Monday, August 21, 2017

Cary park has lake, many other amenities

On 310 acres of land in Cary, N.C., a town that is part of the Technology Triangle (which includes Raleigh and Durham), is a wonderful park with a lake, amphitheater, playgrounds, athletic fields, compost education center, and other amenities.

This is a catch-up post of sorts; the photos of Fred G. Bond Metro Park were taken early last October, and I'm only now getting around to processing them and assembling them for a blog post. For a full gallery of the shots I took at Fred Bond Metro Park for this post, visit my site at SmugMug.com.

Photo geek stuff: The photos you see here were taken over two days -- the afternoon of Oct. 2 and the morning of Oct. 3, 2017. In both shoots, I used my Canon 6D and Tamrom 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di VC PZD lens equipped with a B+W polarizing filter. I took three exposures of each composition for later possibly melding into one with Photomatix high-dynamic range (HDR) software, although not all the photos you see here are HDR renditions.










Above: The park is named for Fred Bond, who was Cary mayor from 1971-83 and had served on the town council for six years before that. He died at age 68 in 1997. Bond was particularly passionate about recreation, so the town named the park in his honor in 1981.  










Friday, August 18, 2017

Fog drifting through in the mountains ...

If you've ever driven in the Blue Ridge Mountains, just about anywhere near or along the Appalachian range, odds are that at some point you've come across the scene depicted above.

Patches of fog are not uncommon there, and I've seen them at least four times in the dozen or so trips I've made to the East Coast in the past three years. Not quite as rare as a solar eclipse, of course, but still unusual enough that you spend time appreciating it when you see it.

The most recent was June 13, in western Virginia and southern West Virginia, and I decided to see what I could record of it for as long as it hung around. The fact that I could use a dark, tree-laden background to bring out detail in the mist formations made it even more worth my while. That's what you see in these pictures; I used an iPhone 6s Plus and took these from the passenger seat of the car.

As I recall (it's been two months now), there was some rain at some point, though not a lot. Even though it was daylight, the skies were dark, so I tried to add some shadows detail in post-processing.




Thursday, August 17, 2017

2017 floral display one of the best ever
in Garfield Park's Sunken Garden

As compositions go, one near-constant subject of my photography since acquiring my first digital single-lens reflex camera in 2004 has been the annual floral displays in the Garfield Park Sunken Garden in Indianapolis. On the first Friday of this month, I captured the 2017 display, which I feel is one of most striking the garden has featured in quite a few years.

A couple months ago, when the garden staff was preparing the beds for the summer display, I asked what would be going in. I didn't recognize most of the flowers the staffer told me. Fortunately, I dropped the conservatory a note through its Facebook page on Monday, and they told me the following:

"There are many flowers in the gardens this year. The fuschia colored flowers are gomphrena, or vinca. The orange flowers could be zinnia, lantana or sunpatiens. The yellow flowers are rudbeckia (sunflowers/black-eyed susans) or zinnia. We do have one salmon-color impatiens out there as well as coleus, which is on the greener side."

The conservatory didn't mention the arrangements by the flagpoles at the south entrance, but the predominance of those are purple and yellow cone flowers.

One thing I know for sure is that this year's displays are very impressive, showy and cheerful. Which is why I chose to use an overview shot of the garden for my photo to lead off the post. I understand that some shooters might say there is a lot of wasted space in the foreground of the image, but I feel that to appreciate the garden, the floral display and its full character, which in my opinion includes the paved walkway, you need to see at least one photograph integrating that space.

On the left side of the image behind a lamppost, you'll notice a white trellis, which I've often seen in the garden in my many visits through the years. It is used for couples in weddings that are held on the grounds. And on this day, near the end of my shoot, a couple showed up in their wedding-day attire accompanied by a photographer. I presumed they were either taking the bridge and groom formal shots that day, or simply taking a few test shots so they knew what they'd be up against the next day.

Interestingly, a youth group -- I'd estimate about 18 teens -- appeared at almost the same time. They, too, got into a couple of my photos.

For a full gallery of images from this shoot, visit my site at SmugMug.com.

Photo geek stuff: I shot everything in this post with a Canon 6D equipped with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L lens and B+W polarizing filter. Exposures for every composition were bracketed into three -- one normal, one +2/3 and one -2/3. The three were melded into one in post-processing using Photomatix high-dynamic range (HDR) software.























Saturday, August 5, 2017

While on R&R, eat like nobody's watching
(or something to that defect ... )

We all love food, and we all love to eat. So when you're on R&R, aren't you allowed to throw out the rule book, throw caution to the wind, eat to your heart's content (or at least until your stomach starts to fight back)?

If you're like me and answered "yes" to all of the above, you can better understand why I spend so much time -- easily more than what I spend on my usual posts -- on my dining-on-vacation posts, which I save for the end of a series.

Our trip to the East Coast took us to quite a few places, but for this post on cuisine, we'll concentrate specifically on Gordonsville, Montpelier, Williamsburg, Virginia Beach and Alexandria, Va.; Charleston, S.C.; and Myrtle Beach, S.C.

As usual, click on any image to bring up a larger, sharper version. This is particularly useful if you access the blog using a mobile device.

Photo geek stuff: I shot most of the photos in this post with my iPhone 6s Plus, doing some minor editing in Photoshop Elements 15 in post-processing. A very few pictures were part of my regular shoots in the various communities when I used my Canon 6D and Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di PZD VC lens. The 6D pictures were bracketed for three exposures to allow for melding in high-dynamic range (HDR) software in post-processing, including the very few I used in this post.

Gordonsville, Va.

We had two meals of note in Gordonsville, outside of which was where Shenandoah Crossing resort was located (and where we stayed for four nights). It's about 30 miles northeast of Charlottesville in central Virginia.

On our first night there, we elected to stay at the resort and dine in the tavern. I had fish and chips (upper left), and Lee Ann went with the cheeseburger and tater tots. Mine was good, and Lee Ann liked her cheeseburger. We were willing to return the next night or night after, but the tavern was closed both days (even those those days were Tuesday and Wednesday).



So on Wednesday night, we heeded our concierge's recommendation and drove to the town of Gordonsville to try the barbecue at BBQ Exchange. That's a picture of the eatery's front facade leading off the post, and the photo above is a shot of an outdoor decoration.

My St. Louis-style baby back ribs (above left) were wonderful -- tender, easy to pull off the bone, and spiced just the way I like them. Lee Ann liked her pulled pork meal (above right).

Montpelier, Va.


We got to James Madison's home around the noon hour, so we stopped in the Exchange Cafe there to grab some lunch. Actually, I wasn't very hungry, so I got a simple ham or turkey croissant, which I didn't think was worth photographing. Lee Ann had a turkey, apple and cheese panini and salad, and liked both.

Alexandria, Va.




In this Washington D.C. suburb, we dined at Gadsby's Tavern, known for a favorite stopping place by many of our early presidents and, no doubt, others among our founding fathers.

I was in the mood for steak, so I had the filet mignon and grilled asparagus (right). Both were very good. Lee Ann was feeling more adventurous and opted for the "George Washington's Favorite" (left), which was grilled breast of duck prepared in an orange glaze, scalloped potatoes and corn pudding. The serving was more than she could handle, but she did like it.


Williamsburg, Va.


I was in a fried chicken mood by the time we reached Williamsburg, and in my ongoing to pursuit to seek out local restaurants serving the best friend chicken, we hunted around on Travel Advisor and other
review apps, and on every list, Corey's Country Kitchen turned up high on the lists.

So Corey's is where we went, and the recommendations were not without merit. I enjoyed my meal, and as best as I can recall, Lee Ann enjoyed hers, too. I went with the three-piece meal, with sides of coleslaw and mac and cheese.

Lee Ann, sticking to her habit when we go to soul food establishments, ordered fried chicken livers. She had sides of green beans, American fries and a cream corn casserole. She was thrilled with her meal and loved the fixin's. Included in this post are photos of the seating area (above and below) and a detail piece of one of the decorations in the eatery.


Virginia Beach, Va.


On the cold afternoon we spent in Virginia Beach, we -- incredibly -- chose to sit at a table outdoors at the Hilton Garden Inn Restaurant. But hey, it was overlooking the boardwalk (shrug). OK, still lame. After we munched on an appetizer of friend calamari (right), Lee Ann chose the baked bean and bacon chili (above, leading off this section) and crab cakes on lettuce (below). I resorted to a favorite fallback -- fish and chips. 



But before food came out, our server (who was wonderful, by the way) happened to mention that the eatery had a lot of local craft beers on tap, so I asked to sample a flight of six. I don't recall which ones I tried exactly, but I know I sampled an IPA or two, a lager (or two) and an amber ale, as well as a seasonal brew. The samplers were served in snifter glasses. as shown above. One of the lagers is on the left; one of the IPAs is on the right. I liked the IPAs and amber ale just fine. One of the lagers was OK, the other kind of weak and fruity, and the seasonal was definitely fruity -- too much so for my taste buds.

Yorktown, Va.



We arrived at the Water Street Grille in Yorktown at the end of a very long day. We had toured both Jamestown and Yorktown, something that would better be accomplished on separate visits. We were famished.

Lee Ann decided this was her night for steak, so that's what she chose, with grilled asparagus as her side. I went with a thick cheeseburger and green salad and chased it with a pint of a local craft IPA.


Charleston, S.C.


Above: While dining at Jestine's, we could keep an eye on the downpour ... and pace ourselves accordingly. We supposed that these bikes were owned by a couple elsewhere in Jestine's. 

When we reached Charleston, we knew we had to revisit two places that we enjoyed on our previous visits -- Slightly North of Broad (SNOB) and Jestine's Kitchen.

The latter, you might remember from previous posts, is another of those local southern cooking places, and we really enjoyed our previous dining experiences there.
You shouldn't be surprised to learn I returned to fried chicken at Jestine's Kitchen (I had chicken the first visit in April 2016, then had catfish when we were there in March).

I ordered the three-piece chicken, with red rice and green beans as my sides. And if you're paying attention, by now you should be able to predict that when it comes to southern cooking, Lee Ann almost always will pick the fried chicken livers, as she did again when we were there in May. This time, she took lima and grean beans for her sides. We also started out with a cucumber salad appetizer.

Ours meal were wonderful again. We arrived at Jestine's in the nick of time to avoid getting caught in one of the handful of downpours we experienced in Charleston over the course of four days. Our timing was almost perfect; the rain let up just as we left the eatery (although we did linger longer than usual by trying two of the dessert offerings -- banana cream pie (left) and a chocolate brownie.


When we stopped at Slighty North of Broad in April 2016 (pictured above), we were there for dinner.

This time, we tried the lunch menu. I selected a Reuben sandwich, and Lee Ann picked a plate of shrimp and grits, which looked more like a very involved soup. My sandwich was thick and filling -- and good. Lee Ann enjoyed her meal as well.

Two new places we tried in Charleston were Poogans Smokehouse and Blossom Charleston.



The last time we tried barbecue in Charleston (in March at Cumberland Smokehouse), we both were disappointed, but I won't bog down this post with a recap of the disappointment. This time, we went to Poogans Smokehouse on East Bay Street.

It was so much better. I thought my ribs were great; Lee Ann tried a meat combo plate of ribs and pulled pork and said her meal was better than at Cumberland Smokehouse.

We also indulged in one of the eatery's mixed cocktail punch pitchers (Peach Fizz), a mix of peach whiskey, white wine, tarragon honey syrup and soda (pictured at right). We both felt it was not as scrumptious as we were hoping, but at $25 a pitcher, we felt obligated to not let any of it go to waste. And it didn't.


For fine dining, we chose Blossom (exterior above), which we recalled seeing in March but did not get a chance to check out. It, too, is on East Bay Street, and it appears to be a sister operator to nearby Magnolia's, where we lunched during our visit in 2016.

I was still in a chicken groove, so I tried the fried chicken, whipped potatoes and gravy, field peas (I knew better, but this time, I had no choice) and coleslaw. That plate is pictured at left. I loved everything except the "field" peas. Lee Ann chose the grilled sea scallops and shrimp (above right) with creamy grits, mushrooms, spinach and lobster butter, and found it tasty and to her liking.

Myrtle Beach, S.C.


At our last stop in Myrtle Beach, I was again in a mood to seek out good fried chicken. We again scoured the online reviews of community eateries specializing in fried chicken, and Big Mike's Soul Food repeatedly turned up high on the list of recommendations.

I'm happy to report again that we were not disappointed. I went with the three-piece mixed and sides of coleslaw, mac 'n' cheese and field peas (aka black-eyed peas). I'm not sure why I chose the peas because I'm not a huge black-eye peas fan, but I must have been in an adventurous mood. The chicken was scrumptious, as was the cornbread, which came with the meal. Lee Ann chose her soul food staple of friend chicken livers (very much enjoyed them), with green beans and mashed potato sides.


End of a series

Previous posts in this East Coast swing series:

James Madison's Montpelier

George Washington's Mount Vernon

Barboursville Vineyards, Barboursville, Va.

Alexandria, 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.

Days 1, 2 and 3 in Charleston, S.C.

Day 4 in Charleston, S.C.

College of Charleston

Myrtle Beach, S.C.