Friday, June 28, 2013

Louisville, Kentucky: Part 1 - Churchill Downs...

I hadn't seen my buddy Mark since 2003, when he and some other friends visited San Diego. Prior to that, he'd visited in 2001, back when I was working at Go Guitars.
 
We first became friends when I worked for America Online years ago. I was one of the moderators for the AOL Guitar Special Interest Group (or "SIG). Despite the anonymity such an environment provides, it was easy to tell who the older guy were; those who actually knew what the Hell they were talking about. There were maybe a half dozen of us, and Mark was one. He and I also have the Navy in common, although I spent a bit longer in than he did.
 
Naturally, when I saw the opportunity, I decided to swing through Louisville on my trip east and pay him a visit. Mark's home is always open to friends, and there's always a cold one in the fridge.
 
As it was still mid-June, school was still in session. Being a music teacher, Mark couldn't just bail and hang out all day, so that gave me a little bit of time to go out exploring. There were a few places I wanted to see, so I decided to lay out a big circle around Louisville and see as much as I could.

The one place I really wanted to check out was yet another on my list of "Ghost Adventure" visits. Waverly Hills Sanatorium opened in 1910, and was originally designed to house 40 to 50 tuberculosis patients. It closed in 1962, after newly developed medications helped negate the need for such facilities.

I didn't hold out a lot of hope, as it's privately owned, and my suspicions were confirmed when I rolled up to the one gate I could find, with signs warning against unauthorized entry.

Nope...
I opted against doing anything which might get me in trouble and, instead, turned the truck north towards Churchill Downs.
 

Churchill Downs is, of course, home to the the first leg of horse racing's Triple Crown, the Kentucky Derby. It opened in 1875, and has been operating steadily ever since.

The entrance to the Visitor's Center at Churchill Downs, with a sculpture of 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro. Barbaro would be euthanized less than a year later due to complications from a shattered bone in his leg...

I opted to take the $14.00 tour, which included a really informative movie, entrance to the museum and a tour of the grounds.


A statue depicting the 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb and jockey Joel Rosario...


The "in the round" movie theatre inside the museum...

The museum had quite a collection of memorabilia, from jockey silks to ladies hats. They even had the bridle worn by Secretariat when he won the Derby in 1973, when he became the first horse in 25 years to win the fabled Triple Crown:

Secretariat's bridle from 1973...

Somewhere, at some point, someone told a lot of women that these hats looked good...

There were no crowds here on the day I visited, save for those taking the tour like I was, but it wasn't hard to imagine what this place is like when there are. There are rows and rows of betting windows that are only open on Derby Day:


Despite the investment made, these betting windows are used on one day a year...

It would've been nice, I'm sure, to be here on "race day; I mean, any race day. I've been to Del Mar a couple of times, as well as a long-defunct track back on Long Island called "Parr Meadows" (no relation, apparently) back in the 70's. There's always an excitement wherever you go, and I can only imagine how amplified that excitement would be for the Kentucky Derby.

Still, it was nice to be able to see "the front stretch"; that piece of real estate that so few horses ever actually get to see:


The front stretch at Churchill Downs...

Probably the coolest part of the tour is finding out that they always have a Kentucky Derby winner "in residence". For my visit, it was Mine That Bird. Mine That Bird won the Derby in 2009, in an exceptionally monumental upset. His odds were 50 to1:

Mine That Bird...

Personally, I think I would've enjoyed seeing a bit more of the facility. I don't mean to suggest that the tour was too short; it wasn't. But I still would've enjoyed being able to see the track from the grandstand, which is one of the most recognizable in all of sports.

That said, it was a great site to see during my all-too-brief Louisville visit. If you ever find yourself with a couple of hours to spare in Louisville, allow me to suggest that you just drive right past Waverly Hills, and spend your time at one of the greatest sporting facilities anywhere in the world...

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

GET ON WITH IT!!!

I gotta' be honest, man. I would've bet my last nickel that I'd have been waaaay behind the blogging power curve before I even made it into the Central Standard Time zone. As it is, though, it looks like it happened only after arriving in Pennsylvania.
 
The new gig's got me hopping pretty heavily, and I'm shooting anywhere between 350 and 700 frames a day, depending on the day. This doesn't allow for much time to devote to the blog, but I'll do what I can to get it back on track before much longer.
 
I will say that the new gig, despite the high level of shooting, is going really well, and the folks who are signing the checks seem genuinely impressed. This is a good thing.
 
For those who don't know, I'm spending seven weeks as the photographer for a summer camp in northeastern Pennsylvania. Six months ago, I never would've called this one, but here I am. The camp is pretty large, with a 69 acre lake, and it's divided up between younger kids and older kids. When we were discussing logistics, there was some back and forth over whether or not I would have bestowed upon me the keys to one of the spare few golf carts. The sheer size of this place dictates that the job simply wouldn't get done without one, and I'm glad that the powers-that-be recognized that.
 
I've got the next "travel segment" of the blog in the works, and I promise (well, maybe that's too strong a word) to get it finished up and posted. In the meantime, thanks for hangin' on!


This is my main set of wheels these days. And it's quick...

And this is where I work. Life could be worse...



Saturday, June 15, 2013

Chattanooga...

Trying to keep up with this blog has proven to be a bit trying. I shoot all the time, and then when I get to wherever it is I'm going, I have to edit photos so I have something to post other than words. Of course, since I spend all that time editing photos, I never write anything.
 
It's an ugly, vicious cycle, I tell ya'.
 
I'm getting caught up, though, so that means it's time to talk about Chattanooga, Tennessee.
 
In another life, I was a member of ASMP, which is the American Society of Media Photographers. During the time I was a member, I met another San Diego based photographer named Holt Webb. Holt and I became fast friends, and he's a photographer who I admire a great deal.
 
Without going into all the gory details, Holt ended up settling in Chattanooga, Tennessee. So, naturally, I arranged my travel itinerary to allow me to visit for a few days.
 
My first full day there, Holt decided to take me to a place called Rock City. While the admission might have seemed a tad steep at first, it really was very, very cool. The park offers some extraordinary views of the area, but is also pretty cool in its own regard:
 
The waterfall at Lover's Leap in Rock City...

My buddy Holt Webb...

One Helluva' drop...

The "Stone Face" at Rock City...

Standing between two very high stone walls in Rock City...

Looking out over the Tennessee River...
It's a long, long drop... Straight down...

The Thursday I spent in Chattanooga was Holt's birthday, so I figured I'd treat him to dinner. We decided to walk across the river to this pub he knows and, of course, I took my camera:

One of the many bridges in Chattanooga, Tennessee...

Another of the many bridges in Chattanooga...

Hey, they have a lot of bridges...

Probably my favorite shot from my Chattanooga visit...

A fountain at the foot of the "walking bridge", which is closed to vehicular traffic...

High end condominiums overlook the annual Riverbend Festival...

Looking into the crowd from backstage at Riverbend...

This bridge is for pedestrians only, and it offers some great views...

A view of part of the Riverbend Festival in Chattanooga...

Part of the Hunter Museum...

"The Man"...

Doesn't every police department have these?

Chattanooga's finest...

I don't believe a pink iPhone case is considered "standard issue"...

Holt gets Riverbend viewing advice from local authorities...
 
I guess it's naive to think I could get through a visit with a photographer without having a portrait shot of me.
I think I'm going to use this one for the book...

I did have some "solo time", as Holt had to work while I was there, so I took the opportunity to get my oil changed, do some shopping and do some shooting:

This was one sweet Harley...

The level of vigilance is simply staggering...

As bagpipe players go, he wasn't bad...

This guy was preachin', and he was mad...

If you find yourself in downtown Chattanooga, allow me to recommend the Hair Of The Dog Pub...

And any installment talking about Chattanooga and Holt Webb would be incomplete without a mention of Holt's faithful sidekick, Reggie:

Reggie surveys his domain...

Reggie in "stealth mode". His leash betrays him...

Reggie in front of his apartment building...

Unfortunately, visits like this always have to come to an end. It's always great to see Holt and, now that we're both on the east coast (more or less), hopefully we can visit more often...

You can check out some of  Holt Webb's incredible photographic work here: Holt Webb.

 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Mount Rushmore...

I don't really recall the first time I became aware of Mount Rushmore. I was quite young, I'm sure, and I'm equally sure that, at that young age, I probably concluded that I would never step upon its hallowed ground.
 
Yet that's just what I've done.
 
After the disappointing stop at the Crazy Horse Memorial, I had higher hopes for Mount Rushmore. After paying my $11.00 (for an annual parking pass and admission, thankyouverymuch), I parked the truck in a covered parking garage and began to make my way in.
 
 
 
It was crowded, but not offensively so. As you'd suspect, my biggest concern was getting photos and, in the end, I'm happy with what I was able to come away with. The lighting wasn't perfect, as I got there as the sun was starting to come in over George's right shoulder, but I was able to work with it.
 
Now, most people are aware of the four Presidents whose faces are carved into the granite of Mount Rushmore, but not nearly as many know why those four were selected.
  • George Washington - Signifies the struggle for independence and the birth of the Republic.
  • Thomas Jefferson - Signifies the territorial expansion of the country.
  • Abraham Lincoln - Represents the permenant union of the States and equality for all citizens.
  • Theodore Roosevelt - Stands for the 20th century role of the United States in world affairs.
  •  
There's an enormous visitor center, and there's no shortage of information on the mountain, who designed or the men who carved it, from raw granite, right into the face of the mountain. If you only have a couple of hours, it's unlikely that you'll see everything or read everything. The amount of information is almost overwhelming:
 
The Visitor Center and amphitheatre at Mount Rushmore...
And, if you happen to get hungry while you're there, there's a full service, cafeteria style restaurant. I didn't eat there, but the smell was tempting me. Not your typical snack bar fare at this joint:
 
A portion of a very large dining area...
 
Walking towards the mountain, it's easy to get a sense of reverence for this place. No one died here, and no one is buried here. But there's a reverence for what Mount Rushmore stands for and, like I said, you sense that as you approach it through the columns of flags:
 
Approaching the monument...
 
The walk around Mount Rushmore (well, in front of it; you can't walk around it) is known as Presidential Trail. While a more appropriate name would probably be difficult to imagine, it's important to note that "Presidents" aren't the only things you'll see. These are the Black Hills, after all, and many different species of  wildlife call this area "home":
 
Up close and personal... But not too close...
 
After a few moments on the trail, you get to the base of the monument, and that quintessential view of Mount Rushmore:
 
Mount Rushmore...
 
Mount Rushmore in HDR...
 
Another view of Mount Rushmore...

The monument was sculpted by Gutzon Borglum and his son Lincoln, but it was the brainchild of South Dakota historian Doane Robinson. Gutzon Borglum was recruited from his work on Stone Mountain, in Georgia. His original design was somewhat different than what we see today, in that Jefferson's likeness was originally planned to be on Washington's right. The rock there was deemed too unstable, though, so it was place to Washington's left.
 
A little known fact is that the original plans for the monument called for each President to be depicted from the waist up:
 
A scale model of Borglum's original plan...
 
 
Mount Rushmore, as it appeared in 1905... (photo from Wikipedia)
 
The actual carving that we see today took a total of 14 years. During that time, surprisingly, there were only minor injuries. Not a single life was lost.
 
In 1939, Borglum built a "Sculptor's Studio" not far from the mountain. It was here where he, and other sculptors, could work on various scale models of the project. Gutzon Borglum died in March of 1941, and his son Lincoln assumed the helm of the project. A funding shortage brought the project to a close, however, in October of that year.
 
 
The Sculptor's Studio at Mount Rushmore...
 
Inside the Sculptor's Studio are a number of scale sculptures used by Borglum and his crew of about 400 men:
 
A scale model sculpture of President Lincoln...
 
It's difficult to imagine what it would take to pull of something like this today. Borglum had to travel from Stone Mountain, Georgia to the Black Hills of South Dakota. Today, he could be there the same day. In the early 1900's, though, it would take weeks to make the trip. In order to meet with someone else to help secure more funding would take a trip of several more weeks. Today such a meeting could take place on Skype and the funds would be in place by the next business day.
 
In short, nothing that Gutzon Borglum had to do, with regards to the carving of this monument, was done easily. It was a Herculian task from beginning to end. We take much for granted these days, and I have to wonder if anyone alive today would have the wherewithal to even conceive of such a project, much less carry it out.
 
Mount Rushmore stands as a monument to not only the Presidents depicted and what they've represented to our country, but to the men who are responsible for us now being able to enjoy such a place. It's not necessarily a place of quiet reflection, nor is it one for solemn introspection. As I see it, it's a monument to the very ideals which have made it possible for this little experiment called "America" to endure.
 
And for this we have but one man to thank: Gutzon Borglum...
 
Gutzon Borglum. This bust was carved by his son Lincoln...


Let's Talk Apps...

From time to time, I'll be talking about cell phone apps as I find good ones. Let's face it, it's almost impossible to get thro...