Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Shades Creek Mill Wheel

Back in the summer I posted this photo, in conjunction with some others, depicting the Old Mill at Shades Creek in Mountain Brook. But since then I have learned some more about the mill's wheel that I thought to be worth sharing.

Minolta SRT 202, Vivitar MC 135mm f/2.8, Kodak Gold 200
Though the main structure stands largely as it was constructed in 1926, the wheel had fallen into disrepair and rot by the turn of the millennium. Mike Franklin and John Parker were commissioned to build a new wheel that would restore this Mountain Brook icon to a stately condition. This required them to remove the old will by crane. Then using the old wheel as a template and salvaging as much of the old frame as possible, they constructed the current functioning wheel, which works by pump. Upon finishing the new wheel, family and others watched as the new wheel was installed in the 2002 or  2003.

And if Shades Creek is of particular interest to you, another recent post regarding that little watershed can be found here.

Technorati Tags: alabama, mountain brook, old mill, shades creek

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Moss Rock Preserve in Hoover, Alabama

Somehow, I have managed to live in the Birmingham area for 8+ years without knowing of the existence of Moss Rock Preserve in Hoover. Well, now that I know, I expect I'll probably be a semi-regular visitor. With several miles of trails and a variety of scenery, Moss Rock Preserve is a pretty nice way to spend a day outdoors. It has the makings of allowing your hike or bouldering to be easy or difficult as you'd like.

Panorama of Boulder Field at Moss Rock Preserve in Hoover, Alabama
Knowing almost nothing about the place, a couple of friends and I went to Friday to visit the preserve. I don't think we really had any particular expectations, and were thus pretty pleased with what we found there.

Ornaments Dangling over Hurricane Creek, Moss Rock Preserve
High Falls at Moss Rock Preserve
The below video is really just us enjoying ourselves. If you're looking for some footage that's just going to knock your socks off, this isn't it; but we did have a good time with our silly foolishness.

All photos shot with Panasonic LX3 and video on GoPro Hero2

Technorati Tags: alabama, birmingham, gopro hero2, moss rock, moss rock preserve, panasonic lx3

Monday, February 27, 2012

Russell Forest Run in Alexander City

This weekend I participated in the Russell Forest Run in Alexander City, Alabama, at the Russell Lands on Lake Martin. There were two races hosted, a 5K and a 10K; I ran the latter. The morning promised to be cold, but about the time the cannon fired (a literal cannon) to kick off the race, the sun had risen high enough to start warming things up a bit.

The literature regarding the race described the course as "challenging," but I just assumed that's because it was a trail run rather than a road course. I was incorrect. The hills on the course were almost unbearable. Rolling hills. Long steady inclines. Creeping inclines that sneak up on you until your quads start screaming. It seemed like on this largely out-and-back course, we were running uphill both ways, in some sort of geographical anomaly.

Best thing I saw all day - Finish
I was particularly excited about this race for several reasons: 1) it was my first race back since my foot injury in November that sidelined me after the Huntsville Half Marathon; 2) it was my first race of this distance - a 10K; and 3) I had my GoPro Hero2 strapped to my head ready to do an awesome time lapse video of the race (this contraption drew more than a few unabashed, gawking stares). The footage started off nicely, but something happened immediately after the starter cannon fired, and the GoPro quit recording. I has very disheartened at the end of the race when I discovered this.

Nevertheless, the first sixteen seconds of video and a few photos from the race can be found in the video below.

My finishing time of 56:53 was significantly slower than the pace I had set out for, but I was happy enough considering how unprepared I was for those hellacious hills.

Technorati Tags: alabama, 10k, alexander city, gopro hero2, lake martin, photos, russell forest run

Friday, February 24, 2012

Needtobreathe at the Alabama Theatre in Birmingham

"We're Needtobreathe, and we're a rock-and-roll band from Possum Kingdom, South Carolina."

My friends and I have been following Needtobreathe for about six years now, and make a point to go see them every time they're in Birmingham or Tuscaloosa, which fortunately for us, has been pretty regularly. The first couple of times we saw them at Workplay in Birmingham, and there were a couple hundred people; we stood right at the stage; and my wife got a set list from one of the shows. But since then a whole lot more folks have discovered what we have known, Needtobreathe is incredible. Their soulful, Southern rock-a-billy sound, which often includes harmonicas and banjos is creative and unique. And their shows are even better than their albums, of which their most recent is 'The Reckoning,' so do yourself a favor and treat yourself to it; but don't stop there, go ahead and buy the other albums as well; you were going to eventually, now you'll just be saving yourself the trouble. And I don't mind saying that Monday night's President's Day show was easily their best yet.

The two photos here are a bit of a departure from my normal efforts; I allowed myself a little more creative license than normal. Rather than attempting to render the show as it actually was, I wanted to present photos that suggested the excitement and joy of the concert. The top photograph above is actually a collage of about a dozen different photographs, taken during different points in the show when various lighting was being employed.

Technorati Tags: alabama, alabama theatre, birmingham, iphone 4, needtobreathe,

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Red Mountain Park, Hoist House at Redding Shaft Mine

A chain-link fence that now surrounds the structure precludes a photo exhibiting the exterior of the Hoist House at the Redding Shaft Mine in its lovely Spanish-style architecture. But a fellow Birmingham photographer has previously taken a photograph that is better than anything I could have taken on this day anyway; you can find it here. Below is what I was able to take from its interior.

Red Mountain Park :: Hoist House at Redding Shaft Mine
Previous posts feature the natural and industrial elements that make up Red Mountain Park.
Technorati Tags: alabama, birmingham, red mountain, red mountain park

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Red Mountain Park, Industrially

In its blend of the natural and industrial, Red Mountain Park is a  perfect microcosm of Birmingham. Mining has a significant place in both Birmingham's past and present. And its natural beauty is an integral part of our present and future.

Remains above Mine No. 13
The remnants of past mining operations are interspersed throughout the park, though some are not available to the public because of safety concerns; but there's enough available that it should satiate most folk's curiosity. There are at least three mine portals that will be available to the public. The closest one to the main gate is Mine No. 13, but even it is a good hike.

Adjacent to the Portal to Mine No. 13
And because the railbed of the Birmingham Mineral Railroad serves as one of the main trails across the park, there are left-behind foundations of buildings that served the railway as well.

Building Foundation near Railbed of Birmingham Mineral Railroad
Below are other reminders of Red Mountain's history in heavy industry, that is evidenced within the confines of Red Mountain Park.

Yesterday featured the more natural elements of Red Mountain Park :: Red Mountain Park, Naturally.
Tomorrow will exhibit one particular element of Red Mountain Park :: Hoist House at Redding Shaft Mine.

Technorati Tags: alabama, birmingham, red mountain, red mountain park

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Red Mountain Park, Naturally

Lilting voices of songbirds, scampering feet across the dry forest floor, suddenly flushing wings - the well groomed trails of Red Mountain Park in Birmingham are replete with wildlife, though perhaps only the quiet and fastidious will see it.

Panorama of the Eureka Mines Trail leading to Ishkooda #13 Mine
The main entrance to the park leads to several trailheads, from which you can choose from a variety of trails that range from narrow, winding and climbing to broad, converted railbeds. While signs are in the process of being installed, those that are in place are very informative and helpful; in fact, I was able to navigate several miles of trail relying largely on the extant signage and my sense of direction. The trails that are open or close to it appear very natural but are easily found and navigated; eventually, trails will cover the more than 1000 acres that comprise Red Mountain Park.

Once on the trails and enveloped by forest, it's easy to forget that not ten minutes ago, you were on I-65 in the middle of Birmingham. Red Mountain Park is a utopia in the midst of mayhem. You might think I'm overstating it, but only because you haven't bee out here. The sounds of traffic disappear the further in you get, and if not for the occasional plane flying over, you'd forget that you're still surrounded on all sides by a major metropolitan area. And if you do manage to get lost or even injured, don't fret; there is cell phone reception throughout the park. Because, remember, you're still in the middle of Birmingham...I thought you might have forgotten.

And for those who are interested in adding some fun and adventure to their visit to Red Mountain Park, there's something for you too. A zip-line and ropes course is in the midst of being constructed. Platforms are up in the trees allowing for patrons to catch an elevated view of the forest and appreciate their woodsy isolation from a higher vantage point.

Red Mountain Park will be a splendid place for hikers to seek seclusion or families to find an enjoyable day together. It is neither so far away as to require a whole day nor too much planning. But be sure to pack a snack or two and some water, because once you're here, you'll likely choose to stay longer than you had intended.

Up next, we will be exploring some of the industrial remnants the park has to offer, here.

Small pond lively with Birdlife near Redding Mine 

Technorati Tags: alabama, birmingham, red mountain, red mountain park

Monday, February 20, 2012

Young Entrepreneurs Open Birmingham Bike Shop, Riders Choice

A new business is opening in North Birmingham, just south of Fultondale on Decatur Highway. And in this instance, youth is being served. The ownership partners of Rider's Choice are young, entrepreneurial small-business owners, who have long desired to own their own powersports shop. Rider's Choice, which plans to open next week, will operate as a service/repair center, retail outlet, and eventually, a dealer for used bikes. 

Dustin Alexander working on a Motorcycle
Dustin  Alexander has been riding and working on bikes since he was fourteen, and for several years has worked in various shops around Birmingham. In October 2008, Dustin was in a tragic motorcycle accident on Highway 31 that cost him most of his right leg, yet this setback did not deter him from riding, nor his dreams of owning his own shop. In order to keep riding, Dustin has modified his motorcycle such that the lever for the rear break (which would normally be accessible by the right foot) is now a hand control adjacent to the clutch lever. He is seeking to modify the landing gear from a Honda Gold Wing to fit his own bike, a Suzuki GSX-R750, so that he might again be able to comfortably handle a passenger and ride with his fiance.

Co-owner Noe Valladares will handle the managerial and retails business affairs. Himself the son of a local entrepreneur, Noe looks to leave his own indelible footprint with Rider's Choice. While he is working on a degree at Jeff State to extend his formal education, Noe is certainly getting a jump on his classmates by simultaneously garnering real-world experience with a start-up small business.

Noe Valladares in front of Rider's Choice on Decatur Hwy
In addition to visiting Rider's Choice at their physical address on Decatur Highway, you can find them on their website, Facebook, or Twitter.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Valentine's Day Flowers...Doing My Part

I have no idea how much money is spent annually on flowers for Valentine's Day, but I don't think it's a stretch it say it's well north of a billion dollars. Here's how I figure that: There are 300 million-ish people in the US; maybe 100 million or so are adult males; at least 50% of those buy flowers, at an average price of $20/bundle; and that gets you to $1 billion. And I think I was being conservative on some of those numbers.

Regardless, I try to do my part to support the flower industry every year. Last year was Tulips, this year Chrysanthemums.

Canon Rebel T2i, Tokina AT-X 35mm f/2.8 Macro
Canon Rebel T2i, Tokina AT-X 35mm f/2.8 Macro

Thursday, February 16, 2012

If You Haven't Had Butternut Squash...

If you haven't had Butternut Squash, then you owe yourself an apology for depriving yourself of a treat. Inspired by some fellows I know that cook quite a bit, and with our recent success with spaghetti squash, I decided to branch out and get a butternut squash to prepare for Valentine's Day dinner. Having decided that, I found a recipe (here) that seemed within my grasp, though the proposed 10-minute prep time must be for somebody who knows how to handle one of these monster gourds; I went well beyond that in my prep. After cubing the squash, and applying the following ingredients (minced garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil, and parsley), I popped it in the oven at 400 degrees for 55 minutes, and thereafter had a wonderful dish that will certainly find its way onto our plates again.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Birmingham Ceramics

It doesn't appear that any kilns have been fired here lately, nor mugs glazed. I have driven past this building almost every day for years and finally, today, decided to stop to grab a couple of photos. And with my track record, this building will likely be bulldozed within the next week. Allow me to explain; no fewer than five abandoned buildings in Jefferson County have been removed from the face of earth within a month of my having photographed it. I'm about to start taking out ads to that effect. Nevertheless, here's today's offering.

North Birmingham, Alabama :: Canon Rebel T2i, EF 50mm f/1.8

North Birmingham, Alabama :: Canon Rebel T2i, EF 50mm f/1.8

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Stonework Bridge over Shades Creek

Although I haven't frequented it with enough regularity and only only photographed it twice, Shades Creek has become a favorite place of mine in Birmingham. It's a refuge amongst everything else. On Saturday, I spent some time shooting an old stone bridge that crosses the creek in Mountain Brook. I wish these photos accurately depicted how cold and blustery it was that day.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Magic City Marquee, Welcoming New Readership

I would like to take a moment to welcome a new sect of readership. This blog has been picked up by, and you can find it here: Magic City Marquee. I chose that name because of the Birmingham-centric nature of this blog, through which I hope to bring to light the nuances and underappreciated aspects of this city. Additionally, I get out and explore Alabama as much as possible, sharing it here, and generally hoping to entertain as much through misadventure as with executing planned excursions.

So in an attempt to acclimatize any new readers as to what to expect here, I have linked some past blog posts as a sampling:
I hope you will enjoy the offerings here and choose to make it a part of your regular perusal on the interwebs. Please feel free to leave comments and contact me with any questions.

Pecans :: Morris, Alabama

Re-Opening the Garage

In August I was introduced to a small part of Birmingham's Southside known as the Garage. After developing some long-dormant film from my Canon EOS 3, I rediscovered some more photos that I took at that time. One of them is almost identical to a photo taken on my Canon T2i, but I am posting this one regardless, mostly because I am very fond of it.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Revisiting the Ensley Steel Works

Back in October, I posted some photos from a visit to the Ensley Steel Works in Birmingham that had occurred about a year prior to that past. Yet I recently developed a roll of Kodak BW400CN that was shot on my Canon EOS 3; the film contains shots from several outings dating back more than two years. That roll contain several shots from U.S. Steel's Ensley Steel Works that I had forgotten that I had even taken, some of which I liked even better than the similar photos taken on the Panasonic LX3, which can be seen in the previous post (linked above).

For additional photos of this ilk, I have also previously posted about Republic Steel's East Thomas Plant in Birmingham.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Warm Thoughts for a Cold Weekend

You know how I like to remind myself that there will again be warm days in the future? I think about the several days that Anna and I spent at Point Clear, Alabama on the Mobile Bay last summer. And that just about does the trick...until I step out to run and my ears hurt and eyes water from the cold.

Point Clear, Alabama :: Canon AE-1 with Kodak Gold 200

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Oxmoor Road Tunnel in Homewood

I left the house a few minutes early this morning in order to photograph a structure that has been a long-awaited conquest. There are a number of reasons for my having waited so long to stop and photograph it, not the least of which is safety. The Oxmoor Road Tunnel in Homewood has sidewalks on either side, but no guard rail, and drivers apparently see no reason to decelerate as they enter this curving tunnel. Nevertheless, I prevailed in getting the photographs I wanted and walked away bodily intact.

Oxmoor Road Tunnel, Homewood, Alabama :: Canon Rebel T2i, EF 20mm f/2.8, 30s @ f/16, ISO 100
I wanted a long exposure, which required a low ISO (100), stopping down the aperture as much as possible in order to get the appropriate shutter speed, and using a Circular Polarizer in order to further decrease the amount of light reaching the filter. I used my favorite lens on this camera: Canon EF 20mm f/2.8. Also for the first time, I used my new Slik Mini Pro V mini-tripod, which I intend to write a review of after a few more uses, but it's looking positive so far.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Identifying a Winter Blooming Tree and Nest/Cocoon

Since birds and trees aren't my strong suit, I require a little assistance. A tree across the street from my house is exhibiting the below blooms...

...and is home to this nest or cocoon. Can anyone identify either?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Ramshackle and Roughhewn

While I was out running today, I came across this place and had to do a little minor trespassing, harm, no foul.

Gardendale, Alabama :: iPhone 4

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Camping at Brushy Creek Lake in the Sipsey Wilderness

Nestled deep within Sipsey Wilderness in the Bankhead National Forest lies Brushy Creek Lake. It's one of those remote places that can cause you to forget that you're within a couple hours' drive a several major cities. I headed out there for the first time on Friday afternoon, in search of a camping trip, star trail photos, and perhaps some photographs of the Milky Way.

I got none of that. Our forecasted 30% chance of rain quickly became 100%, upon our arrival. Nevertheless, we set up camp. And the rain set in. This camping trip turned into a glorified picnic, with a few photos and a little bit of video to show for our efforts.