Saturday, March 31, 2012

Hiking at Ruffner Mountain Nature Center

Nicely tucked away over in Birmingham's East Lake is the Ruffner Mountain Nature Center. It had been about ten months since I last visited, when I went trail running last May. This trip was to be a little less intensive; I was going with two friends and Darby.

Matt attempting to scale part of Sandstone Ridge
While us human folk hiked a couple of miles, Darby easily doubled and maybe tripled our mileage with all of her advanced scouting of the trail.

Darby impatiently awaiting our catching up to her
It was a really nice outing, though we ended up on a different trail than we had intended. I had hoped to go down to one of the quarries but somehow ended up on the same trail as last time, and headed to the wetlands, then to Sandstone Ridge. 

Cattails of the Wetlands
The Wetlands
In addition to some incredible weather, we also had the please of the early blooms of the wildflowers. If you haven't yet been to Ruffner Mountain, you should certainly add it to your list; it's smaller than Oak Mountain but also less populous, meanwhile offering well manicured trails and quiet commune with nature.

Wildflowers near the Wetlands
One of many Trillium flowers along the Trails
Technorati Tags: alabama, birmingham, ruffner mountain nature center, trillium, sandstone ridge, panasonic lx3.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Technical Knockout

Over Spring Break (likely the last one I'll ever experience as a student - and I'm OK with that), Anna and I did some sprucing up of the front yard. Among other things, this included potting a Knockout Rose plant. A week later, it seems to have survived the transplant and is flourishing.

Technorati Tags: alabama, fultondale, rose, knockout rose.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Why Darby Might Be Part Billy Goat

At the time of purchasing, I was certain we were getting a full-blood Golden Retriever in Darby. The paperwork was there. The breeder seemed reputable. I saw Darby's mother and father. But somewhere along the way, some billy goat blood got in those lines. Among the many things that Darby loves (including chasing ice and chomping bees), she seems to be particularly passionate about cropping grass. And we're not talking about grazing like cattle, but really reaching deep and tearing out of the ground by the roots, resulting in a yard that suffers from patchy baldness and a generally mangy look. But far be it from me to deprive a creature of a part of her day that seems so overwhelmingly joyous.

Canon Rebel T2i, EF 135mm f/2.8 SF, 1/3200s @ f/2.8, ISO 200
Further evidence of this behavior is evidenced below, in a photograph taken almost three months ago when the pup was only ten weeks old. I offer this as proof that the above photograph is not some sort of anomalous aberration from her normal behavior.

Canon Rebel T2i, EF 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 @ 85mm, 1/500s @ f/4.5, ISO 100
Technorati Tags: alabama, goat, golden retriever,

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Remembering the Rocky Mountains of Utah

A year ago, I was driving through the Rocky Mountains on a whirlwind trip from Dallas, Texas, to Tacoma, Washington. But despite the hurry, I was able to snag a couple of photos along the way. This one depicts the Rocky Mountains of Utah, as captured with my 80-year-old Agfa Billy Record.

Utah's Rocky Mountains :: Agfa Billy Record, Ilford HP5 Plus, 1/100s @ f/11

Other photos from that same trip can be found on the following pages: Day 1 - Birmingham to Washington; Day 2 - Alder Lake and Mount Rainier; Day 3 - Seattle.

Technorati Tags: utah, rocky mountains, agfa billy record.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Test Photos with Canon EF 135mm f/2.8 SF

Each of the below photos was taken on my Canon Rebel T2i with the Canon EF 135mm f/2.8 SF lens. I owned this lens many moons ago but traded for some other gear, but I saw it at the other day at a bargain price and used the last of some extraneous moneys to acquire it. On the T2i, which has an APS-C sensor, the 135mm is effectively a 216mm focal length lens, which makes that f/2.8 aperture particularly nice. Below are some of the test photos, with which I was not displeased.

Darby at Five Months :: Canon T2i, EF 135mm f/2.8 SF, 1/160s @ f/2.8, ISO 1600
Darby's tennis ball almost lost among the clover :: Canon T2i, EF 135mm f/2.8 SF, 1/3200s @ f/2.8, ISO 200
The woods behind my house; I know there's a really good photo to be had of them, but I've yet to take it.
Canon T2i, EF 135mm f/2.8 SF, 1/2500s @ f/2.8, ISO 200
Bubble-tongued Darby panting from exertion in this unseasonably warm March weather.
Canon T2i, EF 135mm f/2.8 SF, 1/800s @ f/2.8, ISO 1600
 That's it for today's offerings, and may you find a forgotten gem in your near future.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Many Expressions of Tyler

While in briefly in Texas a few days ago, I took some time to photograph my nephew. It turns out that he's very expressive, and within just a matter of seconds, he displayed about as many emotions as most folks experience in a week.

But I'm pretty sure this one is my favorite, mostly because those smiles were pretty hard to come by for me; he was generally only interested in me when he wanted a high-five or fist bump.

Canon Rebel T2i, EF 50mm f/1.8 II, 1/400s @ f/2.8, ISO 200

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Roiling Waters at Turkey Creek

The recent rains have the waters of Turkey Creek running and roiling. 

Panorama of Turkey Creek Falls, Turkey Creek Nature Preserve, Pinson, Alabama
I went with Blake and Darby down to Turkey Creek Nature Preserve in Pinson, Alabama, the other day. There's a smallish hiking trail along the creek, and I wanted to get Darby some off-the-leash experience out in the woods to see how she'd do, and I'm not sure but that she had the best time of her short little life.

This particular trip didn't yield a great many pictures, but I was able to catch some colorful reflections (above) and some early spring flowers. Several times I set up for shots of flowers, but just as I was ready, Darby would run by and bite the heads off of them. I think she found it greatly amusing.

Other posts involving Turkey Creek can be found here. And finally here's some video of the trip, involving Blake and Darby:

Technorati Tags: alabama, pinson, turkey creek, reflections, daffodil, turkey creek nature preserve, waterfall.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Ballard's Obelisk Flour and Insurance Feeds

An advertisement from yesteryear on the side of one of First Avenue's buildings in Birmingham.

Canon Rebel T2i, EF 50mm f/1.8 II, 1/800s @ f/8, ISO 200
Technorati Tags: alabama, birmingham, ballard's obelisk flour, ballard's insurance feeds.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Bon Ton Hatters and Shoe Repair

On Birmingham's 1st Avenue North there resides an operative business that has been there and been run by the same family since its inception in 1907. Having been run by Jimmy Callis for the last thirty years, Bon Ton Hatters was founded by Jimmy's grandfather Constantine, and Jimmy was preceded by his father, also Jimmy, in the business' operation. When I asked Jimmy about his business, he said, "It's pretty self explanatory. We block and repair hats, and we repair and shine shoes. That's pretty much all we have time for."

Jimmy Callis tending the Front Counter at Bon Ton Hatters
Bon Ton's Shoe Shiner sitting on his boot-shaped chair
Roy Williams of The Birmingham News conducted a brief-but-interesting interview with Jimmy Callis in 2010; the transcript can be found at, here.

Technorati Tags: alabama, birmingham, hat repair, shoe shine, bon ton hatters, jimmy callis.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Spindle Ball

Over the course the last fifteen months, I have really loved my Canon Rebel T2i (at Amazon); now granted, I wish I could justify the purchase of a Canon 5D MkII, but that's neither here nor there. I really feel like I have pushed the limits of the T2i in many regards and gotten as much out of it as it is capable of producing, but that being said, there is one feature of the camera that I have allowed to go largely underutilized: video. And mostly that's because good video is really difficult to do, and the set-up for doing it particularly well is rather expensive.

But on the occasion exhibited below I was suddenly struck with an idea while sitting at the kitchen table. It involved my Tokina AT-X 35mm macro lens (at Amazon), the T2i, and an ornament that decorates the table's centerpiece. Let me know what you think of this little abstract video; I'm partial to it, but I think that's largely out of obligation due to the extraordinary number of takes and amount of time invested.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Dilapidated Storefronts of First Avenue South

The dirge has likely sounded for this once-burgeoning business district. It has now become a playground for miscreants and would-be artists. The breaking of a new day serves only to shed light on new painterly masterpieces that were sprayed on between between dusk and dawn.

Canon Rebel T2i, EF 50mm f/1.8 II, 1/250s @ f/8, ISO 200
Canon Rebel T2i, EF 50mm f/1.8 II, 1/320s @ f/8, ISO 200

Technorati Tags: alabama, birmingham, graffiti, storefronts, 1st avenue.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Carpenter Bee, a Victim of Curiosity

With Spring just around the corner, there are also sorts of critters flitting about. And it's just about more than Darby can stand. She wants to meet, or eat, or bark at each of them. Her most recent victim, the carpenter bee. I saw her pawing and nipping at something in the yard, so I went to inspect. Just about the time I got to her, she put him in her mouth, only to spit him out a moment later - apparently the buzzing was unappetizing. After a couple more repeat cycles of this, I was able to apprehend the victim; he was still alive, but not doing well.

I then immediately grabbed my camera and Tokina AT-X 35mm macro lens, and set about taking a few photos of the carpenter bee before he recovered enough to fly off...

...but the poor fellow never got that chance. The wind blew him off the table, and Darby gobbled him up for a mid-afternoon snack.

Note: According to Penn State's entomology department, male carpenter bees (which are the ones most often seen) are incapable of stinging.

Technorati Tags: alabama, carpenter bee, entomology.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Dwelling on First Avenue

Hard times often call for exception ingenuity. There's more to this little makeshift housing than may initially meet the eye. The opening of the box faces the viaduct abutment and limits wind. The box is placed on cinder blocks to eliminate the floor being soaked by runoff. As an additional measure of protection from pedestrian, vermin, and the elements, the housing sits on an elevated plane with makeshift steps leading up to it. Finally, there is the chair; everybody needs a cozy place to sit.

Makeshift Housing on Birmingham's 1st Avenue S. :: Canon T2i, EF 50mm f/1.8 II, 1/200s @ f/4, ISO 1600
For another photograph of ingenious housing by Birmingham's otherwise indigent, visit this post: "A Homestead of Sorts".

Technorati Tags: alabama, birmingham, homeless, indigent, 1st avenue.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Parkside Salon, One Haircutter's Haven

When Rhonda Dodd opened "Parkside Salon" in September 2011, it wasn't on a whim; it was an idea that had been germinating and maturing over the course of thirty years of haircutting and styling. But that didn't make the endeavor any more of a sure thing; she described the process as kind of like "diving off a cliff."In this instance, she found that the water was fine.

Having previously owned her own shop about ten years previously, Rhonda knew what she didn't want - lots of people and lots of drama. Where before she had a half dozen stylists working for her, this time around it's just her and Jess - canine companion, co-owner, and official greeter.

Rhonda's Parkside Salon is literally "parkside," being across the street from Homewood's Patriot Park. Her walls are decorated with the works of local artists, and the shop has a certain flare that befits its owner, who couldn't be happier with being one of Homewood's small business owners. 

You can find Parkside Salon on Facebook.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Blocked Up and Boxed Out

With some extra time on my hands the other day, I decided to go cruising along Birmingham's 1st Avenue South. It's an area that once contained many business, but now the buildings are about evenly split between occupied and derelict. Nevertheless it makes for good photographing.

Canon Rebel T2i, EF 50mm f/1.8 II, 1/250s @ f/8, ISO 200
Canon Rebel T2i, EF 50mm f/1.8 II, 1/500s @ f/8, ISO 200

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Cedar Waxwing Migration through Alabama

As per their usual routine around this time of year in Alabama, Cedar Waxwings have started migrating through. Dozens of them were making a raucous in the trees behind my backyard the other day. I was fortunate enough to be home and photograph a couple of them.

Technorati Tags: alabama, canon t2i, cedar waxwing, fultondale, migration

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Play Date with Darby and Bo

Sure he's a little bit older and sixty pounds heavier, but that doesn't mean they can't have a good time together. And too we've discovered that Darby has no problem attempting to bully a creature three times her size, that is until Bo gets fed up with her pestering him and tries to smush her with his giant paws. But she's resilient and doesn't get the message, ever.  

Unfortunately, I couldn't get any shots of them together, since they were usually moving too quickly at that point. So here they are, individually, sometimes-friends and sometimes-sparring-partners.

Bo tends to slobber to an extreme degree when he gets excited

Darby's devilish grin appropriately reflects her behavior
If you have come to love Darby like we have over the last several months, you can visit the gallery dedicated to her on my website, exhibiting all the photos and videos that have accumulated since we first laid eyes on her and were smitten at four weeks old, here.

Monday, March 5, 2012

State of Affairs of North Jefferson County's Waterways

Like much of the rest of the waterways that make up the Five Mile Creek watershed, Black Creek has been subjected ecosystem-destroying pollution for most of the last 150 years. Much of that the result of coal mining operations along the creeks' banks, in the form of beehive coke ovens (below), found along Black, Five Mile, and Newfound Creeks.

And while those operations have long since ceased, other forms of pollution continue to endanger and uglify (I think I just made that word up, but it seems befitting) these local waterways. Drive along Stouts Road in Fultondale, and you can't help but notice the accumulated trash that people continue to carelessly discard on the banks of Black Creek and its tributaries (below). The town of Brookside, Five Mile Creek Canoe & Co., and the Five Mile Creek Greenway Partnership collaborate annually to remove hundreds of pounds of tires and debris from a single stretch of Five Mile Creek (Black Creek runs into Five Mile Creek just west of Fultondale).

But awareness is leading to progress and a renewal of life in these creeks. If you go to the Children's Park or Black Creek Park in Fultondale, you may see dozens of crawdads, turtles (some the size of dinner plates), and fish. But I wouldn't say these waterways are teeming with life. But they could be again, if we're diligent and faithful stewards.

Interested in contributing to a local organization? Each of the following organizations have regular events seeking participants from the community: Cahaba River Society, Black Warrior Riverkeeper, Five Mile Creek Greenway Partnership, Friends of Shades Creek, Friends of the Locust Fork River, and Turkey Creek Nature Preserve.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Unleashing Darby on Black Creek in Fultondale

Darby and I have become frequenter's of Black Creek Park in Fultondale. The folks there are friendly (though not all of the dog's are, despite their owner's assurances over their growling pets' protests), and the track is almost a mile long. And besides that, there's Black Creek. It's kind of an understated creek, with nothing particularly great about it, but I like it nonetheless. 

And now it has sentimental value. There's a part of Black Creek Park that is more remote and loses its trail. Not as many folks venture back this way. So I chose it to be the place where Darby got to first be out in public without her leash. She didn't stray to far, and always responded to my promptings to return. So we have been able to repeat the experiment several times, always with the same result. On the third such time, I introduced a new variable, the creek itself. She loved splashing through the creek's shallower waters, and galloping along the rocks that make up the creek bed.

So we'll definitely be back and playing in the creek at Black Creek Park, and as weather warms and water temperatures rise, we'll probably explore more recessed areas of the creek, not accessible by trail.

Technorati Tags: alabama, black creek, black creek park, fultondale, iphone 4

Thursday, March 1, 2012



Making an Appearance

It isn't often that I make an appearance in my blog. And that may be more by design than happenstance, but today is the exception. The other day, I was setting up for a shoot at the Red Mountain Law Group, and I ran into a problem; I decided that I didn't love the way I had initially set up my lighting. But my "guinea pig" had wandered off, so what was I to do? Well, the only logical thing, except that I didn't have a wireless remote (and it didn't occur to me until this very moment that I could have used the self-timer; now I feel like a moron). So standing with my toes on the line of demarcation, I reached as far as the remote cable would stretch, and fired off a couple of practice shots. I was pleased with the resulting lighting.
This is only a test!

This was my second time really using some new equipment, and so far I have been nothing but pleased with my YongNuo YN-468 II flash and YongNuo RF-603 Remote Triggers, on my Canon Rebel T2i. My only displeasure stems from the fact that Canon has disabled the ability to use LiveView with non-Canon flashes on the T2i; higher grade camera models have a "silent mode" that allows the use of LiveView.

For this shoot, I set up in a room with two walls full of west- and south-facing windows (it was a wonderfully overcast day), attached my Tokina AT-X 35mm f/2.8 lens (for head-and-torso shots), and fiddled with the camera's and flash's settings until they were right. Since I don't have much (or anything) in the way of studio equipment, I decided to really use those windows to my advantage on one side, and on the other bounce the flash off the lightly colored wall and ceiling in order to have a nice balanced look. I came away pretty pleased with the result.

Technorati Tags: alabama, canon t2i, red mountain law, yongnuo rf-603, yongnuo yn-468 ii, tokina at-x 35mm f/2.8