Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I Don't Photograph ALL my meals...just most.

Sometimes, the picture is better than the food.

Here's a case in point:

Beautifully seared steak. Nice grill cross-hatching. Cooked medium.

Loaded potato and bright green broccoli.

Even a little pizzaz reflection off the steak knife.


The menu wording should have warned me. They bragged about the meat's "marbling."

Er, that means "fat." More than half I cut away and left on the plate. Very little actual steak.

The Manager agreed and took the charge off my bill.

I told my server I WOULD be back... because I liked their Bar-b-q plate.

If you want a good steak, I suppose you should go to a steak house.

If I want a craft beer, I sit at the bar of a place that offers plenty of choices on tap.

I was in Columbia recently and stopped at Flying Saucer. They serve a "flight" of beers: 5 different choices in 5-ounce glasses.

Good way to sample something new.

This was a cool evening so time to check out dark porters and stouts.

Of course I drink dark beer also in the summer.

Just harder to find these heavier Winter beverages.

The hot mustard complemented the two brats on the German Plate.

Mit der sauerkraut und der German-style potato salad.

I have a phone app called "" that lets me keep track of unique beers.

The first time I try a beer it's "unique."

I recall one of the best steaks I've ever had. Yes, it WAS at a steakhouse, not a barbecue place.

Planning to go back again in the next week or so.

It was served barely cooked on a very hot heated stone and continued to sear & cook in front of me.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

Guess you'd miss the sizzle, heat and aroma if you wanted it just rare.

I'll try to avoid a heavily-marbled one there.

Or anywhere.

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Vintage Trouble...and a pat on the back.

The name of the band is Vintage Trouble and they've opened for everybody since forming in 2010.

And they have appeared on Leno, Letterman and all the other late, late tv shows.

And now...the Pour House.

LORDY! The energy!

I was exhausted just standing in the audience as Ty Taylor "broke a sweat."

If you were there, you know what I'm talking about.

Gives a new meaning to a "wash & wear" suit.
The band was in fine form and, as usual, the sound was exceptional.

At the PoHo, you know a singer's voice is never covered over by the instruments and each musician can be heard distinctly.

Proper tone is never just LOUD.

I'm used to seeing carpets placed onstage by bands but I think this one came from the old Gateway Computer school of thought.

Often performers jump down from the stage and mingle with the fans but this guy juked his way to the back of the room and "leaped" (leapt?) up on the counter and danced around.

I looked closely to make sure there were no ceiling fans! He was very high up.

I'm sure he had checked that out beforehand.

Because I seldom use flash, this shot in the back of the darkened room is sub-par. Some lights were switched on, but not nearly enough to make this picture presentable.

Oh well, it does show that he somehow got atop that high counter. From the front.

No easy feat.
It's safe to say he and the band was well received.

Up front or dancing behind the crowd.

His dry cleaner will have to work hard to salvage that soggy suit and vest.

My buddy patted Tyrone on the back as he passed by.

Yep. Probably won't do THAT again.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

Lots of sweat equity.

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

"Your money's no good here...."

 No, really, it ISN'T.

I had driven to Atlanta to see John Fogerty in concert at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre and the next morning decided to re-visit Stone Mountain.

It was on my way home and I had not been there since the 1980s. It still looked the same.

My GPS directed me to turn onto Robert E. Lee Drive and look for the Stonewall Jackson intersection.

I remembered I had a "fake" CSA $100 bill tucked into a hidden compartment of my Tilley hat so I presented it and asked if they could make change.

"No, sorry, can't take it. Another car a few minutes ago also had one," said the nonplussed lady at the entry booth.

I paid for parking with a crisp USA ten dollar bill. There was no change.

Drove in, looking around for a Saturday parking space.

Nice crowd on a crisp late-October day. School groups were in abundance and many people pushing strollers.

Excited little kids wanted to ride the Ducks boats and take the aerial tram to the top of the urban mini-mountain.

As a teenager, my older brother and I had hiked - actually RAN - up the slope and my Dad caught up before we could venture too far and possibly tumble over the edge. Parents are like that.

Of course the carved image looked the same. Nothing had been chiseled on it since I was last there.

Well, a family amusement park had been developed and, if you build it, the people will come.

I had come the night before to see Fogerty perform and it was quite a show.

Being outdoors, we had planned ahead for a drop in temperature but it got down to a chilly 41 degrees.

Instead of sipping a cold beer, cups of hot coffee were in order.

The smart and temp-conscious vendor suggested perhaps a shot of Jack Daniels would help us weather the weather. It did indeed.

Sitting in the 4th row, we were shielded from any breeze and actually could feel some heat from the stage lighting.

That might have been wishful imagination though, because you could see Fogerty's small breath clouds in the cool air.

Some of the effects included flames shooting high in the air so you COULD enjoy a moment or two of heat.

And a second Jack-laced hot coffee helped.

Before - and after - his time leading Credence Clearwater Revival, Fogerty was a prolific songwriter.

We enjoyed a fantastic sing-along nostalgic tour of his many hits.

As a courtesy to the performers, I try to avoid singing aloud.

The band playing with John was tight and extremely talented.

Giant screens shared what we were seeing up close to the rest of the crowd.

Other pickers would join him at stage center to present a pounding rendition of a song.

He has always been a blasting, full volume kind of singer and I don't know how he has protected his voice all these years but he was in fine tune.

He came back for an extended encore and we enjoyed a 2+ hour show.

He was still full of energy as a torrent of multi-colored confetti was shot forward and cascaded down to close the show..

It was another great test of my Canon sx 260 HS.

The compact camera has a nice wide-angle lens setting to show the overall scene.

Then the sharp 20x optical zoom brings me right up on stage.

Where it was slightly warmer.

(Click on the pictures for more details.)

An hour later found that Walgreens has its own house brand of beer: Big Flats 1901 lager beer. A 6-pack for $2.99.

Funny comments online but it tasted pretty good.

While relaxing in a warm hotel room.

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A "light traffic day" in San Diego...

Now here's a sight you seldom see on California Freeways.

No cars. None. 

Not even one pulled over onto the shoulder.

You didn't really see it like this either. 

I used a bit of camera trickery to make this odd - and eerie - traffic alert.

During a recent visit to San Diego, I planned an experiment standing on the Cabrillo Bridge leading into Balboa Park.

Here are the logistics of making the cars disappear: 

On a bright sunny day, I took my Canon S90 camera that had been adapted to accept dark ND (Neutral Density) filters and hiked out onto the Cabrillo Bridge soaring high above what I remember as Highway 395 (heading up to Poway).

I have a tiny - but strong and effective - tripod always attached to the camera and spread its small legs on the bridge railing to hold it steady for a 6-8 second shot with the darkest filter in place. 

I used the timer to trip the shutter so there was not even slight movement.The long exposure meant that anything that did not stay still for the entire time would not appear.

One shot shows traffic slowing on the downtown exit ramp and two disabled cars naturally were not moving at all.

Those who have stood on that bridge can recall seeing the aerial gondolas moving silently above the nearby San Diego Zoo.
Here I used my other compact camera with a 20x optical zoom to bring it closer. 

When post-processing yesterday, I enlarged that close-up shot to an extreme blow-up. 

The Canon sx260 held the image sharp and made this possible.

Many photographers carry a much larger camera  called a Single Lens Reflex (SLR) and a bag bulging with additional lenses.

And, often, lug a large tripod that can accommodate the weight of the big camera and lens.

I travel much lighter and usually have my small camera in a pouch hanging on my belt.

This day, I had two very light cameras with me and a small array of dark filters.

I had in mind the type of shot I wanted to make the cars disappear and it worked just as I imagined it would.
Finally, from the bridge, I watched planes on final approach heading down to Lindbergh Field.

Plane after plane rumbled by and I snapped quite a few, adjusting the focus as they came into view, low over the treetops.

Back home at my computer, I "doctored" this Japan Air Lines plane with some extreme colorful effects.

I use several Plug-in image modifiers from Topaz and played with this silvery plane in a bright sky frozen in place above green Balboa Park.

Back when I lived in San Diego, I had heard the story about the Eucalyptus trees that had been imported from Australia.

Railroads needed trees to make millions of wooden ties for tracks.

These trees grew very fast so they were brought to this country.

Unfortunately, as they grew, they twisted so were totally unsuited as supports for railroad tracks.

They ARE used extensively as wind breaks though in fields where strong winds could damage crops so the trip from down under was fruitful.

They are all over Balboa Park with their colorful variated bark and distinctive leaves.

It would not have made sense to walk across that bridge and NOT venture further into the park on this beautiful day ..but let's save that for another posting.

Click on the photos for more details.

Hey, with no cars, nobody is speeding or tail-gating.

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Monday, October 07, 2013

Out For A Walk ...around the world.

The 6th annual Scott Kelby World Wide Photo Walk was Saturday, October 5.

Here and in about 1,238 other places around the world.

More than 28,000 photographers and wannabes toted their cameras and tried to capture a moment.

Anyone driving over the Shem Creek Bridge around 5pm must have wondered what was going on.

(I never realized how narrow the sidewalk is on the bridge.)

We had been warned by Walk Leader Kevin Harp to not step back to get a better angle while on the bridge. Yikes.

The beauty of these walks is to slow down and enjoy the view.

Kevin led us along an area I had never walked before.

The mural on the side of the Vet Pet held our attention for a while.

Looks like everything was included: cats and dogs of course, but also snakes and turtles and birds...oh my.

We walked past the Montessori School of Mt. Pleasant and snapped pictures of the various swings and slides arrayed in a yard by the side.

 Lucky kids.

I knew Mt. Pleasant was, well, pleasant.

This day I was walking along, late in the day, and the sun angled in through masses of moss.

Side-lighting or, back-lighting, often makes for satisfying photographs. Today was no exception.

As we ambled we came to Pitt Street and it was fun watching strangers with cameras enter the Pharmacy.

As they looked around this family-owned treasure from the past, I asked the young "soda jerk" to make me a cone of strawberry ice cream.

My day had started early at Waterfront Park.

I was leading a Downtown Tour that was to start at 9:00am and end around 11:30 at Tommy Condon Irish Pub near the Market.

I was there early enough that the last of a morning fog was burning off and I hustled to get a few shots before the scene cleared.

These would NOT be allowed in the international competition because they were taken before the official start time of my walk.

But it was a scene I wanted to capture for my own satisfaction.

Watching an early morning fog clearing on the waterfront of the Charleston harbor was part of being born and raised here.

This was hardly my first visit to the Pineapple Fountain*.

But, as I waited for participants to arrive to start the walk, I wandered around and saw several different views.

These angles had always been there of course, but now I had a zoom on my camera and was able to "pull in" the other one.

They aren't quite this close together but it is another view I like.

We had 43 photographers - members and non-members - sign up for the Downtown 6th annual Kelby Walk.

Another 20 turned out in the afternoon for the Shem Creek one.

Saw many new faces during the walks and invited each one to join our local Photography Group.

These annual events are cool but we try to do multiple walks and outings on a regular basis.

We have so many enticing views!

In June, members put together 5 separate trips, ranging down to Beaufort and Port Royal and including Summerville and downtown's 2nd Sunday.

But the Historic District continues to be the main draw.

I was able to introduce many of the Walkers to their first view of Washington Park.

It's that shady green park next to City Hall at the Four Corners of Law, Broad and Meeting Streets.

I had not noticed the small bronze statue of the dancing children tucked away in a corner.

I looked it up and the official name is "Do-Si-Do,"1981, by Willard Hirsch a noted Charleston sculptor.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

I learn new things on every photo walking tour.

*The pineapple is a symbol of tourism and hospitality.

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Sunday, October 06, 2013

Steak burger & a shake....

Some might call it a foodie assembly line but I think it's an example of a terrific division of tasks.

The new Steak N Shake in Tanger Outlets in North Charleston knows how to get 'er done.

The guys on the grill keep churning them out to order.

Next step is for the people who apply the condiments.

The server brings it to you as you relax at the counter or in a booth.

It's not always fun to "peek behind the scenes" but this was entertaining, watching teammates work well together.

My server was on her very first night "on the floor" after a week of training.

We got a moment to chat as she efficiently tended to the clients at her station along the counter.

She has been in Charleston for a while and has been a barister at Starbucks.

"I became the manager there but, after I came back from a maternity leave, things had changed a lot so I looked around," she said.

She worked smoothly and when I saw some shakes delivered next to me, I put aside my iced tea and ordered one of the $3 beauties.

Guess that counts as a balanced meal?

I agree with others who feel it all comes together well.

Service, sort of a 1950s diner atmosphere, and a production line smoothly producing delicious steak burgers. Some were on a pretzel roll.

I had seen the billboard on I-26 but didn't realize the place had opened back in June.

So, if you've been shopping at the Tanger shops, or headed for a show at the PAC, here's another place to add to your dining list.

I'll know be back.

Probably will skip the iced tea. Have another great shake.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

Moderation is easier at a place that doesn't serve beer.

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Tuesday, October 01, 2013

I Saw A Ghost While On A Ghost Tour....

Well, DUH, it WAS a Ghost Tour at the old city jail.

Not that I expected to really see any "haints."

A fellow photographer and I went downtown Saturday for the 9pm tour.

 Karen Lane Marr was our guide for the 45-minute jailhouse rock.

Karen mentioned she was on Facebook and has posted some eerie shots she had taken inside.

When I saw what my camera had captured standing behind her, I posted it to her Facebook page. I think this justifies a Yikes.

No denying it, the Jail is a scary place at night. Well, creepy
at least.

You park in the back, inside the wall around the place, and walk through what we later learned is a small cemetery.

The small group gathered for the next tour all admitted they were here "to see ghosts or something unusual."

Interest was shown in the equipment my buddy carried. He didn't have a camera like I did. He had much, much more.

He had a Night Vision Video recorder. With a powerful infrared light.

And, he had an EMF meter.
If something went bump in the dark, he'd see it or detect movement.

I just hoped he would warn me to look out.

During the tour, up and down stairs, we shuffled along while he watched a bright black & white video screen that pierced the darkness.

In a dimly-lighted red-tinted room - a place where prisoners had been flogged - suddenly the Electro Magnetic Field detector "jumped" out of his shirt pocket and clattered across the wooden floor.

He was as startled as the rest of us.

Our guide, Ms. Marr, smirked and said she has seen pens pulled from pockets and even a wrist watch snatched off a visitor's wrist in this particular room.

Angry spirits messing with us?

The whole setting is eerie and a sudden breeze was whipping limbs outside on this moonless night.

As we moved along, I held a small flashlight, flicking it on every now and then.

I aimed at the floor so people close to me would not trip or bump into anything. Or against me.

I wanted no more surprises. Being jostled in the dark would not be good.
Toward the end of the tour, we passed through a large steel-barred door and stopped.

We huddled together in the space between the jail's former kitchen and its former mortuary.

My buddy with the EMF and camcorder wandered into the open door on the left.

It was NOT the kitchen he said, there were disturbances in the ether and he felt a definite cold chill.

We stepped out into the cemetery area behind the jail.


A collective sigh was felt rather than heard.

Suddenly, footsteps creaked on the wooden balcony above us, and all eyes darted up there.

A staff member had stepped out onto the landing above us.

She apologized for startling us and said she was looking for two people who seemed to be missing from the previous tour.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

My buddy learned it was possible to go on a Paranormal Tour from Midnight to 2:00am.

He's charging up the batteries on his special equipment.

"Who you gonna call?"

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