Tuesday, April 30, 2013

In a previous life it was a fort.

Stella Maris Catholic Church, Sullivan's Island, SC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

While visiting Ft. Moultrie on Sullivan's Island, I saw this old church about two blocks in the distance. After we finished touring the fort, we walked over to get a closer look at what turned out to be Stella Maris Catholic church, a church with a very interesting history.

The original building was a wooden structure erected in 1845. During the Civil War, Sullivan's Island, home of Ft. Moultrie, received extensive bombardment from Federal ships. In spite of its proximity to the fort, the church miraculously was the only public building left standing on the island when the war ended in 1865. In the late 1860s it was decided that instead of trying to rehabilitate the old wooden building, a new church building should be built.

A lot near the old structure was purchased for $100, and the church got permission from the Secretary of  War to use bricks from the ruins of Ft. Moultrie to build the new church. The cornerstone for the new building was laid on January 18, 1869. Both Protestants and Catholics from the island worked to reclaim and clean the bricks from Ft. Moultrie, and help with the construction. The building was completed in August of 1873. Work continued on the interior until 1877, and the steeple tower was completed in 1881. After learning of the history of this church, I thought using bricks from a destroyed fort was an interesting variation of beating swords into ploughshares.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Interesting Characters

Two Mules, Charleston, SC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

On our most recent trip to Charleston I had intended to make more photos of "interesting characters", tourists and locals who caught my eye for some reason. Sometimes it's their attire, other times it's what they're doing at the time. I got a few of these kind of photos, but I didn't exert as much effort in this direction as I originally intended.

All over downtown Charleston one will see carriages pulled by horses or mules giving tours of the downtown area. I guess because I've had pets for most of my life I tend to assign personality to some animals, probably more than is deserved. Anyway, if I could describe these mules and horses in one word it would be "bored". They spend all day pulling their carriages along the same streets day after day. I'm sure they are well cared for, considering they are revenue producers. Even so, none of them looked really happy about what they were doing. Can a mule even be happy? I don't know. The weather was very mild while we were there, so they didn't look overworked. I don't think I could bear to take one of those carriage rides in the heat of summer, however. I'm sure the mules don't enjoy working on those hot city streets when the temperatures are in the 90s.

These two mules were taking a break while their carriage was waiting for another load of tourists to show up. I thought they were about as interesting as any humans I had seen that day, so I added their picture to my collection.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

It's Not What You Think

Warehouse View, Mt. Pleasant, SC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Is this scenic view of a South Carolina marsh from the window of an expensive vacation home? Nope. It's a window of a warehouse at Boone Hall plantation. Actually, it's a reproduction of a warehouse that sits on a small river on one side of the property that was used for shipping the crops raised on the plantation. Not a bad view for a warehouse!

Saturday, April 27, 2013


Spirit of South Carolina, Charleston Harbor, SC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Photography has come a long way since the 19th century. Most would say it's better today, and I would certainly agree. Still, there's something about the look of vintage photos that continues to appeal to viewers today, so much so that various software have been developed to reproduce the "look" of 19th century photos. There are even some who still use the original processes of that era to get an even more realistic looking product. To each his own; I'll stick with the modern digital processes.

Ship builders seem to like reproductions too. This tall ship, Spirit of South Carolina, was launched in 2007 and serves as a sailing school vessel in Charleston harbor. The ship is reminiscent of the Francis Elizabeth, a schooner built in Charleston in 1879. The Spirit of South Carolina was built in the traditional manner with woods and rigging typically used in the late 19th century. However, for safety, the ship is equipped with two diesel engines, and modern electronic communication and navigational equipment. Is that cheating? No more than photographing it with a digital camera and producing the finished image on a computer with modern software. I think reproductions can honor the original without having to be an exact copy.

Friday, April 26, 2013

My Only Gripe (And it's a big one.)

Miss "No Pictures Inside",  Mt. Pleasant, SC,  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

As visitors to this blog have likely surmised by this time, I really like Charleston. I mean I really like Charleston. However, it's not perfect. I do have one major gripe.

On our visits to Charelston we have toured some of the beautiful old homes that have been so wonderfully restored to their former grandeur. But it's really a bummer after paying $15-20 to take a tour of the interior to be told, "No photographs inside the house." What?! It seems to be the policy at all the old houses, but to me it's like going to a restaurant and being told you can't eat the food. Of course they'll be glad to sell you an overpriced picture book at the gift shop to remember your visit. Gee, thanks.

The woman in the picture above was our guide at Boone Hall Plantation. She seemed so nice at first, all smiles as she posed in her hoop skirt for all of us toting cameras as we waited at the front door for the tour to begin. Then she dropped the "No pictures inside" bomb, and my opinion of her and Boone Hall changed immediately. I kept my mouth shut, though. I couldn't see what she might be holding behind her back. Maybe a whip, ready to lay a few lashes on the back of anyone who dared to sneak a photo? I wasn't taking any chances.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Beyond Camera Shy

Stop!, Fort Moultrie, Sullivan's Island, SC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Most, if not all parents like to take pictures of their children. So I'm not really that odd for wanting to document our daughters' childhood and teen years, am I? Both of my girls have gotten tired of having my lens pointed in their direction, but the youngest has gotten militant about it. She is beyond camera shy.

While visiting Ft. Moultrie, Courtney and I went in opposite directions around a brightly painted powder magazine. My plan was to catch a candid photo of her as she emerged from around the back of the structure. Her "Dad With A Camera Radar" was set on high, however, and I wasn't fast enough to catch her before her shield went up and she yelled, "Stop!" Oh well, sometimes you just gotta take what you can get.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I Don't Remember

Hat In Hand, Charleston, SC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Some photographers carry a small notebook while they're out with their camera so they can make notes about where they've been and what they photographed. I'm not one of those photographers. I like to travel light, carrying only what is absolutely essential. A notebook and pen is just too much of a bother. As a result, I sometimes forget the details of what I've photographed. Such is the case with the photo above.

Beyond, "somewhere in the Charleston area", I can't remember where this statue is, or who it commemorates. Evidently, I wasn't impressed enough to photograph the entire statue, only this detail of the man's hand holding his hat. Does the fact that this photo creates more questions than it answers make it more interesting? I don't know. Maybe I should start carrying that notebook.

Monday, April 22, 2013

"We don't need no stinkin' studio!"

There was a need for pictures of two pastors to update the staff page of my church's website, so I volunteered to do them. Nothing fancy, just a simple "headshot" was all that was needed.

I asked the two men to meet me in a classroom immediately after the morning worship service. I wanted to keep it fast and simple since we all wanted to get home and eat! Not wanting to be bothered with any complicated studio lighting, I opted for the simple and classic window lighting. The old master painters like Rembrandt used this method centuries before electric lighting was available. Most people seem to think they did OK with it.

Rembrandt's Girl At A Window

I placed a chair close to a window that was not getting direct sun light. A blank wall behind the chair served as a background. I placed a silvered reflector on a chair opposite the window to reflect some light back onto the shadow side of the face. A piece of white poster board would have done the same job. It took about two minutes to set up my "studio", and here are the results. Thanks for the lighting tip, Mr. Rembrandt! (Click on photos to enlarge.)

 Caleb Payne

David Williams

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Early Callas

Pink Calla Lilies, Mt. Pleasant, SC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Calla lilies are one of my favorite flowers to photograph. Their shape, curves, and folds offer almost endless possible compositional variations, limited only by your imagination. Where I live in the western North Carolina mountains, we don't usually see Calla lilies until early to mid June. At Boone Hall Plantation in Mt. Pleasant, SC, they were blooming in the first week of April!

I rushed this hand-held shot a little bit as I was in the garden waiting for the call for the next tour of the plantation house. As a result, the photo was just a bit soft from either camera shake, or a breeze moving the flowers. At first glance I thought, "Nah, too soft." However, the longer I looked at it, I began to think that the lack of sharpness was not necessarily a defect, but actually gave a painterly quality to the image. So I saved it from the delete key, and present it here for your enjoyment.

Friday, April 19, 2013

"It Don't Come Easy"

Will Work 4 Food, Charleston, SC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

I'm always reminded of the title of that Ringo Starr hit from 1971 whenever I try to make candid photos of people on the street. I've always appreciated good street photography, but it sure don't come easy for me.

On our latest trip to Charleston, I had intended to make more photos of local people and interesting characters, whether locals or tourists. I got a few OK shots, such as this street musician above, but street photography does not come natural to me. I'm very self-conscious of photographing strangers, and I always imagine that they will think the worse if they see me pointing my camera their way. Actually, in a tourist city like Charleston, cameras are everywhere, so most of the time they are probably not even noticed. Still, I struggle with this. Subjects like waterfalls and old barns are more my speed, I guess.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


While browsing through a gallery of paintings of Charleston scenes, I came across this painting of a locally famous restaurant, Slightly North Of Broad, also known as S.N.O.B. It's an interesting building and somewhat of a local landmark, so I wanted to make a photograph similar to the painting.

Unfortunately, I couldn't get to the location at the crack of dawn, so there was no way to avoid having a scene devoid of people as in the painting. Oh well, nothing to do but to wait until the constant stream of pedestrians provided me with some folks who looked fairly "average". No loud Hawaiian shirts, please. I came up with version:

Original Color Photo

Then, to make it look more like a painting, I played around in the digital darkroom and came up with another version. At web resolution, you can't really see any difference, so here is a 100% crop that shows more detail:

100% Crop (Click on image to enlarge.)

Of course, I also had to try a B&W version, which after all the previous work, I ended up liking best.

B&W Version

It's not unusual for me to end up with something quite different from my original idea. I guess that's what keeps this hobby interesting for me.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Searching For The Real Charleston

The Charleston City Market sits on land ceded to the city of Charleston in 1788 by Charles Pinckney. His only stipulation was that the land be used only for market space in perpetuity. And so it remains a market to this day.

Originally the city market housed vegetable, meat, and seafood vendors. Today, the market caters to the tourist trade, with vendors selling mainly souvenir-type products. For the most part, a better grade of souvenir can be had here, but the market is mainly an oversize souvenir outlet nonetheless.

Just outside the market, however, I found a vendor who I think is more in the spirit of the original market of agricultural products, Tony The Peanut Man. Evidently, Tony cannot afford one of the high-dollar stalls inside the market, so he sets up his table on a sidewalk just outside one of the market entrances. Here he can take advantage of the large crowds of tourists while keeping his overhead low. The American entrepreneur is alive and well in Charleston, and I thought this vendor was much more interesting and worthy of a photograph than any of the t-shirt and seashell jewelry hawkers inside the market.

Tony The Peanut Man, Charleston, SC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Died Too Young

Our Little Julia, Charleston, SC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

When you visit the older cemeteries in Charelston, one thing that stands out is the number of children in the 18th and 19th centuries who died before their second birthday. Although I'd like to visit the past, this is one more reason I wouldn't want to live my life in that era.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Too Many Restaurants

Hank's, Charleston, SC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Well, maybe there's no such thing as too many restaurants, but Charleston is definitely a foodie town. Like New Orleans, it has more restaurants than anyone could reasonably expect to visit in a lifetime. And new ones are popping up all the time!

This is one we did not eat at, but I liked their distressed exterior signage so much that I stopped to make a photo anyway. I've heard Hank's is a good one, so maybe next trip.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The One Regret

Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge, Charleston, SC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

The one thing we weren't able to find time to do while we were in Charleston was walk the Ravenel Bridge. Courtney and I had this on our list of "Things to do in Charleston", but being busy with other sightseeing, and the sometimes uncooperative weather kept us away. That's the problem with Charleston, there's so much to see that it's hard to squeeze it all in on one trip. Or two. I guess we'll just have to go back for another visit!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I didn't know that!

Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Synagogue, Charleston, SC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Charleston is sometimes called "The Holy City" because of it's number of large, old churches. The city's skyline is literally dominated by steeples. We visited several of these houses of worship, including one Jewish synagogue, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, which means Holy Congregation House of God.

This congregation is the fourth oldest Jewish congregation in the United States after New York, Newport, and Savannah. The current building, built in 1840, is the oldest synagogue building in continuous use in the United States. This congregation is also the birthplace of Reform Judaism in this country.

The Greek Revival architecture of this building makes it fit right in with the other great houses of worship in Charleston. On our visit here last year, my camera was attracted by the beauty of the building, but while roaming around outside taking pictures, we were invited to come inside and take a tour.  It was my first visit inside a Jewish synagogue, and we were fascinated by the history of the Jews in Charleston, and this magnificent building. If you are spending some time in Charleston, KKBE is definitely worth a visit.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Different Looks

College Of Charleston Campus Scene, Charleston, SC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

The B&W conversion software I use offers simulations of some old photographic processes such as the  Tintype, which was popular in the 1860s. I don't always like the results I get, but I thought it looked OK on this photo of a fountain on the campus of the College of Charleston.

Monday, April 8, 2013

One Of Twelve?

Untitled, Charleston, SC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Famed photographer Ansel Adams supposedly once said, "Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop." Of course this statement came from a man used to lugging around a heavy view camera and a station wagon full of equipment. Burdened with that load, and the much more complicated processes involved in making a single photograph, most of today's shutterbugs would probably be satisfied with 12 significant photos per year too!

In today's digital age, however, significant photos seem to be much less important. Volume is apparently the byword in the cell phone toting, i-pad waving, digital camera point and shooters we see on the streets these days. Although I consider myself to be much more than a "snapshooter", I too have sometimes been seduced by the ease and economy of digital picture taking, and have been guilty of just mindlessly blasting away. It's amazing how confidence inspiring a 16GB memory card can be.

What if I didn't have room for several hundred images on a single memory card? What if film and processing was costing me $5-8 a shot? What if my camera weighed 20 lbs. instead of mere ounces? I'd probably be spending a lot more time thinking about what I was photographing before I pushed that shutter release button.

If I could only physically and financially afford to make a couple of dozen photographs on a five-day trip to Charleston, I'd probably come home with better photos. Is there any reason we can't take the same approach with our digital equipment? Not really, but sometimes the temptation to rush a shot because it's so easy, and "I can clean it up later in Photoshop" can causes us to be lesser photographers than we could be if we just slowed down. By just slowing down, twelve significant photos per year could be an attainable goal.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Other Side Of Charleston

Black Skimmers, Sullivan's Island, SC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

On our last trip to Charleston, we spent all of our time in the old part of downtown, exploring the history and buildings of the city. There is a whole 'nuther personality to Charelston, however, beaches! Located on the Atlantic coast, Charleston has several beaches within a short drive of downtown.

We visited some beaches on Sullivan's Island, and the Isle of Palms. The weather was still too cool to go into the water, but we enjoyed some nice walks on the beach. I saw my first dolphins surfacing just off shore in the Breach Inlet. I tried several times to get a picture, but they were just too fast. I never knew where one would surface, and by the time I saw one, it was gone again.

These Black Skimmers were much more cooperative. They stood still and allowed me to get quite close. They allowed me time to get more than just a record shot, but to actually compose this triple band of beach, birds, and water. Thanks, guys!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Praise House

Her Only Hope, Mt. Pleasant, SC  -  2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Of all the buildings we saw at Boone Hall Plantation in Mt. Pleasant, the one that touched me the most was one of the slave cabins that was used for religious services and called "Praise House". The Praise House and its story has so much to say about that period of history, and also speaks to many of the same challenges facing people today.

Although the plantation owners made a sincere attempt to introduce their African slaves to Christianity, they also used religion to try to advance their own agenda of justifying and preserving the practice of human slavery. Christians today find those circumstances abhorrent and unthinkable, yet the practice of religious manipulation of masses of people continues unabated in the 21st century. On any Sunday morning you can find any of several false gospels still being preached. Whether wearing expensive suits or religious robes, you can find numerous "preachers" preying on the ignorance of their eager listeners. You won't find anyone promoting slavery today, but you'll have no trouble finding men and women, on TV or in your community, waving Bibles, quoting Scripture, and promoting nothing less than crass materialism. They reduce the God of the Bible to nothing more than a genie in a bottle who can make all your worldly dreams come true. Deception is deception, no matter what the century.

Initially, only white preachers were allowed to lead the services for the slaves, and they used their sermons to try to show a biblical justification for slavery. Eventually, a few trusted slaves were allowed to learn to read the Bible for themselves and lead the services for their slave brothers and sisters. As slaves began to discover the true Gospel, and in time began to learn to read the Scriptures for themselves, the light of God's Word began to shine through.

And therein lies the answer to all religious deception: don't depend solely on any man or organization to do your thinking for you, but pick up a Bible and read it for yourself. And don't just read "selected verses" chosen by someone else. Read the books and letters as they were intended to be read, in their entirety. Yes, you will no doubt come across things that are hard to comprehend, but the more you read, the more you will understand. You'll also learn to discern which preachers and Bible teachers are worth listening to. There are still men and women out there committed to pushing God's agenda instead of their own. The more you read, you'll begin to discover that the Bible is not an incomprehensible riddle, but God's revelation of Himself, and His plan of redemption through Jesus Christ. Don't allow the fakers to turn it into anything else. Take a lesson from slaves and learn to read the Bible for yourself.

Friday, April 5, 2013

First Stop

Tatooed Moose Bartender, Charleston, SC  - 2013
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

We arrived in Charleston around lunch time, so our first stop was for food. Tatooed Moose is a Charleston restaurant and pub that was featured on "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives" on the Food Network. Since this show always features the kind of local food I like to eat, it seemed like a good place to begin this year's Charleston experience. Guy Fieri did not let us down!

I ordered the low country Cuban sandwich, and a basket of duck fat fries for the table. I'm no food critic, but I know what I like, and this was a great sandwich! The duck fat fries were slightly on the greasy side, but just enough to make them good. Hey, if you're really health conscious, you're not ordering fries anyway, so don't worry about a little duck fat!

In keeping with my intention to photograph more people this trip, I got a shot of one of the bartenders instead of a photo of my sandwich. (I think Pinterest has the "Here's A Picture Of My Lunch" category pretty much covered anyway.) For good food and enjoyable atmosphere, Tatooed Moose gets a thumbs up from me!