from my May visit to Charleston.
Photo geek stuff: I shot all of my photos with my Canon 6D and Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di PZD VC lens. I bracketed all compositions for three exposures to allow for melding in high-dynamic range (HDR) software in post-processing. Many of the images in this post were treated that way. Shots of the wildlife and squirrel are examples of single-frame shots I used in this post.
Above and below: New views of Waterfront Park on my return trip there, near the top of my list of favorite places in Charleston.
Above and below: Shots of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, scene of a terrible multi-victim homicide on June 17, 2015. Asphalt patch crews were working on Calhoun Street in front of the church when we arrived. In the hopes of getting unobstructed photos, we talked to the crew chief to inquire how long they'd be there in the likelihood it would not be very long. The chief was very understanding and said to give them 15 minutes. We walked down the street to Marion Square, and 20 minutes later, we strolled back and the crews were just heading out. They had to leave behind the one cone as a motorist caution, however.
Above: I've photographed the pier off Waterfront Park from the walkway side (right of this) previously, so I grabbed a couple shots from the other side, including this one.
Above and below: A bird wades through about an inch-deep puddle near the pier, while a squirrel tries to establish whether I'm friend or foe. Hey, I told him, I just wanted a picture ...
Above: In Marion Square while waiting out the asphalt patch crew, I composed this photo near the fountain. I put the water in focus, but I wasn't disappointed the people conversing at right came out relatively sharp.
Above: This is the house on East Bay Street where comedian and CBS talk show host Stephen Colbert spent a portion of his childhood. The home has a great view of the water, and is not far from White Point Gardens (aka Battery Park) at the southern tip of the peninsula. Moments after taking about a half-dozen shots of the house from different angles, the skies opened up, and we made a mad dash back to the hotel.
Above and next four below: On a later outing, I walked the neighborhood near downtown and came across some fascinating old-building exteriors. The flag outside the building in the photo below was the first notice I had of the renowned annual 17-day Spoleto Arts Festival that would start the day after we left Charleston. Rotten timing, on our part! I was so taken by the facade of the building in the third photo below, that I felt compelled to lean backward to get a different angle.
Above: One of the theater venues for the Spoleto festival.
Above: A couple streets in near-downtown neighborhoods have a cobblestone surface. This one, Church Street, I believe, is one of them.
Above: A commercial building along Broad Street.
Above: A geometric composition made easy by the novel pattern on the gate.
A closeup (above) of the roots of a distinctive tree shown in less detail below.
A fountain (above) in front of a private residence in a photo I took through an opening in an iron fence. A closed of the lions in the fountain is below.
Above: A shot from Rainbow Row.
Above: I was racing to my hotel because of rain when I stopped to take the photo of this building facing East Bay Street before returning to my sprint to avoid the rain.
Above: A bird seemingly unbothered by the rain. It camped out at another fountain, this one at the hotel.
Next up: Day 4 at Charleston
Previous posts in this East Coast swing series:
James Madison's Montpelier
George Washington's Mount Vernon
Barboursville Vineyards, Barboursville, Va.
Berkeley Plantation, Charles City, Va.
Virginia Capitol at Richmond, Va.
First Colonial settlement at Jamestown, Va.
Battlefield and modern-day town at Yorktown, Va.
Virginia Beach and Cape Henry, Va.