Friday, April 29, 2011

Tornado Stricken :: Warrior and Fultondale


On Wednesday morning, April 27, I got a call from my tenants that the house they rent from me had been damaged by straight-line winds that ripped through Warrior around 6am that morning. The winds are thought to have exceeded 90-100mph.

I arrived at the house a few minutes later to discover that nearly every tree on the block and been uprooted, and most had landed on a home. One was lying somewhat on my house and another on the detached garage, which received substantially more damage than the house.

As bad as this appeared to be, worse storms were yet to come.


The tornado that tracked for more than a hundred miles from Tuscaloosa through Hueytown, Pleasant Grove, Pratt City, and east Birmingham, also hit Fultondale. It struck about one mile from our home. I took the opportunity today to photograph the damage and the beginnings of cleanup efforts.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Estates of Historic Norwood

The pride of Birmingham in the 1920s and 30s, Norwood is home to the elegant architecture and neighborhood planning of that period. But as industry grew on either side of the housing district, in both Birmingham and North Birmingham, soot and haze dominated the skyline. And coupling this distasteful pollution with the fact that new neighborhoods were sprouting up on the other side of Red Mountain, Norwood began to see a decline.

In the 1960s and 70s, that decline became an outright White Flight, prevalent in so many urban centers around the country. As property values decreased, lower income families (predominantly represented by minorities) were able to purchase homesteads, despite rigorous efforts to keep them out. This led to a mass exodus of white families, to other, newer neighborhoods in the city, more remote from both black families and the industrial districts.

Time has not been kind to Norwood. Over the last forty years, most of the homes have fallen into a state of decay and disrepair, most of them irreparably so. Yet for some, improvement is on the horizon. In 2001, the Norwood Boulevard Historic District was placed on the National Registry. And in 2005, the Norwood Neighborhood Association contracted with Auburn University to develop a rehabilitation plan for Norwood's residences and small businesses.

Additional information about Norwood, and its past and future, can be found at Historic Norwood.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

On an Easter Morning

So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and said to them, "Whom do you seek?" They answered Him, "Jesus the Nazarene." He said to them, "I AM." And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them. So when He said to them, "I AM," they drew back and fell to the ground. John 18:4-6

'YAHWEH comes from the Hebrew verb "to be" and is the special name that God revealed to Moses at the burning bush. "And God said to Moses, 'I AM WHO I AM; and He said, thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, I AM has sent me to you... this is My eternal name, and this is how I am to be recalled for all generations'" (Exodus 3:14-15). Therefore, YAHWEH declares God's absolute being - the source of everything, without beginning and without end.

The LORD who revealed Himself as YAHWEH in the Old Testament is revealed as Yeshua (Jesus) in the New Testament. Jesus shares the same attributes as YAHWEH and clearly claims to be YAHWEH. In John 8:56-9, Jesus presents himself as the "I AM." When challenged by some Jewish leaders regarding His claim of seeing Abraham (who lived some 2000 years earlier), Jesus replied, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I AM." Those Jewish leaders understood that Jesus was claiming to be YAHWEH.' 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Homestead of Sorts

Canon T2i, Tokina AT-X 12-24mm f/4, ISO 1600

Canon T2i, Tokina AT-X 12-24mm f/4, ISO 1600

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Bastion of Birmingham

A couple of weeks ago, Constantine "Gus" Koutroulakis passed away. He was the longtime owner of Pete's Famous Hot Dogs, a 2nd Ave restaurant which has been open since the 1939s, when the business was first opened by Gus' uncle. Gus' death will likely result in the closing of Pete's Famous, as it is not believed that any of the family keep the 7-foot-wide establishment in operation.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

...While Eating Homegrown Tomatoes

Well, I'm not eating any homegrown tomatoes just yet, but I have certainly made steps in that direction.

"It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts 
while eating a homegrown tomato."
- Lewis Grizzard

After a little more than a month-and-a-half of tending to my compost, it was time to plant. Over the last couple weeks, I had begun to amend the plot of soil that I had set aside for the tomato garden, with compost. I broke up the soil, got rid of as many rocks as possible (though they seem to have multiplied like a Hydra since I started). But today was planting day.

On the advice of Anna's mother and grandfather, I got Better Boy tomatoes.

According to the University of Illinois, Better Boys are a main crop red tomato, that I can expect to yield 12 oz. fruit in about 72 days.

"A world without tomatoes is like a string quartet without violins." - Laurie Colwin

Monday, April 18, 2011

Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day, April 24

Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day is being observed on April 24 this year, but because this falls on Easter the folks at are also accepting submissions for photos that are taken on April 23 or May 1.

In honor of their efforts, I have attached the below photo, which is one of the more interesting pinhole photographs I have taken (but not for lack of trying).

Photo from a pinhole camera made from Quaker Oatmeal container.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Here's Your Sign

Sonoma, California :: Canon A-1, FD 50mm f/1.4, Fuji Neopan 400

Gardendale, Alabama :: Holga w/ Fisheye Lens, Fuji 100 Acros
Jamaica :: Canon EOS 3, EF 24-85mm, Fuji Provia F100

Birmingham, Alabama at the Vulcan :: Holga, Ilford XP2 Super

Blount County, Alabama at Horton Mill Bridge :: Canon EOS 5, EF 50mm f/1.8, Ilford XP2 Super

Gardendale, Alabama :: Mamiya M645, Sekor C 45mm f/2.8, Ilford Pan F Plus

Birmingham, Alabama at Morris Avenue :: Canon T2i, EF 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5

Fultondale, Alabama at Black Creek :: Canon EOS 5, EF 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5, Ilford FP4 Plus

Gardendale, Alabama at Shady Grove :: Canon EOS 3, EF 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5, Ilford XP2 Super

Friday, April 15, 2011

Dissecting a Minolta SRT MC-II

Recently, I was gifted a couple of Minolta cameras and a lens by Andy Lynn. The Minolta SRT 202 is in need of some affection in the way of cleaning it up (particularly its insides) but otherwise appears to be in good, functioning condition. The Minolta SRT MC-II is also in good condition, but there is a loose shim in the viewfinder that floats about and obstructs one's view of the subject. The Vivitar Series 1 28-105mm f/2.8-3.8 is a really nice lens but fails to focus at infinity.

So I have embarked on making these items fully functional again, relying heavily on the advice of the photography wizards at Follow this link to the thread in which I was given so much inestimably valuable advice and instruction.

MC-II preparing for surgery, those two screws are the first to be removed, along with another on the right side.
I decided first to tackle the MC-II. I began by removing screws that would allow me to remove the camera's top-plate. This required the removal of: three individual screws, the shutter speed dial, the shutter cocking lever, and the film rewind knob and baseplate. This last item is where I hit my first snag, and was the last obstruction to removing the top-plate.

Baseplate for film rewind knob, which has already been removed.

It was apparent that I needed to turn the baseplate via the notches next to the threaded post. But not having a spanning wrench, I had to do so by nimbly using to flathead screwdrivers to turn it lefty loosy. Once I was able to finagle the screwdrivers to work simultaneously the plate turned easily, and became easy to remove; then off came the top.

Various angles of the MC-II with top-plate removed.

What you should do next and what I did do are two different things. What you should do: Take the film rewind knob that you removed in order to take of the baseplate, and screw it back onto the post. I didn't do that, and as a result, that top brass disk that can be seen above (far right) fell off causing the metering strings to come unwound after losing tension. After more than an hour, I was able to restore them to what appears to be their prior positions, but I won't be able to make sure the camera meters correctly until I get a battery. This camera may be relegated to a meterless life from this point forward.

Next step: get into the pentaprism to remove the obstruction.

View from above the pentaprism
 This step is pretty simple. It only requires unscrewing the two screws in the bottom middle of the above from, then gently lifting the prism out. You have to be careful not to touch the glass, or it'll require even more cleaning because of oily little fingerprints. Once the prism was out of the way, I could immediately behold the object of my duress.

View of focusing screen after removing prism, obstruction on left.
So using a silk cloth, I gently slid the shim out and (not being able to find where it originally belonged) removed it entirely. Using my camel hair brush and a little compressed air from my lungs, I gave the focusing screen a little dusting. I then reassembled the MC-II and having no leftover bits, declared my quest a success. Feeling victorious, I undertook the same task with the SRT 202, and accomplished the task much more quickly, in less than a quarter of the time and repeating none of my initial mistakes.

This morning, I took the newly reassembled MC-II out for a little fresh air and to get its photo taken.

All that's left is to go get a battery, insert some film, and see if the meter reads accurately.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Doors :: North Birmingham

Canon T2i, EF 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 @ 37mm, ISO 100, 3 photo HDR bracketed at 1 2/3-stop increments

Monday, April 11, 2011

You Are Still Beautiful

Despite Homewood's refusal to endorse or sanction the message, it has been reminded again and with no subtlety...

YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL :: Canon T2i, EF 20mm f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/30s @ f/16
My February posting regarding the previous 'YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL' pieces can be found here.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Turkey Creek

Turkey Creek Falls :: Canon EOS 3, EF 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5, Fuji Superia 400
Since first learning of Turkey Creek last fall, I have been several times, with various friends. While I was working with the Black Warrior Riverkeeper in Fall 2010, I learned of a number of protected and endangered species (like the vermilion darter) who live only in these waters; it's kind of interesting to know they don't exist anywhere else in the world. 

Roots :: Canon EOS 3, EF 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5, Fuji Superia 200
 In October, members of the North Jefferson Kayak Club hosted a clean-up effort here at Turkey Creek, where a large red oak had fallen across the creek and was causing erosion of the banks and buildup of debris. Some video and photos from that outing can be found here.

The Turkey Creek Nature Preserve has done a lot of work to promote and preserve Turkey Creek as a local refuge, not only for critters but also for people. There's also some good paddling to be done here, but mostly there's only enough water right after a rain.

Turkey Creek Nature Preserve :: Canon EOS 3, EF 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5, Fuji Superia 400

And here's a little video of Tyler and me testing out a rope swing over the chilly waters today.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Today on Morris Avenue

Canon T2i, EF 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5

Canon T2i, EF 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Powell School

Prior to the fire of January 7, 2011, that will lead to the building's eventual demolition, the Powell School was the oldest surviving school in the Birmingham City Schools system. Construction was completed on the building in 1887, and school sessions were first held the following year. The Powell School facility was in operation until 2002, when it was permanently closed. Plans existed to convert the building into a research facility and historical archive, yet the January 2011 fire, which rendered the Powell School damaged beyond repair, has made those plans defunct. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

In Honor of Opening Day!

Because yesterday was Opening Day and I love Braves baseball, here's a photo I took in August 2009, when Anna and I went to see the Braves and Dodgers. I have high hopes this season that Atlanta will unseat the hated Phillies, in spite of their much-adored pitching staff. Play ball!

Old Mack Truck

On Old Mt. Olive Rd., just past the turn-in for Gardendale First Baptist Church, there lies an old Mack truck. It's been there for an indeterminable amount of time, rusting and being overtaken by Kudzu, just like everything else in the South that sits stationary for too long.

Canon EOS 3, EF 50mm f/1.8 II, Ilford FP4+
Canon EOS 3, EF 50mm f/1.8 II, Ilford FP4+
Canon EOS 3, EF 20mm f/2.8, Ilford FP4+
Canon EOS 3, EF 50mm f/1.8 II, Ilford FP4+
Panasonic LX3