VWs and Bicycle Art

The pop-up top VW Bus

One of the fun things about Chattanooga is that it happens to be home to the only US-based Volkswagen manufacturing facility.  This is a pretty big coup for Chattanooga.  It’s interesting how much a single event like attracting a company to open a new manufacturing plant in a town impacts that town.

While there were probably other things that contributed, there was quite a growth spurt in housing development concurrent with the kickoff of building the plant.  That peak in activity precedes when I arrived in Chattanooga, and the housing market crash.  Development kind of stopped for a while of the various condominiums and housing developments around town, but things seem to be starting to pick up again.  Although, I think more multi-tenant rental units are being built than condos or single-family homes.  But, I’m just guessing.

In any case, the presence of Volkswagen doesn’t just provide several hundred jobs at their facility and construction jobs for people in housing and infrastructure, it also brings funding into the area for community projects and education.  VW happens to be pretty environmentally conscious as well, preserving a wetland on their property and occasionally allowing the Chattanooga Audubon Society to host bird walks there.


Most importantly, the presence of VW has created huge demand for the local VW club (unrelated to the company) for events around town.  And, of course, the Mainx24 parade included a long line of vintage VWs.  The VW bus with the pop-up top is my favorite, but the “Thing” is a close second.  For many years of my childhood, I had it confused with a comic book superhero–they look pretty similar.

The Car Version of the Thing

The Mainx24 parade once again demonstrated the breadth of character of Chattanooga when the VWs were followed by bicycle art.

mobile art

I am a cyclist.  Maybe not a Lance Armstrong kind of cyclist, but I like to ride and I do it as often as possible.  I have seen downhill mountain bikes that look like off-road motorcycles without the motor, tandems, unicycles, electric bikes, bikes pulling dogs in carriers, you name it.  I really thought I had seen every possible type of bike there was to see.


But, the clever artists of Chattanooga managed to surprise me (and the rest of the crowd) with amazing sculptures on wheels they rode in the parade.  I particularly like the swing on the bike.  I imagine it had to be pretty terrifying the swing above the pavement on a bike as it moved forward.


I can’t say I saw a model I wanted to trade my bike in for, but if I did, there would certainly be plenty of places to hang shopping bags when I ride to the market.  I’m thinking maybe I should see if I can commission them to come up with a photographer’s bike, incorporating portable lighting solutions, lens storage, and a tripod holder into the design.  Then form and function would really come together.


Getting the Goat

The Grand Marshall Float

The Grand Marshall Goat

The Grand Marshall Float

The Grand Marshall Float


There was a very special grand marshall at the Mainx24 Parade:  Oreo, the goat.  Oreo, a pygmy goat, is a pet.  He belongs to a family who lives in a suburb on the boundary of Chattanooga called East Ridge.

As the story goes, Oreo is more like a dog than a goat.  Unfortunately for Oreo and his family, East Ridge doesn’t allow goats.  The East Ridge City Council took issue with Oreo and, after months of hearings, ruled that Oreo is not an exception.

The struggle for the family to stay together made the local news and really got the goat of many, creating a bit of a local media stir.  The organizers of the Mainx24 event on the South Side invited Oreo to be the grand marshall for the parade.

Ironically, when I googled “chattanooga south side goat,” about half way down the results, Niko’s South Side Grill came up as having goat on the menu.  Fortunately for Oreo, it turned out to be goat cheese.  🙂

By the way, Oreo’s family has said that they will move before they give up the goat.

I think it made the media because writers secretly love opportunities for bad puns.

A Woody

A Woody



Following Oreo, a series of vintage cars went by, including one advertising the local minor league baseball team, the Lookouts.  While there didn’t appear to actually be any Lookout team members in the car (it’s off season), it still reminded me to add getting to one of their games to my list of things to do.

Santa 2x

Santa 2x

Santa came along several times during the parade.  I’m beginning to develop a theory about how he manages to get to all the houses in a single night.  In this series of photos, he was riding a Harley.  I don’t actually see the Harley as contributing to his success at criss-crossing the planet so quickly.

Little Sisters Stalking Santa

Little Sisters Stalking Santa

Santa was wisely followed by a float full of young girls from the Big Sisters program–they were smart to stay close to Santa.

The Duck

The Duck

Next, two of my favorite Chattanoogan vehicles came by.  The first, a genuine WWII Duck.  I’ve had the great pleasure of riding in one of these when the Chattanooga Audubon Society made arrangements with them to transport a group to McClellan Island for a bird walk.  We got the full tour in the process and it was quite fun.

Big City Tour Bus

Big City Tour Bus

The second is the double-decker bus that frequently goes by our place with a tour guide chattering away with the loud speaker echoing in our building.  I like the double-decker bus, none-the-less.  It’s become symbolic of Chattanooga’s character:  big city in a small package with a lot more smiling.

Stroller Brigade

Stroller Brigade

Immediately behind the double-decker bus, there was a brigade of women and the occasional man pushing baby strollers, mostly with babies in them.  I wasn’t sure if they were representing something, but it sure was cute.

It also makes my point:  big city followed by small town, smiles all around.




Parade Shooting

If there’s one thing I’m learning about photography, each shoot is different and presents unique challenges from the one before.  In some ways, it reminds me of when I went through what I’ll call “my triathlon phase.”

I thought I would be able to do a triathlon and look at my times and compare them to the previous triathlon to see if I’d improved.  In reality, there were so many variables from one event to the next that there was never a good comparison.

Unlike triathlons, I don’t spend hours every day training only to be left exhausted, run down, and incredibly sore.  Perhaps this is why I don’t feel so discouraged when I come away from a shoot and feel like I’ve backtracked instead of making progress?

Shooting the Mainx24 Parade presented several challenges.  First, the parade started at 11AM on a wonderfully sunny day just when the light was getting really hard and bright.  Adding to the challenge, the parade participants marched with the light mostly behind them.

In addition, a parade is somewhere between a portrait shoot and an action shoot–the people are moving at such an incredibly slow speed that you think you have plenty of time.  Yet, with each step forward, the light changes, the people rearrange and get closer–just when you think you’ve figured it out, they have their backs to you.

To further complicate things, I’d decided to try shooting with two cameras for the first time.  I had my 70-200mm on my trusty old 40D and my 24-70mm on my 5D Mark III.  I haven’t shot with my 40D in so long that I had to get out my glasses to find the on button!

I took a tripod to simplify dealing with two cameras.  I set up my 5D on the tripod–I would likely have knocked myself unconscious in front of an oncoming horse if I were juggling two cameras.

I found the tripod had an additional advantage.  It allowed me to create a space to shoot in that most people respected–they tried to stay out of my shots for the most part.  Of course, when candy was being thrown to the children, all bets were off.

However, it was also restrictive and unnecessary give the shutter speeds I was shooting at.  On the flip side, I did pop the camera off the tripod from time to time, so it wasn’t like I had to use it.  I’m on the fence as to whether its advantages outweighed the difficulties.

The images in today’s gallery were all shot with the 40D.  I probably should have put it on the tripod and panned with people.  MIght have made for some better images.

In the end, this was not a banner day.  But, it was fun and I met a couple of other photographers in the process.