Half Open?

Downtown looks far away at 28mm

Downtown looks far away at 28mm

Stringer’s Ridge has had quite a facelift.  It appears to be officially half-open, although I can’t tell from the information on the web.  It now has official looking metal gates that cross the main trails into the park.  One side still has a big orange “park closed” sign.  But the other direction has no sign other than “no motorized vehicles.”

There are many mysteries about Stringers Ridge.  First, there is the mystery “grand opening” that still does not seem to have happened.  When I first heard about Stringers Ridge, I heard the park was going to have a grand opening in October 2012.

Next, I heard it was going to open later that winter.  The only sign of progress at the park entrance was a set of new signs telling people the park was under construction and still closed.  Next, it was going to open in April. Then it was going to be May.  The last post I saw said it would open around Memorial Day.

102mm pulls the Market St and Walnut St bridges into view

102mm pulls the Market St and Walnut St bridges into view

The second mystery is what it is that they’re doing that prevents them from opening the park.  I confess.  I’ve been in the park.  I have never seen anyone working in the park.  I have, however, encountered both pedestrians and cyclists in the park, which made me think it really was open before they put up signs.

The changes I’ve noticed since last summer have been:

  1. an improvement in the signage–especially trail markers which were numbers on pin tins until recently,
  2. the removal of large piles of garbage that many people must have worked very hard to gather up and haul to a collection point,
  3. the removal of some of the overgrowth,
  4. the removal of some sculptures that I wish they would have left.  There was one arrangement of logs that looked like a giant hiker climbing up a hill.  I am both befuddled and disappointed that it was removed.  It was clever, humorous, and appropriate to the setting,
  5. the addition of a real overlook at the point where some trees were cleared to allow for one of the best views of downtown Chattanooga–if I am disappointed about #4, #5 makes up for it.
118mm makes for a nice view of the aquarium

118mm makes for a nice view of the aquarium


stillI can understand why they would have wanted the park closed while they were constructing the overlook.  What I don’t quite understand is why they seem to be holding the park opening until all the mountain bike trails are completed.  At least, I assume that’s what they’re holding for at this point.  Why not just mark the trails that are closed as closed and have the grand opening?  Parks have trails closed all the time.

Whatever the reason, I’m happy the park is half-open.

The new overlook has two large “boxes” in the middle that make the perfect place for dinner.  It’s a really nice overlook.  And the view is even better now that the overlook puts you 10 feet out over the edge of the ridge.  I can’t wait until the grand opening!

Tisen caught with a mouthful of his dinner on the overlook

Tisen caught with a mouthful of his dinner on the overlook

King of the Hood

I needed to get outside, I needed exercise, I wanted to shoot, and the dog needed to go for a walk.  The perfectly logical course of action was to take the camera, the dog, and go for a long walk on a beautiful fall day.

The dog has his own agenda.  He’s determined to claim the neighborhood between our neighborhood and Stringer’s ridge.  It’s a neighborhood full of dilapidated chain-link fences and scary looking dogs who bark at us endlessly.  Tisen ignores these dogs.  He takes a cat-like approach to tormenting these fenced-in dogs.

He takes his time sniffing every blade of grass, marking each clump taller than 6 inches–he does this so slowly I expected him to sit down and start grooming himself.  The poor neighborhood watch dog goes ballistic throughout the whole show and I try to get Tisen to move on quickly.

Having two hands free might have come in handy, but letting go of my camera and bending down to reach Tisen was not an option–at least not without risking knocking Tisen in the head with my swinging camera.

At the ridge, I sit on a tree log placed at the overlook to shoot the view.  Tisen pulls on the lead and I knock the lens hood off my camera and watch it roll halfway down the hill.  I manage to leave Tisen at the top leashed to a branch in full view as I slide my way down to retrieve my lens hood.  Being a klutz and a multi-tasking photographer are probably a bad combination, but I make it safely back to the top where I am treated to exuberant adoration from my dog who apparently had little faith I would return at all, let alone safely.

As we return home, we pause once again in front of the barking dogs.  I look around and realize that if you value having a really affordable place to live with beautiful surroundings, this is a great neighborhood.  There are nothing but colorful trees on the three hillsides that nearly form a bowl around this little valley.

But then, we pass a house with a porch covered in glass objects.  They were scattered around, fallen over, abandoned like the porch was a miniature dump.  This might not have been so disturbing by itself, but the glass was mingled with a child’s toys that looked like they had been left in the middle of play.  It made me shudder.

A motion in a tree above the porch caught my eye and I spotted a Eurasian Collared Dove sitting there, looking at me as if it wondered how long it would take me to notice him.  It’s a somewhat rare sighting here at the edge of their range, and rarer to me having grown up in a part of the world where they don’t roam.  I smile and wonder what this bird thinks of the neighborhood.

True Colors

As Tisen and I stroll along Stringer’s ridge, my feet drag through a thick layer of leaves.  As they crunch and swirl in front of my feet, I remember what fall meant to me as a child.

Halloween was, of course, central to the fall experience.  Dressing up in some costume that never quite looked as glorious as I expected it to (except the year my mother cut and sewed her wedding dress into a Cinderella gown for my costume), parading through the yards of our neighbors to go door-to-door for halloween candy.

Even though it was a special occasion, we were only allowed to walk through the yards where adjacent neighbors had their porch lights on and were giving out candy.  Some yards, we got to crunch our way through un-raked leaves while other yards were sparsely dotted only with leaves that had fallen in the past hour.

Stringer’s ridge has no gardener to obsessively clear the leaves away.  They fall and create a weaving of color over the broken and dilapidated asphalt that marks the ridge’s recent history.  As we leave the nearby urban residential area and enter into the preserve, the leaves become denser and the views become more colorful.

Tisen has taken his time getting here.  Me with my camera stopping to shoot frequently had nothing to do with how long our walk has taken, I’m sure.  Tisen needed to sniff and mark every mailbox on the way through the neighborhood.  I tried to coax him on his way, but he insisted in at least making an attempt to leave his mark, even if it was only a gesture by the time we got to about the 10th mailbox.

As we crunch our way through the leaves now, I don’t hurry him, but I do occasionally try to get him to sniff a yard or two in one direction or another so I can shoot while he sniffs.  I wonder how many photographers struggle to get the angle they want because they are walking a 70 pound dog who doesn’t always cooperate?  Sometimes it makes me wonder if I’m the one on the leash.

Given the slowness of our progress and my need to be somewhere in the near future, we take the shortest route to the overlook.  It’s not an overlook in the sense that anyone built a structure or anything.  But, they did clear a few small trees so the view of downtown was unobstructed.

I love this view.  You can see the best part of the riverfront as you look across a sea of colorful trees.  It’s hard to believe there are so many trees between me and home as I look down the ridge and across the neighborhood Tisen and I have just walked through.

I say a silent thank you to the good people of Chattanooga who had the foresight to make this a preserve and then we turn to walk home.

Fall Impressions

With no yard, no rake, and no worries, I was feeling a little detached from the experience of fall.  But a long walk up to Stringer’s Ridge, currently peaking in color, got me back to a childhood full of crunching through leaves.

As Tisen and I made our way up to the ridge, I looked up and there was an oak tree shaking its top like my grandmother shaking out a rug.  It looked like it was trying to shake its loose leaves free like a dog shaking water out of its fur.

By the time I was ready to shoot, it stopped.  I stood still and waited.  I could hear the wind, I figured it would start again.  I just had to be patient.  Tisen pulled at the lead, catching a new smell just out of reach.  I took a step forward to give him something to do and then stood still again, waiting.

We were still at the edge of urban neighborhood and nature preserve, standing in the middle of a residential street.  I had to step to one side when I realized a car was barreling down the hill.  We walked a little ways further and I stopped again, Tisen stopping and giving me a puzzled look as I once more turned my eyes to the tree top.

Eventually, I turned and shot some brilliant leaves across the street until I realized there was a car stopped, waiting for me to finish so it didn’t drive through my shot.  I smiled and waved and turned back to my tree.  It was starting to wear me out.  I checked my watch and realized I couldn’t afford to stand there waiting much longer; we were going to run out of time for our walk.  I sighed and off we went with no shots of the swirling cloud of leaves.

Somewhere between that uncooperative tree and the start of the Stringer’s Ridge trail, I thought of trying to pan with a falling leaf.  I don’t know exactly what made me think about trying it, but I sure did amuse myself in the process.  It’s not easy to pan in general.  You have to start the motion of the camera so you’re smoothly following the thing in motion, then press the shutter while you continue to smoothly pan.  This is more difficult than it sounds.

A falling leaf is not predictable.  It gets picked up, shot off course, and suddenly picks up speed when the edge starts slicing through the air.

I didn’t think a single one of my panning shots turned out when I was standing there reviewing my shots.  But when I looked at them on the computer, I was actually quite pleased.  These are minimally processed, although in some cases I brushed in adjustments to the single leaf I was panning with to make it more noticeable.

I am beginning to see a wall covered with images of falling objects in my future.

Foggy Moments

The fog comes

on little cat feet.

It sits looking

over harbor and city

on silent haunches

and then moves on.

–Carl Sandberg, 1878

Fog whispers secrets in barely audible hisses

Hinting of terror shrouded in its mist.

I watch as it crawls and creeps

Rises and disappears

Revealing nothing.

I love fog.  Now that the weather has been cool long enough, the water temperature has dropped.  This results in a giant, natural fog machine running through downtown.

At sunrise, if I happen to be down at the river at the right time, I love to watch the tiny wisps of fog swirling off the water’s surface, rising and joining the large cloud of fog above.  It’s so fascinating to watch the formation of a cloud that I may have to figure out how to make a video of it.

Eventually, a large cloud forms over the river, with strands of fog still connecting it to the river like a balloon vendor at a carnival with an endless collection of monochromatic balloons.  From up high, the fog looks so thick you wouldn’t be able to see your own hand in front of your face.  But when you’re actually down on the ground, the fog just looks more like an low-lying cloud.

On this particular morning a day or two ago, I had been meaning to go up on the roof to try to shoot some of the fall colors at sunrise.  When I saw the fog, I figured it would be a good morning to go shoot.  I shot from 3 corners of the roof.

I’m still trying to figure out how to shoot Stringer’s ridge well.  There’s a lot of crap between our building and the ridge that I can’t quite figure out what to do with.  I also seem to end up with more sky than I want in the frame.  I’m talking myself into shooting it with my 70-200mm so I can get in much tighter.  I’ll have to try that before the leaves fall.

I’m amazed how long the leaves are lasting down here.  They just keep getting brighter and brighter in color (still not as bright as midwestern color, but getting pretty close).  I keep thinking one morning I will wake up and all the leaves will be gone.

Of course, I couldn’t stay on the Stringer’s Ridge side of the roof for long.  Switching back to the opposite side of the roof, I tried to get an angle on the smoke monster crawling up the river.  It almost looked like it had a head on the other side of the smoke coming out of the chimney.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t a great angle.

As I watched the fog shift, the BlueCross/BlueShield building peeked through a sudden window that appears in the fog.  It looked like it had been hung in the sky and was floating on a cloud.

It was a lovely morning.