Thanks to our son Scott, Kathy & I were alerted to a somewhat rare aircraft viewing opportunity. An Antonov AR-124 cargo aircraft, currently the largest production aircraft in the skies, had come to Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) to deliver some aircraft parts. It was due to depart this afternoon at 3:40PM.
CLT has had an “Airport Overlook” for years, overlooking the center runway, providing views of the terminal and many of the arriving and departing aircraft. The airport is currently adding a fourth parallel runway, so the overlook has been temporarily relocated to a spot a little farther away. Not really a big deal, although I had to crop out a lot of foreground construction clutter, thus the 1:2 aspect ratio. Although it isn’t a bad aspect ratio for the subject matter anyway.
Other than the Air Force Reserve C-17s and the Lufthansa A-340s, and of course the occasional visit from Air Force One, this is about the largest plane we see in lil’ ole Charlotte. It was pretty impressive!
One evening a few weeks ago, Kathy & I were sitting at the kitchen table after dinner, likely finishing some wine before venturing off the do the dishes. The sun had recently set, and the sky was crystal clear. As we sat there, one of us (I’ll give Kathy the credit) said something about how interesting our neighbor’s tree looked against the sky. I sat there, looked at it and at some point said “I’m going to get my camera.”
It took me just a few minutes to drag out the camera and tripod, attach the L-bracket and set it up on the patio. There was no wind, so I didn’t have to worry about movement, and I made a couple dozen frames. They aren’t technically perfect – I could have used a little more depth of field – but they do have a bit of a zen-like look to them.
It’s another lesson in being willing to make a photograph when it presents itself, even if it is right outside our window.
Kathy & I fulfilled one of our goals yesterday – we rode the Amtrak “Piedmont” to Durham, North Carolina for lunch. It was our first-ever Amtrak trip, and while not exactly an epic journey, it was something we have wanted to do for a while.
We were impressed. Parking at the Charlotte station was free and convenient, the people were friendly and there is no arduous “security theatre” screening process. The train was on time, boarding was quick and orderly, and even though the seats were not reserved, everyone had a row to themselves (it helped that the Piedmont originates in Charlotte so the train was empty when we boarded). The seats were comfortable, comparable to first class airplane seats with plenty of leg (and butt) room. Bottled water and pretty decent coffee were available for free in the cafe car, and there were vending machines for those needing to buy a snack. The two rest rooms in our car were clean and roomy.
We arrived in Durham at 1:00 and had about 2 1/2 hours until the Piedmont returned from Raleigh to take us back to Charlotte. So we explored the downtown area a bit. Durham is known as the Bull City, and there were bull themes prevalent everywhere. We found a lunch spot that specializes in craft beer and burgers made from pasture-raised beef (the burgers, not the beer 😉 ), called, appropriately enough, Bull City Burger and Brewery. A good find for lunch!
As with most downtowns these days, there are not too many retail businesses, but lots of bars and restaurants. Many of the former tobacco warehouses have been or are being converted to residential buildings with street level commercial, which makes for an interesting vibe. I don’t know where all the people work, but Duke University is nearby, and Durham is the county seat, so those would be sources of employment.
It was kind of a dark and gloomy day in Durham, a little on the cool side. But it didn’t rain so that was a plus! Most of my photos are processed as black & white since there wasn’t much color to get excited about.
The return trip to Charlotte was uneventful. Since the train originated in Raleigh it was already pretty full when it got to us. We scored seats together, although they were facing backward. Not a problem but a little weird. We boarded at 3:30 and arrived back in Charlotte at 6:00, in time to be home for dinner. It was a long way to go and kind of an expensive lunch when including the cost of transportation. But it was a fun day! We’re glad we took the plunge and look forward to planning a longer trip in the near future. Perhaps to DC or NYC.
Kathy & I took advantage of today’s break in monsoon season with a 3-ish mile walk along the Torrence Creek Greenway in Huntersville. A portion of the trail runs along the edge of Cedarfield, our former neighborhood. In the years since we moved there have been some additional trails built. We know that portion quite well and I have taken hundreds of photographs of the area in all seasons. Today I had only my phone, but the photos will give a sufficient overview.
Water levels were high after last night’s rains, but other than some mud in low-lying places it was mostly dry. We spotted some early spring bluets and even a few dandelions along the trail, plus a pair of red-tailed hawks shadowed us on our walk back to the car.
There are a number of places to access the trail, but we parked along Bradford Hill Lane near the intersection with Gilead Road. It’s easy to find and about a 10-mile/20-minute drive from our neighborhood. The trail is all paved, mostly flat with lots of options for various routes and distances. The trails are well marked and numerous signboards with maps provide useful information.
I tried to add a link to the website for the Greenway, but both the Mecklenburg County and the Town of Huntersville pages have broken links. 🙁
Tom’s Trail Summary:
Length: From Bradford Hill Lane to Rosewood Meadow Lane is 1.6 miles, or 3.2 miles round trip. There are several options for shorter and longer loops, or out-back for a shorter distance is possible.
Surface: Paved with a few muddy spots after heavy rains. Good walking shoes are sufficient.
Comments: The trail is shared with cyclists and dog walkers. No motorized vehicles. Pleasant walking along the Torrence Creek with some road noise from Gilead Road and barking dogs from nearby neighborhoods. Will be pretty in the spring as trees and plants green up. I tried to find a link to a trail map but the county and town links were broken!
I mentioned in an earlier post how we had recently had our bathrooms and bedrooms repainted, and that I had been given the “assignment” of providing prints for the walls. I’ve been thinking for a few months about the proper theme and color palette for each room. I’m still cogitating on the bedroom and master bath, – actually waiting for a new chair and draperies to arrive – but I finally settled on a scheme for the hall bathroom.
I’ve always tried to stay away from using other photographer’s work in my bathrooms, not being sure how that would come across. 😉 I’ll admit to previously having a John Shaw print and a Les Saucier print in our master bath, but neither of those two gentlemen are ever likely to set foot in our house, let alone the bathroom.
In general, Kathy & I are going for images that capture our sense of travel, showing a sense of the places we have visited without being “literal.” When we decorated our sunroom with prints from a St. Martin artist, we wanted it to “feel” tropical without sea shells and palm trees. The colors and fabrics express that well. For our bathroom we wanted a splash of color – ideally Caribbean-inspired. I think we got there with these three selections. We’ll then get to hunt for accessories to go with what we have and these prints. Another reason to get back on the road again soon!
For now these are just files – my print lab starts their “sample sales” soon and I’m hoping to save a little $$$ by waiting a few weeks! 🙂
Earlier this week, Kathy & I were itching to go somewhere. It was a chilly day and we didn’t want another 3-mile hike so we headed north to Murray’s Mill Historic site.
Murray’s Mill Historic Site is an easy 30-minute drive from our house and is operated by the Historical Society of Catawba County. The website says that the mill is open most days, but it did not appear to be open on the day of our visit. There are a number of interesting outbuildings including a blacksmith shop. A small general store there had a sign that said it was open, but we didn’t go in.
We walked around the grounds, and while it was a chilly day, the fresh air and scenery was nice. There is a “literacy trail” with signboards along a walkway describing a children’s book “Dragons Love Tacos.” In warmer weather they have other activities going on. Something to do on a nice day.
I spotted this old relic during our walk a few days ago. It might make for an interesting photo study, except for the fact that it sits at the very end of the 1.5-mile trail!
I keep thinking that this would make a decent black & white image, but I haven’t come up with a version I’m happy with. When I take the color out the tones are all the same and the image looks like a flat, jumbled mess. I’ll keep working with it to see what I can do, but in the meantime I like the color version just fine!
Kathy & I were recently looking for someplace different to walk besides the sidewalk between our neighborhood and the main drag, and decided to explore the Mount Holly Trail at nearby Mountain Island Park. Walmart and Micky D’s are only so scenic!
The park is located next to the Mountain Island Hydroelectric plant at the south end of Mountain Island Lake, just outside the town of Mount Holly and only about 8 miles from our neighborhood. The park contains a large parking lot with fishing area, small playground and hiking/biking trails. We walked the 1.6-mile trail to the end and back, which made for a nice afternoon.
The trail is mostly an easy walk for anyone in reasonably good walking shape. There are a few hills, mostly on the far end from the parking area. A portion of the trail surface close to the parking area is pretty coarse gravel, which makes for rough walking for a bit. This area of the trail is close to the river, and I would guess it floods occasionally, thus the need for heavier base. We were there on a dry day without a lot of heavy preceding rain, and there were a few muddy places along the trail. Overall the trail is in very good shape, but I would suggest sturdy shoes. The woods should be very pretty as the trees and vegetation green up in the spring.
We were there on a Wednesday in January, so there was not much traffic, mostly couples and people with dogs. We saw a few mountain bikers on main trail as well as the adjacent mountain bike trails as it got later in the day, but not too bad.
We’re hoping to explore some more walking & hiking areas over the coming months, and I will report on them here for anyone who is interested. Or anyone who just wants to see the photos!
Tom’s Trail Summary:
Length: 1.6 miles to the end, or 3.2 miles round trip. There are several options for shorter loops, or out-back for a shorter distance is possible.
Terrain: Mostly flat with occasional hills
Surface: Mostly dirt with a few gravel places. Recommend sturdy shoes like hiking boots.
Comments: The trail is shared with mountain bikers and dog walkers. No motorized vehicles. Pleasant walking along the Catawba River. Should be pretty in the spring as trees and plants green up. I tried to find a link to a trail map but could only find a Google Map to the parking area!
I had to wait until this morning to have my first sunrise opportunity of the year. The weather the last few days has basically been crap, but the forecast for this morning held promise. Rather than set an alarm I told myself that if I woke up in time I would head out to see what I might find. Usually when I try that approach I either wake up too early or too late, but this morning I woke up at 5:50 which was just about perfect.
I arrived at the boat launch area right at 6:30 and was treated to some amber city-lit clouds low to the horizon and a clear sky with clouds above. Pretty sweet! No fog this time, but that was good for better reflections. I got a few shots of that then aimed my camera at the causeway to catch some light trails. There is a lot more traffic on a Monday morning than there was on the Sunday morning when I last visited!
The parking lot was completely deserted when I arrived, but the first boater showed about about 6:45. He was well organized and put in quickly, but it was too dark to get anything usable. The second boater arrived about 7:15, took his time futzing around with this gear and finally left the dock just as the sun was coming up. That made for some good light on the boat as it putted through the No Wake zone.
The bonus though was that, all of a sudden, I heard birds, lots of them. Then overhead came a huge cloud of some kind of small black birds, probably starlings, grackles or similar black birds – hundreds of them! And that cloud was followed by another, then another. I have no idea how many of them there were, but there were a bunch. Fortunately I had my camera set up for a wide angle shot of the water and sky, so I was able to catch a few frames with the birds, even though they were a bit blurry. They were moving fast!
So in addition to a pretty sunrise I got an impromptu air show! All in all it was a worthwhile visit and I got a few shots to start off the new year. The weather looks like might deteriorate again the next few days but I’ll keep a lookout for another opportunity!