Back To The Arch

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Construction of the new museum that will be mostly underneath the Arch grounds.

They’re making some progress on the Arch grounds. More than a year ago, contractors for CityArchRiver project started cutting down all of the ash trees, and when they did that, they closed off all of the sidewalks that criss-crossed the park. Just in the last couple of weeks, they reopened some of the sidewalks, and today—sunny, and although it was a chilly 35 degrees, it was the warmest it’s going to be over the next week—may have been my last chance to get over there before the end of the year.

It turns out only the north end is open, and not fully open at that. But it’s definitely better than it was over the summer, and it’s nice to be able to stretch your legs and not be confined to the construction zone right in front of the Arch legs.

According to the project’s website, most everything will be done soon except for the construction of the new museum and visitor center, which is scheduled to be done in the summer of 2017 (a little optimistic, maybe?). It will sure be nice when the whole thing is finished and all of the temporary chain-link fence and construction vehicles are gone. At least, by the time it starts to warm up again in the spring, we’ll have a lot more of the park we can walk in.

Pictures Of 2012

Another year, another folder for my computer photo archive. Here are some of my favorite shots from the year 2012. You know the drill — you can click on any of these shots for a larger view.

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Two of my favorite photographic subjects are right here in this picture: the “Captains Return” statue of Lewis & Clark on the St. Louis Riverfront, and the Gateway Arch. I’ve taken pictures of the Lewis & Clark sculpture at varying river levels over the years, and when the river dropped to 4.25 feet in late February, I took the opportunity to go get a shot when I thought it was as low as I was going to see in a while. (I was wrong; the river stayed remarkably low throughout the year, and at this writing it’s at minus 4.4 feet.)

A few weeks after I took this picture, the river had fallen some more, and I went down early one morning to try and get a picture at an even lower gauge. But when I got there, I discovered that there was a man, apparently homeless, sleeping on the river side of the statue. I’m just not enough of a photojournalist—or maybe too much of a human being—to take that picture.

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Another early-morning excursion produced what was one of my favorite series of photos from the year. The surface of the Gateway Arch is smooth enough to be highly reflective, but just rough enough to scatter any sunlight that hits it. And at sunrise, on the right day, the sunlight is bright orange. The combination of those two phenomena, viewed from the right angle, makes it looks like the Arch is ablaze. I had a lot of fun walking around and under it that morning.

Near year-end, I went to East St. Louis to try to capture the flaming-Arch view from the Illinois side of the river, thinking that maybe I could capture the whole structure in reflected bright orange. Alas, the angles weren’t right—the sun was actually a little too far south. I’ll try again in the spring, but upon further consideration I think it still might not work because the angles of the Arch itself won’t reflect directly across the river. But I’ll find out.

IMG_5613In early June, we went to Michigan City, Ind., for a long weekend of multiple colorful sunsets over Lake Michigan. This is one of them. I don’t know that group of people on the beach, but they fit quite well in front of the setting sun.

So did this seagull.

IMG_5751June also brought the wedding in Cincinnati of our niece. I snapped this picture just after the priest had introduced the couple as husband and wife, and they were beginning their walk back up the aisle.

I love the expressions of pure joy and love on everybody’s faces, particularly the priest’s.

IMG_6249Late July/early August: Back to Michigan City, and another seagull (or perhaps the same one.) This is actually one of my favorite pictures of the year, just because of the colors of the lake water behind the gull, and how they blend together and complement the sand and the bird in the foreground.

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Meet Chop. Chop is my brother’s dog, and he joined us at Tilles Park in Ladue, Mo., one Tuesday night in August for “Food Truck Tuesday,” a relatively new event at which we quickly became regulars. If my own dogs read this, I hope they won’t feel hurt that I’m highlighting a picture of Chop and not of them, but who could resist this look on his face? Also, Chop is a much better-behaved dog than either of ours.

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A big ribbon, and a big pair of scissors. That’s our neighbors, who got the honor of supplying the props for the grand reopening celebration of the Rock Hill Public Library in September.

I was on the library’s Board of Trustees for nine years, and now am on the library’s fledgeling “Friends” group, and for years and years we tried to find the library a new home. After the previous home—in the former City Hall building—was razed to make room for a retail development, the library was forced to pay rent in a strip mall for several years, before finally finding a building it was able to buy. A lot of sweat and tears went into finding a new home, and in 2012, they finally made it work. The new place, in the former MAB Paints building on Manchester Road, is bright, clean and relatively large inside, compared to how it looks from the outside.

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In October, we went to the Montelle Winery near Augusta, Mo., with some of Jean’s friends. There’s probably no better way to spend a fall day in eastern Missouri than to visit one of the state’s wineries along the Missouri River. Montelle is high on a hill, with an overlook that lets you see miles of landscape. The wine’s not too bad, either.

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Here’s a work in progress. This is the new Mississippi River Bridge, which will—when it opens in 2014—carry I-70 across the river. You can view the construction from a nice vantage point on the bike path that runs along the river. Every few months I hike up there during my lunch hour to get an update on the progress. It’s going to be pretty cool when it’s finished.

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Autumn in St. Louis. I snapped this picture on another lunchtime walk, to City Garden … although it could be almost anywhere. Bokeh is the word photographers use for that blurred background, produced by using a wide-open aperture and/or a telephoto lens. It’s a beautiful effect, and one of the chief advantages of using a single-lens reflex (SLR, or, if it’s digital, DSLR) camera.

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This dude is a Red Panda, one of the many, many attractions at the St. Louis Zoo. At least once or twice a year, I try to go to the zoo in the morning to get shots of the animals while few other people are around. This year, more than ever before, I saw a lot of other people with nice cameras doing the same thing, which was pretty cool. I’d never noticed the Red Panda before (and although I said “dude,” I’m actually not sure of the gender, so I apologize if I offended anybody); there’s always a surprise or some beautiful and previously unseen creature there. This crane, for instance. It’s all happening at the zoo.

IMG_7535Thanksgiving Day, and we were back in Michigan City. Fortunately for Andrew and his cousin Sydney, the temperature was in the 60s, so when they took the dare to go swimming in Lake Michigan, it wasn’t bitter, bitter cold for them. Still pretty darn cold though. The next day brought a cold front and wind chills in cryogenic territory, so it’s lucky they went when they did.

IMG_7566On one of our last evenings in Michigan City, after that cold front came through, I took a walk down toward the deserted beach for some “golden hour” photos. Personally, I prefer the hours around sunrise, but the time around sunset is great for taking pictures as well. The low angle of the sun really helps bring out the colors of the sand dunes and the November flora.

IMG_0017I have a new toy. For Christmas I received this little camera, which is going to travel with me wherever I go in 2013. It can cram 16 megapixels into each picture, twice as many as my regular camera, and yet it’s smaller than a cell phone. But most importantly, it’ll allow me to capture a lot of shots I’ve otherwise missed because I didn’t want to carry around my big and (relatively) bulky camera with me. (This picture was taken in a mirror, and yes, it was “flipped” so you could read the lettering, if you so choose.)

I’m hardly a pro photographer and I don’t aspire to be one. But I do enjoy capturing images of life as it happens, and I hope you find one or two shots you like among the pictures I post here once in a while. Cheers.

*****

Previous years:

Pictures Of 2011

Pictures Of 2010

Out Of The Trees

Your city may have an ocean. It may have mountains. It may have an NBA franchise, or even a Major League Soccer team. It may have real subways. It may have a happily integrated population and a vibrant downtown nightlife. But unless your city is my city, it doesn’t have an Arch. Or at least not one as grand as the Gateway Arch at the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial on the St. Louis riverfront.

At 630 feet tall, the Gateway Arch is supposedly the tallest man-made monument in America, and the tallest stainless-steel monument in the world (these facts according to Wikipedia, which has more than you’ll ever want to know about the history of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial). True, it is tall—the tallest structure in Missouri, in fact—but more importantly, it’s beautiful. It’s basically a long, triangular tube of stainless steel, shaped into a graceful centenary curve.

You can ride to the top and get a great view of the city and the Mississippi River, but, for me, the Arch is best appreciated from the ground. It rises out of a hill that itself rises from the river, and stands benevolently watching over the city. Its surface is stainless steel, shiny enough to reflect the light, but also rough enough to scatter the light and make the sunrise and sunset particularly spectacular.

The photograph above is one of my favorites, because it makes it appear that the Arch has sprouted out of the forest, with nothing else man-made visible. The picture was taken from Eads Bridge, not far from Memorial Drive, while the bridge is still over land. That vantage point also works vertically, as you’ll see below.

Anyway, the Arch is one of my favorite photographic subjects. Below are a few more shots I’ve taken over the years. (You know the drill: click on the thumbnails for a better view.) Hope you like ’em.

Pictures Of 2010

Here, in chronological order, are a few of my favorite images from my camera in 2010.

You might have seen a couple of them in Shoulblog or Facebook,, but most are published here for the first time.

As always, click on the thumbnails for a larger view.

We had a snowstorm early in January, and on the 11th I took the opportunity to walk around the Arch grounds and take some snow pictures. I liked this one both because of all of the geometry, but also because those guys apparently have a lot of work to do. If you’re not familiar with these steps that go up the hill from the river, they are (I’m guessing here) maybe 50 yards wide at the base, and probably more than 100 yards wide at the top. I suppose the shovelers’ plan was just to clear a path along the edge there, but I think they should shovel the steps all the way across, don’t you?

The same day, I managed to snap this one from the sidewalk along Leonor K. Sullivan Blvd. It looks more deep-country than it actually is; look carefully, and you can see those same Arch steps in the background. Both of these pictures look like they’re black-and white, but they are definitely color — there’s just not much color on a snowy day.

In March, Daisy, our Parson Russell Terrier, tore a claw on her foot, and had to wear the cone for a day or so. She didn’t like it of course, and of course, it didn’t prove to be much of an obstacle to her efforts to chew the bandage off her foot within about 12 hours. But in the meantime, I got a picture of her ultimate canine humiliation. I haven’t written much about Daisy here, but she’ll show up in Shoulblog more in 2011.

Here are some politicians on a bridge. This was in April, when the Missouri and Illinois DOTs held a joint “groundbreaking” ceremony for construction of the new I-70 bridge across the Mississippi River. The ceremony was held on Eads Bridge, and the fake shovels-into-the-ground schtick was replaced by the dignitaries combing two piles of dirt — supposedly one from Illinois and one from Missouri — into one pile. Anyway, before that, all of the politicians had to have their say. In this shot, Sen. Kit Bond is speaking; to his right are Rep. Russ Carnahan and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. To his right, among others, are Sen. Dick Durbin and Rep. Jerry Costell0. Kind of caught the entire Midwest political spectrum here.

More geometry. This is taken from the observation platform at the Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park in East St. Louis, which I visited for the first time in April. Great views of the city and of the Gateway Geyser.

In June, my wife, Jean, our son  Jim and I went to Springfield, Mo., for an orientation for Jim at Missouri State University, where he started attending in the fall, leaving home for the first time . There’s a statue of a large bear — the MSU mascot — in the middle of campus, and even though you can’t see much of the bear in this picture, it made for a nice backdrop for a picture of Jim and Jean.

2010 saw the return of the air show to Fair St. Louis, the city’s annual July 4 festival on the Arch grounds. The nice thing for downtown workers is that the day before the fair opens, the air show pilots get a chance to practice their maneuvers over the Mississippi River. It’s a bonus for downtown workers, who get to watch without having to endure the crowds that show up for the weekend fair. (If you missed them the first time, there are a few more pictures here.)

I love what you can do when you stop down a telephoto lens and point it at a sunrise or a sunset, particularly one over water. This was at Lake Michigan from Michigan City, Ind., in August.

In late September, my work took me to Boston for a meeting of the National Waterways Conference. One of the highlights of the meeting was a full-moon cruise in Boston Harbor. I got to experiment a little, and this photograph resulted. (Looking at the two photos above, I guess you can see the kinds of things I love to photograph the most. Two very similar scenes, one of the sun and one of the moon, both reflected on large bodies of water.)

After the meeting was over, I took  a ferry out to Provincetown, Mass., for a one-night visit to the town where my brother Jim lived. I wrote about that trip here. The photograph on the left, the three towers, is a retake of one my  brother Phil took on a trip there at least 30 years ago. Several people in Provincetown told me how much the town has changed. This view, though, is pretty much the same as it was three decades ago. The picture on the right shows that moon again, and Provincetown’s Pilgrim Monument.

My son Mike played his last season of high school soccer this fall. He’s No. 10 in this picture, leaving a player from arch-rival Kirkwood on the ground behind him.

Christmas day in St. Louis. After a nice, wet snowstorm on Christmas Eve, the snow clung to every tree branch and every twig for a long time. This is the ornamental crabapple tree in our front yard. Our year in St. Louis was nearly bookended by snowstorms.

After Christmas, we drove to the Denver area to visit Jean’s brother’s family. Denver, surprisingly, had had less snow than St. Louis this winter, so we were able to take some nice hikes while there. This panorama shot shows her brother Don on a rock up the mountain from where they live in Conifer. (All of these pictures are best viewed by clicking on them to see larger versions; that especially applies to this one.)

Don and his family  live fairly close to Red Rocks, the site of some great geological formations and a fantastic amphitheater. We toured the amphitheater and the museum below it, which highlights the many bands — including the Beatles! — who have played there over the years. That rock is probably at least a hundred feet high. My son Andrew, apparently, is taller.

So there you have it. Hope you enjoyed these pictures, and will come back to see some more in 2011!

Return of the Air Show

After a five-year absence, Fair St. Louis brought back one of its most popular features this year: the air show over the Mississippi River. The show, which this year was held three times over the holiday weekend, features a variety of military and private aircraft, doing some pretty amazing tricks in front of the Arch grounds. For downtown workers, there’s a bonus: practice for the air show on the last work day before the fair opens. In this case it was Friday, July 2. I happened to have my camera that day, and I took a walk over to the Arch grounds during my lunch hour. Here’s a brief slideshow of some of the highlights.

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A New Way To Look At St. Louis

Malcom Martin keeps an eye on the Gateway City.

April 20 was the day I’d been waiting for for months. Warm, but not too warm. Plenty of sunshine. Not a terribly busy day at work. And the trees are greening up nicely, filling out enough so that, from a distance, they look pretty darn summery.

I took my camera to work. And at lunchtime — actually a few minutes early — I packed up and headed for … Keep reading