Night Moves

Friday evening I was running late. I needed to finish photographing some guitars for Coop Guitars before I could head out the door. Isn’t that great? “Oh, I’m sorry I’m late. I had to finish up some shooting before I could call it quits tonight.” (I wonder if someone who’s been a full-time pro photographer for a couple of decades would find it amusing to have this as an excuse for tardiness: “Oh, I’m sorry I’m late, I had to finish up a conference call.”)

Even better, what I was running late for was another shoot! A group of adults got together on the riverfront to play with their very expensive toys–or, as I like to think of them, our boxes of crayons.

We met at 7:45 and shot through sunset and twilight and then really went nuts after dark.

Do you remember summer nights when you were a kid when all the neighborhood kids would get together and play hide-and-seek when it finally got dark? We would swear we’d only been playing for a few minutes when parents would suddenly appear out of the dark saying things like “Where have you been that you couldn’t hear me calling you for the past 10 minutes?”

Friday night, no parents showed up to tell us it was getting late. By the time people started realizing they needed to leave, it was after 10PM. Several of us shot on. “Just one more shot” we said to our internal parents reminding us we had other responsibilities.

We swapped tips on getting night time effects. We threw around words like “high-speed sync,” “hyper-focal distance,” “aberrations,” and “stopping down” and we understood each other. We zoomed our lenses at bright bridge lights during long exposures and giggled at the results. We got out flashlights and created ghosts and swirls just for the fun of it.

Suddenly, without warning, it was 11:30PM. I realized I was cold, I’d had no dinner, I’d had nothing to drink for at least 5 hours, and I’d told my husband I’d get home before 11PM. Yet, I still had to convince myself that those were strong enough reasons to pack it up for the night–there were so many more ideas I wanted to try!

Oh, there was also the fact that I needed to get up at 6AM the next morning to teach a workshop.

But feeling that creative spark and losing myself to it for a few hours was a great reminder of what I love best about photography–and life. Getting out and shooting with a bunch of people had the added benefits of both learning from each other and getting to socialize with people with a similar vocabulary.

Marching to the Beat


Tisen kept my fellow volunteer busy while I got a shot of the booth, McClellan Island in the background, and some rapidly forming clouds overhead

Tisen kept my fellow volunteer busy while I got a shot of the booth, McClellan Island in the background, and some rapidly forming clouds overhead

Sitting on the Walnut Street Bridge and watching tourists walk by is always fun.  What was surprising to me on Sunday was how many people were not tourists.  The local community showed up in pretty substantial numbers for an unadvertised, unprecedented parade on the Walnut Street Bridge.

As representatives of the Chattanooga Audubon Society, my fellow volunteer and I stopped a couple dozen people and managed to gather a dozen or so emails to add to the organizations contact list.  Of the people we stopped, only 2 of them were from out of town.

The 8-year old drum major led the band down the bridge

The 8-year old drum major led the band down the bridge

I can’t claim this to be a representative sampling of the population on the Walnut Street Bridge that day, but it seems that 90% of the people on the bridge were locals.  When you think about it, it makes sense.  The Howard High School band was performing.  With them, the brought all of the family and friends that support them.  The Chattanooga Ballet company was marching, the brought some more.  And so the list goes on.  I guess that’s what makes a parade a community event–it brings out the locals in masses to support the ones they love who are marching in the parade.  And, of course, the locals who just want to have something fun to do or who support the cause behind a parade.

The cheerleaders kept pace with the band

The cheerleaders kept pace with the band

Whatever brought people to the Walnut Street Bridge that day, the Howard High School Band was determined to entertain them.  After the dancers (see yesterday’s post), their 8-year old drum major led the instrumental section as they stepped in time to a raucous beat–it was enough to get the wood planking on the bridge vibrating.

Following the band came the cheerleaders.  They weren’t quite as wound up as the dancers in front of the band had been–no dances or active cheering as they went past our end of the bridge.

Most parades have fire trucks.  Since they won't fit on the Walnut Street Bridge, the firefighters walked instead

Most parades have fire trucks. Since they won’t fit on the Walnut Street Bridge, the firefighters walked instead

I was impressed by the ballet company’s choice of attire for the parade.  I can’t say I’ve ever seen a ballerina elevated over another dancer’s head while wearing rubber rain boots before.  I’m not sure if they made it the entire half mile across the bridge like that, but it made for an exciting presence in the parade.

Ballet Chattanooga displays it's fun taste in footwear

Ballet Chattanooga displays it’s fun taste in footwear

The Dogood organization closed the parade.  This group promotes responsible dog ownership and a dog-friendly community.  They are responsible for getting the bridge open to canines, who were prohibited from crossing the bridge until a few years ago.  Tisen was happy to see them–grateful for the many times he’s gotten to accompany me on the bridge because of their work.  Although, I do think he was jealous of the other dogs’ Cinco de Mayo costumes.

The do-good dogs won best costume

The do-good dogs won best costume

At the end of the parade, the band gathered on the steps leading up to the glass bridge over to the Bluffview Art District.  They performed a couple of songs and then marched across the glass bridge.  This seemed dangerous, but they all made it safe and sound.

The last of the band makes its way across the glass bridge

The last of the band makes its way across the glass bridge

Here Comes the Sun

Tisen getting comfy under the booth--he turned out to be a big attraction

Tisen getting comfy under the booth–he turned out to be a big attraction

Given the size of Chattanooga, I am always surprised by the number of celebrations the city hosts.  Besides music venues, festivals, concerts, and fireworks, there seem to be a large number of parades.  Although, I guess it has been since Christmas that I was aware of a parade.  I’m sure there have been many, none-the-less.  🙂

I didn’t actually know what this weekend’s parade was for until I googled it just now.  I ended up on the Walnut Street Bridge manning a booth for the Chattanooga Audubon Society along with another volunteer.  We didn’t really know what to expect–it was a first for this event.

The parade opened with the rental bikes available all over the city at convenient locations

The parade opened with the rental bikes available all over the city at convenient locations

As it turns out, it might be a long time before there is another parade on the Walnut Street Bridge–the parade was in honor of its reopening as a park 20 years ago.  It’s a fantastic place and one definitely worth celebrating.  Our job, however, was to sign up as many people as possible for our email list, give those who did sign up free passes to the Audubon Acres property, and pass out Toostie Pops to children who showed interest.

Next came a mini choo choo belonging to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Next came a mini choo choo belonging to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga–well, it’s back there behind the bikes

As a sideline, I hoped to point out interesting birds to passers by and had binoculars and bird books set out for that purpose.  As usual, however, we were out in the middle of the afternoon at the worst possible time for birding.  We did see a Great Blue Heron and some Rock Pigeons, but nothing very exciting.

The thing that was the most amazing about sitting out on the Walnut Street Bridge on Sunday afternoon was the sun.  The weather was supposed to be rain all weekend.  When I looked at the weather channel app on my iPhone, the chance for rain dropped from 100% to 90% about noon on Sunday.  When we drove out to Audubon Acres to pick up lunch and load up the stuff we needed for the booth, the rain had slowed to a mist.

I don't know if the sunshine made these dancers especially enthusiastic, but they sure were having fun

I don’t know if the sunshine made these dancers especially enthusiastic, but they sure were having fun

By the time the van was loaded and we were back on our way to the Walnut Street Bridge, the rain had stopped.  When we arrived on the bridge, I pulled on my rain jacket for warmth–the sky was dark and threatening and the wind was blowing hard.  By the time we’d been there a half an hour, I was pulling off my jacket and putting up my umbrella for protection from the sun instead of the rain.

Tisen tucked himself back in the corner under the shade from my umbrella and drank more water than I’ve seen him drink in a long time.

It was like the parade organizers had special-ordered the weather.  This respite from the rain lasted long enough for the parade to conclude, our van to be re-loaded, and for us to drive nearly all the way home before the clouds blew back in and the rain re-started.  I really think I need to get to know the parade organizers better.

The dancers may have been the highlight of the parade

The dancers may have been the highlight of the parade

Ready Rower

Waiting for me

Waiting for me

5:15AM seemed a little extra early this morning when the twittering of my iPhone interrupted my dream.  I awoke confused, unsure of whether it was really time to get up, having just fallen into a dream state a few minutes before the alarm went off.

I got up, turned off my annoying phone and then looked back over my shoulder at the warm bed I had just left behind.  My dog remained curled on his bed on the floor, snoring softly through slightly curled lips.  My husband seemed oblivious to the alarm, his own snores harmonizing with my dog’s–my husband forever the musician.

The rowing center bay glows like a fireplace

The rowing center bay glows like a fireplace

I slipped back under the covers for just a few minutes.  I thought about rolling over and falling back into whatever dream I had been pulled from.  But then, I remembered why I’d set the alarm for 5:15AM.  It was because I was going to row for the first time since last fall!

The thought of entering the river all by myself in the dark after not having rowed for months set off a new alarm, awakening the rabble of butterflies in my stomach.  With so much fluttering going on, there was no possibility of going back to sleep.  I decided coffee was in order.

I managed to get myself caffeinated, dressed, and assembled enough to take Tisen (who had managed to get out of bed) for a quick walk around the park.  Then, I was off.

A pedestrian bridge on the river walk reflected on the water

A pedestrian bridge on the river walk reflected on the water

I stuffed my rowing equipment into my saddle bags and rolled my bike out of the garage.  I carried it up the flight of steps to ground level, mounted, and rolled off into the dark feeling somewhat stoic, like I was about to face an enemy.

The quick 2 mile ride to the rowing center warmed up my legs and helped me relax.  The rabble in my belly died as I pumped my way up the slope of the Walnut Street Bridge looking over the stillness of the river below.  I reminded myself that it wasn’t that cold.  The worst thing that could happen is I could get wet.  I would make it back home slightly chilled, but no worse for wear.

Looking across the rests used for sculling boats to McClellan Island

Looking across the rests used for sculling boats to McClellan Island

I was the first rower of the morning.  I turned on the lights and tried to find my favorite boat to no avail.  I found another one and quickly learned I’d forgotten the art of carrying a rowing scull, but I managed to get it out safely.

I did everything out of order, but once I was seated in the scull and rowing, it was like I hadn’t missed a week.  The rhythm of legs pushing while arms pull oars through water, bending arms, straightening arms, sliding slowing back up to the catch, listening to the oars in the oarlocks and watching the Great Blue Heron soar a foot above the water all to a slow count of 4–it’s hard to imagine a better way to start a day.

One thing I forgot after a 5-month hiatus--what these things are called

One thing I forgot after a 5-month hiatus–what these things are called

Hipsta-vising Old Haunts

Looking up the slope from the North Shore end of the Walnut Street Bridge

Looking up the slope from the North Shore end of the Walnut Street Bridge

I may be suffering from Hipstamatic addiction.  I started thinking about all the riverfront scenery we haven’t been frequenting this winter and how great it would look in the tintype style.  So, Tisen and I took a longer walk than we’ve taken in a while and headed over to the Walnut Street bridge.  It was the perfect day for it.  The warmth and sunshine caused a growth spurt in the tourist population roaming the bridge.  Had I not been walking Tisen, I would have blended right in taking pictures with my iPhone.

The Walnut Street Bridge has been a frequent subject for many-a-photographer.  I’ve shot it so many times from so many angles, I keep thinking there aren’t any images left to capture.  But, I had never shot it with Hipstamatic!

Looking downstream from the North end of the bridge provides a nice view of the Delta Queen

Looking downstream from the North end of the bridge provides a nice view of the Delta Queen

According to Wikipedia, it’s “one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the world,” but when I tried to verify this, I quickly found 2 longer pedestrian bridges within the united states and 3 in other countries.  So, maybe it’s within the top 10 or so, but I couldn’t find an official list in the amount of time I was willing to spend searching.

According to my GPS, it’s about a half a mile long, which is consistent with Wikipedia’s measurement of 2,376 feet–264 feet shy of a half mile.  It’s historical significance is more interesting, but part of it is quite sad.  I’ll skip the gory details–those of you who are interested can find more information here.

Lookout Mountain looms in the background behind the Tennessee Aquarium

Lookout Mountain looms in the background behind the Tennessee Aquarium

The happier state of the bridge began when a group of citizens in Chattanooga decided the bridge should be saved when it had been closed and abandoned for so long that it was a dangerous eyesore (this is hear-say information).  Now, it’s an awesome walking bridge.

As we made our way gradually across the bridge, greeting the occasional neighbor and exchanging smiles with strangers, Spring suddenly struck me.  By this, I mean I was suddenly overcome by that special joy that only happens when you get out in the sunshine on one of the first really warm days that kick off the season and know that winter is almost over.  Exhilaration.   That’s the word.

Looking through the bridge trusses toward the bluff and the Hunter Museum

Looking through the bridge trusses toward the bluff and the Hunter Museum

One of the unique aspects of the Walnut Street Bridge is the slope.  The North Shore end is just above the river while the Downtown end is up on the bluff, so it’s a pretty steep climb.

Tisen definitely felt the climb.  He seemed very happy to stop and let me shoot for once.  Every time I paused to shoot, he paused to pant, standing perfectly still.  I guess this means I can’t blame him for my misfires.

At the risk of falling once more into the “Always Perfect” pitfall of loving my subject so much I think every photo of him is worth sharing, I took this late last night:

Tisen and Daddy napping on the sofa (Daddy with a pillow over his head)

Tisen and Daddy napping on the sofa (Daddy with a pillow over his head)

Many Bridges

Many years ago, about 6 months after I started learning how to use the manual controls on my PowerShot G3, I was sent to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on 3 separate trips for several days at a time.

I took my camera with me on the 2nd and 3rd trips after seeing how interesting the town is.  As I browse through the photos now, I am reminded of Chattanooga.  Harrisburg is about the same size as Chattanooga, has a river running through the heart of downtown (the Susquehanna River in the case of Harrisburg vs the Tennessee River in Chattanooga), and even has a Walnut Street Bridge that’s been converted to a pedestrian-only bridge.

Like Chattanooga, the riverfront offers endless photo-ops, although it seemed as though Harrisburg might not have created as many destinations along the riverfront as away from it.  Harrisburg has more bridges that cross the river within a short section.  But Chattanooga has two giant advantages:  mountains and warmer weather.

It’s not really a competition.  They are both cool towns with great architectural features and lovely rivers.  I really enjoyed walking down by the river when I had the opportunity in Harrisburg and working on capturing an interesting view of the bridges.  While I was able to improve these old photos somewhat by reprocessing them, they were taken with a point-and-shoot camera with 4 megapixel resolution 8 years ago.  Digital photography has come a long way since then.

I, also, have learned a few things.  For starters, shooting with the sun high in the sky was not optimal.  Making sure the water is level before pushing the shutter button was another big miss–I had to straighten these in software.  It’s interesting that with experience, the world acquires less and less tilt.

I particularly enjoyed shooting through the bridges to see more bridges behind.  There are so many bridges that from the right angle, the bridges seem endless.  I had a good time playing with different angles, but as the light faded, I learned why one of my photographer friends kept urging me to buy a tripod.

I learned quite a few things that trip.  For one, having a camera on a business trip can be quite entertaining when you’re traveling by yourself.  For another, taking a warm hat on a business trip is a requirement if you’re planning to entertain yourself by shooting a scenic river in January in Harrisburg.

I left Harrisburg after my last trip there feeling enchanted.  Having made the round of the downtown cathedrals and the state capital building, I was pleasantly surprised by the historic buildings and the overall grandeur of the town.  I suspect that had I spent more time there, I would have continued to discover wonderful secrets about the place.


Dinner on the Bluff

My sister-in-law, Megan, is staying with us only briefly–she has been traveling for the past three weeks between work and delivering my nephew to college, so we feel especially honored that she has driven out of her way to spend the weekend with us on her way back to Indianapolis from New Orleans. A special visit requires a special dinner, so we decide to try out the “most romantic restaurant in Chattanooga” (all right, so romantic may not quite be what we’re looking for, but the restaurant is up in the Bluffview Art District, which has a great view of the river). The Back Inn Cafe sits on the Chattanooga Riverwalk and caught my attention several times as a place I’d like to eat when I went by on my bike purely because I’m a sucker for a view.

After spending a busy day sight-seeing and relaxing with an afternoon nap, we decide tonight is the right occasion to give it a try. Pat, my husband, Megan and I head out on foot towards the Walnut Street Bridge. The sun is low in the sky, creating the orangey glow on the bridge that always makes everything look magical. Arriving at the bridge, we find crowds of people making their way towards their evening destinations as well as groups for whom the bridge is their destination. The former weave their way around the latter, moving at a faster pace. We have allowed an hour for our 10-minute walk, our dinner reservation not being until 8PM, so we move slowly and stop often. With the sun low and the breeze kicking up, the temperature has dropped and encourages us to linger.

A couple below is out on the river on paddle boards. We watch for a while as they stand on over-sized surf boards, paddling themselves along the river. It appears this is their first time–they move awkwardly across the river and turn suddenly away from an oncoming boat moving rapidly across the far side of the river as if they are afraid the wake will capsize them. The boat is far enough away that they rock only gently when the wake finally reaches them.

We make our way to the other side, arriving at the glass bridge. Megan takes the bridge in stride, but comments on the strangeness of walking over a highway on glass. I smile and recount my own first experience crossing this bridge, feeling proud that it’s now become a familiar experience. We linger some more around the Hunter Museum, enjoying the view from its patio, which juts precariously over the ledge. Then we walk towards the outdoor sculpture garden just outside the Back Inn Cafe. The sculpture garden surprises us with a melding of setting and sculpture. It nestles into the side of the cliff, providing a fascinating combination of scenery and art. Not being much of an art buff, I don’t know if art aficionados would appreciate the sculptures or not, but I enjoy the sense of place created by the garden. Each corner provides a new view while the sculptures elicit a sense of time standing still. A father and son are captured there, eternally caught in the intense embrace of parental passion. A school of fish are frozen in time as they struggle against a small waterfall. There is something about sculpture that makes me sad. The thought that one moment is all there ever is and all there ever will be for its subjects disturbs me. The paradox of being in one moment across all moments gives me the sense of being on to a profound realization that remains just outside my reach.

Returning to the practicality of life, we check the time and make our way to the restaurant. We sit at a large, round table for 6 out on the patio. We group together along one side so that we all have a view. The view from our table is not as good as the view from the sculpture garden, but the patio is lovely and the sun has now dropped below the buildings behind us, placing us in a cool shadow. We try things from their menu like peach caprese and fried green tomatoes served with goat cheese (I can never get enough goat cheese). The peach caprese is interesting, but I have to say I prefer tomatoes with mozzarella. We order a bottle of wine after checking to see if they will re-cork it since only Megan and I are having wine. However, since I order a stuffed filet, I find myself enjoying the complex red zin a little too much with the entree. By the end of dinner, there is only half a glass left, which hardly seems worth carrying home. I forget that 2 glasses is my limit (which I probably passed half a glass ago, but who’s counting?) and polish off the wine.

As we make our way back over the bridge after dinner, a cop on a Segway rolls up. We smile and wave and he stops to chat. We learn that this 3-wheeled contraption is not actually a Segway, which puffs up Pat a bit since we’d had an argument about this on the way over. We also learn that the cops patrolling on these funny vehicles are actually off-duty police paid to patrol Chattanooga pedestrian areas by a federal grant received due to gang activity. We are shocked to learn that even here there is violence. He assures us that the patrols have been effective and problem areas are now contained to places we make a mental note not to wonder into. He let’s me stand on his vehicle for a photo op before we move on.

Returning to our apartment, we take turns in the bathroom getting ready for bed–I realize this is the first time I’ve lived in a place with only 1 bathroom since I was in college. The extra glass of wine is hitting home and my stomach reminds me why I don’t drink more than 2 glasses. As I sit on the couch and close my eyes, the room begins to spin slowly. I open my eyes and curse myself for making myself feel sick on what was otherwise a perfect day. Next time, we will order wine by the glass.

All three of us fit on our oversized, ugly couch. We sit and doze as we watch a little TV, tired but happy. After each of us has nodded off several times, we decide it’s time for bed. Pat and I step around the air mattress in the middle of the living room, which Megan has insisted on sleeping on even though we insisted she should sleep in our bed. I am reminded that it’s been 15 years since I didn’t have a guest room with a regular bed in it to offer guests. The downside of downsizing. But Megan assures us she is perfectly comfortable as we turn off the lights and call it a night.