All photographs by Paul M. Clayton unless otherwise noted. Click on a picture to see it larger.
This page includes posts from 2/28/19 through 9/30/19.
Current posts -
For all the art photography at this site, I would say my main interest in camera work is photojournalism and documentation. Sometimes, though, I will spend a pleasurable hour or two experimenting. I saw a picture at Pentax Forums taken with a pinhole lens that impressed me, and along with the picture was some commentary on getting similar effects with a normal lens and post-processing. My Vivitar 19mm stops down to f/22 so it seemed like a good place to start. With the camera on a tripod and lens stopped down, I set the ISO to 4000 to induce grain, and took a picture out my living room window. In Rawtherapee I applied a standard pp3 for a low ISO image so as not to clean up the grain, 50% Velvia film emulation, tone mapping and haze reduction. Then I pushed up the saturation, reduced the contrast and applied soft light. With this done I moved the image into GIMP and applied Gaussian blur, RGB noise and cartoon filters. The end result has something of the deep depth of field and soft focus, grain and blocky colors of a photograph made with a pinhole lens. Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 at f/22, ISO 4000, 1/140s, Fujifilm X-T20.
Marcia, Joe and I made a quick overnight camping trip to Hanging Rock. In the morning, Joe and I hiked the trail to Hidden Falls and Window Falls. It is a strenuous 1.2 mile round trip featuring some spectacular rock work steps as well as the falls. It is a 300 foot elevation loss down to Window Falls - and 300 foot gain back to the Visitors Center parking lot. About like a 30 story building. Vivitar 19mm f/3.8, Fujifilm X-T20.
On a hike at Hanging Rock State Park this morning we saw this green snake climbing a mountain laurel. SMC Takumar 55mm f/2, Fujifilm X-T20.
Hurricane Dorian come through and left in its wake clean, dust-free air and washed out sky. My Alberg 35 on the dock in Edenton days after Dorian gave us a glancing blow. Vivitar 19mm f/3.8, Fujifilm X-T20.
The spider that I photographed on 8/21/19 was still there on the 27th, so I got this shot with the Tak 105, optically a much better lens. SMC Takumar 105mm f/2.8 at f/4, 1/140s, ISO 400, Fujifilm X-T20.
I think I nailed focus on his right eye thanks to the Fujifilm X-T20 focus peaking.The slight softness that in my view often makes a portrait look better is probably due to hand-holding at 1/20 second, firmly leaning on the wall, and the film-like grain is due to the high ISO needed to get the picture at that combination of aperture and shutter speed. The colors are pure Takumar. SMC Takumar 105mm f/2.8 at f/4, 1/20s, ISO 1600, Fujifilm X-T20.
I wonder if the gardener conceived how well this lavender-yellow-black combination would turn out, when he planted it. Super Takumar 150mm f/4 at f/5.6, Fujifilm X-T20.
Four inches across, it looks fearsome. But the bite of Argiope aurantia, "black and yellow garden spider", is no worse than a mild bee sting. Pentax F 80-200 f/4.7 at f/5.6,about 150mm, Fujifilm X-T20.
A ten year old Panasonic Toughbook CF-19 ought to make a good chart plotter to replace the antiquated Raymarine aboard my Alberg 35 Terry Ann. Panasonic's parent company, Matsushita, has built hundreds of thousands of Toughbooks, catering to field techs, firemen and auto mechanics who need a waterproof, close to unbreakable, daylight readable computer to run purpose-built software. OpenCPN is free, open software that runs NOAA raster and vector charts and has all the features and none of the cost of commercial software. Combine a Toughbook with OpenCPN and you have a reliable, low-cost, easily-updateable chart plotter.
I ordered a CF-19 from an Ebay seller. It arrived promptly and booted into Windows 10. My first step was to wipe Windows off the hard drive and install PCLinuxOS. After a full update I installed OpenCPN, downloaded some NOAA charts, and hung an external GPS on one of the two available USB ports. With a little configuration, I got a working chart plotter installation. To give it a good testing, I downloaded a few USGS quads for the area around home, converted them to geo-referenced .kap files and then drove around the county, confirming that the plotter followed my route and accurately mapped my position.
The next step is to get the machine to run directly from a 12 volt battery, so that it doesn't have to be tethered to a 120 outlet (the internal battery will run for about 3 1/2 hours between charges). Once it can run on sailboat house current, I will take it to Edenton and give it a true test, sailing in the Albemarle Sound.
Brewing beer at home is something anyone can do, but I doubt that the founders of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company had any idea where their hobby was going to lead. Ken Grossman and Paul Camusi borrowed $50,000 from friends and relatives back in 1979 to turn their interest in brewing into a business, and now 40 years later Sierra Nevada is the 7th largest brewing company in America, producing one and a quarter million barrels of beer a year. Camusi retired and sold out to Grossman in 1998, and the company is still privately held by the Grossman family. Reports are that AB-Inbev (Bud) offered to buy Sierra Nevada and received back in reply a two-word colloquialism that begins with "f" and ends with "u". On why he turned down Bud's offer, Ken Grossman is on record as saying "I didn't get into the business to try and make a ton of money and I've made enough".
Sierra Nevada has breweries in Chico, CA and Mills River, NC. Their Torpedo ale is not one of my favorites, overhopped for my taste, but another of their offerings, Hazy Little Thing, is my idea of a perfect IPA.
Fujifilm X-T20, SMC Takumar 105 f/2.8 at f/4, 20mm extension tube, ISO 200, 1/420.
Unsettled weather in July 2019 brought blue skies alternating with thunderstorms, and late in the afternoon a hint of a rainbow. After dark I sat in the cockpit of my boat and watched as a violent storm passed to the north, producing a spectacular display of continuous lightning. Fujifilm X-T20, Vivitar 19mm f/3.8.
From two years ago when I first brought Terry Ann to the Albemarle, on the Elizabeth City dock, June 6th, 2017. We had several days of storms and violent weather. I laid over until things settled down before proceeding up the sound. The picture was taken with my old Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS7.
Nothing special about the subject or composition, but there is something about these green colors that I really like. The tiny bit of white and red in the new leaf sets it just right. I was surprised that this exposure histogrammed almost perfectly SOOC. Fujifilm X-T20, SMC Takumar 55mm f/2.
This abandoned grain elevator in Allendale SC, photographed in April 2019, looks like the lower edge was demolished, perhaps in an attempt to topple it over. If so, they either lost their nerve or ran out of money, because the old structure still towers over a landscape of concrete rubble, once the extensive operations of the Allendale Grain Company. Fujifilm X-T20, XC16-50 f/3.5-5.6, 28mm, f/8, 1/320s, ISO 400.
Last winter we got endless rain but for the most part the temperature stayed above freezing. January 13th, 2019 it got just cold enough for a little bit of ice. The only substantial snow came in the fall, December 9th, when the Piedmont got a monumental blizzard. Winston-Salem accumulations reached 14.5 inches. I was on a boat in south Georgia and missed it, though the snow piles were still in evidence when I returned home 10 days later.
Suppose you laid out a circle of rope on the ground that was one foot in diameter. The circumference of the circle would be pi (3.1416) times 1. So it would take 3.1416 feet of rope to make the circle. Now suppose you laid another rope one foot outside the first one, so now you would have a circle three feet in diameter. How much rope would it take? Pi times 3 is 9.4248. So that's 9.4248-3.1416=6.2832 more rope than the original circle.
Suppose you laid out a circle of rope on the ground that was ten feet in diameter. The circumference of the circle would be pi (3.14159) times 10. So it would take 31.4159 feet of rope to make the circle. Now suppose you laid another rope one foot outside the first one, so now you would have a circle 12 feet in diameter. How much rope would it take? Pi times 12 is 37.6991. So that's 31.4159-37.6991=6.2832 more rope than the original circle.
Suppose you strung a rope all the way around the earth. For this thought experiment, assume the earth is completely level, with no mountains, no valleys, no Marianas Trench. Since we are all sailors here, we will use nautical miles. The earth is 6880 miles in diameter, and there are 6,000 feet in a mile, so the earth is 41,280,000 feet in diameter and it would take 129,684,944.7402 feet of rope to go around it. Now suppose we strung another rope on posts exactly one foot above the ground, and we made it perfectly tight so there was no catenary. It would make a circle with a diameter of 41,280,002 feet. How much rope would that take? 129,684,951.0234 feet, 6.2832 feet more.
This docile ladybug in Miller Park was an easy subject. The hardest part of getting this picture was patiently waiting for the breeze to settle down. The trick with macro photography is that it uses a lot of light, and the depth of field is so shallow that you have to stop down, so there's no room for a fast exposure. So you have to wait for everything to calm down and stop moving. Then slowly move the camera back and forth until you catch focus, and get the picture. It sounds harder than it is. On the other hand, if it is a bee or ant, or anything that moves around, that makes it much more difficult. Fujifilm X-T20, SMC Takumar 55mm f/2 at f/5.6, ISO 400, 1/180s, 20mm extension tube.
Juneve rests on the bottom of Pembroke Creek at Scotty Harrell's Edenton Marina. Last fall she slowly flooded, put her starboard rail in the water, and sank. The owner has made desultory efforts to pump her out, with no effect. The boat has a long and checkered heritage. The boat was built in Scotland in 1949 and worked as a North Sea trawler. Then she ended up in the Virgin Islands for a few years, before being purchased in 2012 by a young couple with big plans to make her into a beautiful live-aboard. Those plans went nowhere, and the current owner bought her on the Chesapeake and started home for Edenton. The boat capsized in the ICW at Coinjock and the Coast Guard got her upright and onto a dock. Despite strick instructions not to move the boat, the owner continued on his way and eventually limped the boat into Edenton Marina, where she is rapidly decaying.
A young Canadian couple spent a few days at Edenton Marina this month and were fascinated with Juneve. They carefully went aboard and looked over the beautiful interior woodwork and brass fitting. Afterward, the young man said that if he owned a marina, he would want a boat like Juneve on his dock. I'm sure Scotty would be glad to see him take her, and even help pay to have her moved away. This kind of derelict is a marina owner's worst nightmare - a huge liability issue that will ultimately be abandoned and left on the marina's hands.
So that's the story, though not the whole story, of Juneve. The rest will only be told on a stormy winter night, in the battened-down cabin of my boat Terry Ann, under a flickering oil lamp, with a bottle of rum on the table.
At the opposite end of the state from YVRR is the Genesee & Wyoming owned shortline Chesapeake & Albemarle, which operates 68 miles of light rail from Chesapeake, VA to Edenton, NC. Here we see GP38-2 502, formerly of Florida East Coast, and two sisters coaxing three covered hoppers and 30 VULX open hoppers of crushed rock south at a steady 15 miles per hour. The farmland is table-top flat and the train can be seen approaching from miles away. Here it passes the Roberts Brothers feed mill on N. Gregory Rd, between Shawboro and Camden. Fujifilm X-T20, Vivitar 19mm f/3.8.
Yadkin Valley Railroad engines idle under the Highway 65 bridge in Rural Hall, March 12th, 2019. Pentax K100D.
The lower Yadkin Valley is a short drive from home and offers a lot to explore. Over the past 50 years , I have canoed the river and fished it, sat along its banks, swam in its waters and drank beer on its sandbars, hiked and camped nearby. It has changed in many ways, mostly for the better. The Yadkin supports a growing population of smallmouth bass and is developing a reputation as a prime fishing river. Quite a change from when I was younger and the river ran thick with silt, agricultural runoff and toxic residues from the Elkin and North Wilkesboro plants. For this we should thank the environmentalists and the EPA. It is also an unintended side effect of globalization. The toxin-spewing textile and furniture plants are all shut down now. The old plants didn't survive and the few that exist now are newer and much cleaner. The surrounding lands are hilly with farms interspersed with woodlands. There are several small communities in the valley that once catered to the needs of local agriculture but now are redeveloping as exurbs of Winston-Salem. There is one town that is industrializing, and two that are in post-industrial decline. The Yadkin Valley Railroad runs along the river from Donnaha to North Wilkesboro.
Early spring of 2019 I spent a day driving the backroads between Winston-Salem and North Wilkesboro. I picked up the river at Donnaha and drove west, braiding the river and railroad as far as North Wilkesboro. Donnaha is the site of Yadkin Valley Railroad's open-air maintenance facility, and that day I found two YVRR engines and two from CSX. A contract track maintenance crew was working to replace ties just east of Donnaha.
Highway 67 crosses the Yadkin River at Donnaha on a bridge built in 1950 and probably in its last years now. A 2015 inspection described the bridge structural condition as "[b]asically intolerable requiring high priority of replacement". The builder's plate states "Forsyth County, State Project 7424, Federal Aid, 1950". The road was built in 1930 at the behest of Thurmond Chatham, President of Chatham Manufacturing Company, as far as I can tell to connect his factory in Elkin to his factory in Winston-Salem.
Upstream, the river is bridged at Siloam and Rockford. The span at Siloam was long a one-lane overhead truss type. On a foggy night in 1975, a driver crashed into one of the overhead supports, collapsing the bridge into the river. Due to the low visibility, several more cars plummeted over the brink, resulting in the loss of four lives and injuries to sixteen more. The bridge was replaced with a modern concrete span. Upstream at Rockford there was a low-water bridge that submerged when the river ran high. Canoers portaged around the bridge or lined their boats down through the culverts. Like Siloam, this bridge has been replaced with a more modern span.
Highway 601 crosses the river at Crutchfield, which once boasted a train station. Now there is a small parking area in the shadow of the bridge (another new, modern concrete one) for canoers and fishermen. There is a deep hole in the riverbottom here that has long been dredged for sand. Near the parking area is an old Bantam dragline, showing no signs of recent use and gradually being overtaken by vegetation. The Schield Bantam Company built these light cranes starting in 1942. Eventually the company was acquired by Koehring, which afterward folded into Northwest Engineering, which is now known as Terex. The Terex Corporation is proud of their heritage and includes a page at their website devoted to Bantam cranes.
Crutchfield is little more than a crossroads, but a few miles west is Elkin, a real town with a population of about 4,000. Elkin is the site of the abandoned and partially demolished Chatham Mill, which looms above the town like a medieval castle. Textiles, along with tobacco and furniture, made up the industrial base of western North Carolina from the late 1800s into the late 1900s. Many of the mills were dark, dangerous places ruled by brutal managers, and I for one am glad they are gone. Doubtless some of the Asian plants are just as bad. Anecdotal evidence suggests the Chathams were more benevolent than the Cannons and Stevens's in the Piedmont. As bad as the mills were, they offered a better life than could be had in the high country of Appalachia, and the descendents of Scotch-Irish immigrants poured by the hundreds of thousands down the roads from the uplands to take jobs in the mills of the Carolinas. Chatham Mill in Elkin employed over 2,000 at its peak.
Shortly after the Civil War, Alexander Chatham and his partner Thomas Lenoir Gwyn bought a wool processing operation in Elkin (for more on the Lenoirs, see my post on the upper Yadkin Valley, dated 5/19/18). In 1893, a new mill was built, and was steadily expanded over the years. Thurmond Chatham, a grandson of Alexander, ran the company from 1929 through 1957, enhancing his power and fortune through marriage to the daughter of John Wesley Hanes and a stint in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Chatham family maintained a controlling interest in the company stock until 1988, when a Danish company wrested away control and promptly went bankrupt in a cloud of fraud and scandal. Things went downhill from there. CMI Industries bought the plant and changed its name to True Textiles Inc. West Point Stevens bought part of the plant from them and operated for a while before giving up the ghost. True Textiles may still be running a stub of the original operation, employing 60 to 100 people in one of the newer wings of the plant, but little activity is in evidence. Regardless of whether the Chatham family had been able to retain control of the plant, textile manufacturing in North Carolina was on its way out. Burlington Mills went bankrupt in 2001. Cannon Mills and Cone Mills followed in 2003. The mergers and subsequent bankruptcies of J.P. Stevens and its descendents are so complex as to require a doctorate in Business Administration to follow. Dozens of other concerns closed between the 1970s and 2010s. Hanes survived by largely getting out of the manufacturing end of the business and becoming a branding and marketing operation. Unifi is hanging on - not prospering - in Yadkinville by virtue of a modern plant and innovative new products.
Elkin still has some industry. There is a big Weyerhaueser plant on the west side of town, and a break bulk distribution facility for propane dealer G&B Oil Company, along with a couple other operations, all served by rail.
Poultry farming is big business in Yadkin and Wilkes Counties, and there are three large feed mills along the river, all served by rail. In Burch is the Perdue mill, then in Ronda, the Wayne Farms mill, and finally in Roaring River, the enormous by North Carolina standards Tyson mill. Each of the mills buys grain, grinds it and mixes in various nutrients ranging from limestone to flax seed that chickens need to thrive. Producers ranging from family operations to agribusinesses buy the feed and raise the chickens, which are then sold back to the big marketers Perdue and Tyson. Wayne Farms is a division of Continental Grain which supplies much of the grain.
The Perdue Mill in Burch is an outpost of the huge Salisbury MD Perdue Farms. The Perdue family started the business in 1920 and scion Frank Perdue ran it for many years. Some may remember his starring role in commercials for the company where he averred that "it takes a tough man to raise a tender chicken". Close to the Burch Mill is a boat ramp for the use of canoers and fishermen on the river. I recently met two young fishermen launching their canoe at Burch, to paddle upstream to a nearby shoal and then wade the waters casting for smallmouth bass. They told me they usually went to the New to fish but the angling on the Yadkin has gotten good enough in recent years that they frequently chose it over making the long drive up to Watauga County. The Mitchell River joins the Yadkin here and is known for trout fishing in its upper reaches.
Wayne Farms runs a neat, trim mill and hatchery at Ronda. Tyson and Perdue produce chicken feed to support their primary business of selling processed chicken. Everyone has heard of Tyson and Perdue, because they have seen their names on television or in the grocery store. Nobody has heard of Wayne Farms. As a subsidiary of giant agribusiness Continental Grain, Wayne Farms produces feed as an outlet for Continental's grain sales. All the mills sit in the middle of the supply chain, but their owners are at opposite ends.
The Tyson facility in Roaring River is the largest of the Yadkin Valley mills. I've heard stories of the Yadkin Valley delivering 80 car trains to Tyson, enough traffic to explain why this far-flung branch line has stayed in business. Wilkes County used to be under the purview of Holly Farms, which ran a big processing plant in Wilkesboro. When Tyson in 1988 decided to move toward national distribution, they bid $1 billion for Holly Farms. In the end, they had to pay an additional $400 million dollars, but by mid-1989 they completed the deal. Poultry production is the state's leading agricultural industry and Wilkes County is the third-biggest producer, behind Duplin and Union. Wilkes County farmers raise about 55 million chickens a year.
Roaring River marks the last traffic source for the Yadkin Valley Railroad. West of town, the track is in decrepit shape, overgrown with honeysuckle and pine saplings. Even worse, in places the roadbed is washing out, leaving the tracks suspended in air. The worst spot I saw was along River Road, not far east of the Lowe's warehouse on the edge of North Wilkesboro. Here, the railroad and road cross a small creek, which flows down through a cove into the river bottom. The road and railroad cross the mouth of the cove on a low fill, with an ancient rock box culvert to carry the creek under them. It appears that, during the heavy rains and flooding of last winter, the culvert got choked and water ran over the road and railroad, eventually washing out the fill under the tracks and scouring a deep hole. I found a place to park a couple of hundred yards from the washout and scrambled down the bank through brush and briars to a point below the washout where I could get a picture of the culvert and rails. But try as I might I could not find a good angle with my Takumar 55 so trudged back to the car and got the 35. It was worth it to get a clear shot of the ancient rockwork, quite possibly a hundred years old (the line to North Wilkesboro was completed in 1890).
The one exception to the general decrepitude of the out of service stretch of railroad can be found just inside the North Wilkesboro city limit. Lowe's, the big-box building supply company, maintains a huge warehouse and distribution center that was once serviced by rail. The grounds crew keeps the track in front of their facility neatly mowed and groomed, as if they expect a trainload of lumber to show up any day. The modern-day Lowe's corporation is headquartered in Mooresville but the first store, opened in 1921, was Lowe's North Wilkesboro Hardware. To this day the company has a large presence in Wilkes County, employing over 2,400 people there. Eventually the Lowe family sold their interests in the home improvement company and started a grocery store chain called Lowe's Foods. In many North Carolina towns you will find the two stores in the same shopping center, even side by side, but there is no corporate relationship.
North Wilkesboro is end of the line for the railroad. The town used to have a fair amount of industry, but, like Elkin, that is all in the past. A small hospital and several doctor's offices serve the routine medical needs of the local people and the ones coming down from the mountains to the northwest. More severe cases go to the big city hospitals in the Triad. The town has reversed a decades-long decline in population in recent years, as it slowly transitions to being a bedroom suburb of Winston-Salem, an easy hour's drive to the east on a modern, fast four-lane highway.
The twin towns of Wilkesboro and North Wilkesboro mark the dividing line between the upper and lower parts of the Yadkin Valley. Above, the land is intensely rural and under-developed, below it transitions to large-scale agricultural with a sprinkling of industry and the beginnings of exurban development. Above, the river is narrow, shallow and fast, below it becomes wider and slower. At East Bend, it pours out into the Piedmont and becomes a broad, powerful, muddy main stem that provides drainage for an enormous area of southeast North Carolina, before flowing into the sea as the Pee Dee at Winyah Bay, SC.
Railroadfan.com's monthly CSX roster update for February 2019 list SD60Ms 8769, 8772, 8777, 8781, 8781 and 8783 as sold to Yadkin Valley Railroad. So what did I find at the Donnaha engine servicing facility yesterday but these six engines (plus a couple of home road units)? The engines were built for Conrail in 1993 and ended up in CSX ownership sometime later. From the looks of the roster information, CSX is purging itself of its SD50 and SD60 fleets, selling off 144 SD50s and 57 SD60s. The SD60 model was introduced in 1984 and produced through 1995. It was the first model to incorporate the 710 prime mover, succesor to the the long-lived 645. It was considered a good, if not spectacular, performer, and solid enough so that most are being rebuilt to get another decade or two of life. I can't imagine Yadkin Valley having much use for them on its twisty, light rail, so I'm guessing they are going to clean them up and resell them, or perhaps send them to sister roads. Fujifilm X-T20, Vivitar 19mm f/3.8.
Galax is a flowering plant associated with the Appalachian mountains. I found a patch of it along a creek while hiking in Surry County. Fujifilm X-T20, SMC Takumar 55mm f/2 on 12mm extension tube.
The Wade Harris Bridge was built in 1930 to carry U.S. 421 over the South Prong of Lewis Fork in far western Wilkes County, and, according to the NC Department of Transportation, was at the time it was built "the longest concrete arch bridge east of the Mississippi River". The builder's plate indicates that the structure was originally named the Ravine Bridge, but in 1931 it was renamed for Wade Hampton Harris, editor of the "Charlotte Observer". Bringing the road down off the Blue Ridge Escarpment was a considerable engineering feat for the day, but the end result was a narrow, twisty, dangerous stretch of blacktop. The road was especially treacherous in snowy and icy conditions, which were common enough in winter. In particular, navigating tractor-trailer rigs down from Deep Gap was a ticklish affair. A fair proportion of men in Wilkes County drove trucks for a living, and the death toll was high. One of my earliest memories is of my father preaching the funeral for a man in his church who had died in a wreck coming down the mountain.
The NCDOT did their best to make the road safer, adding two sand piles upgrade of the bridge for trucks to run into that had lost their brakes, plus a section of road in a dip where trucks could pull over and cool their brakes. But the carnage on U.S. 421 never really declined until the state undertook a massive rebuilding project over the last two decades of the 20th century, straightening the road and bringing it out to four lanes. One result was that the Wade Harris Bridge was bypassed. It still exists, but is closed to public access, serving only an isolated private property at its east end.
I remember seeing a particularly horrendous wreck on U.S. 421 back in the early 1980s. By that time the road had been rebuilt on the lower stretch along Lewis Fork, bypassing the infamous "dead man's curve" hairpin on what is now Boone Trail Road. As we headed west, we came to a long line of stopped traffic and waited for half and hour before we finally began to inch up the mountain. The first we saw of the wreck was the trailer bogie off in the woods on the downhill shoulder, then the trailer jack-knifed across the right lane. We were flagged around the trailer, and just above found the tractor smashed into the sheer rock wall at the hard right turn at the lower end of the Wade Harris Bridge. The load of bricks had flattened the cab and scattered all along the road. On up the mountain, we saw tire tracks and ploughed up sand where the driver had desperately tried and failed to get over into the sand piles.
With the construction of I-77, essentially complete by 1981, much truck traffic between the midwest and southeast diverted to the new route. Even so, U.S. 421 carries a fair amount of commercial traffic. These days, with the rebuilt road and modern, more controllable rigs, fewer drivers have to cope with the terror of piloting an out-of-control rig down U.S. 421, but I'm sure even now there are plenty of anxious moments. The hairpin curves and narrow Wade Harris Bridge are no longer a threat, but the grades are still steep. The downhill lanes are festooned with warning signs and lights, the brake cool-down lane still gets good use, and the sand pits are still plowed and ready for the next out-of-control rig to make an abrupt but hopefully not fatal stop.
Mid-day April 2nd, 2019 we had some light flurries but no accumulation. April snow is not uncommon in Winston-Salem but it is generally light and short-lived. As of April 20th, it's still cool but not cool enough to snow. The forecast for later in the week is much warmer, so I'm guessing that April 2nd will stand as the last snowfall of the winter. Fujifilm X-T20, Vivitar 19mm f/3.8.
I never had a wide angle lens for my Spotmatic. The X-T20 kit zoom opens up to 16mm, the equivalent of 24mm full frame, which would be considered moderately wide, but in truth I don't shoot with that lens much. There's nothing wrong with it, but I just prefer the look that I get with old film-era primes.
Recently I found a Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 in Nikon AI-S mount on Craigslist for $20. First I verified that I could get a cheap Nikon to Fuji adapter, and then I checked out the reviews at Pentax Forums which were mostly positive. A call to the seller elicited that he was getting rid of his older film-era kit and that the lens was in immaculate condition. I met him at a local store and quickly sized him up as either a professional photographer or serious amateur, and a quick look at the lens confirmed that it was in excellent shape. By all means worth $20, and then he threw in a set of filters as lagniappe.
Vivitar was an American lens and accessory distributor who contracted design and construction to a number of Japanese manufacturers. The 19mm f/3.8 was almost certainly made by Cosina. The original owners of Vivitar eventually passed away and the name has been sold and resold, but Cosina has continued as a corporate entity and is one of the powerhouse Japanese optical companies today. In one of the ironies of corporate life, Cosina bought rights to the fabled Austrian Voigtlander name and now makes Voigtlander Bessa DSLRs and Voigtlander lenses for Leicas and other cameras. Just to make it clear to the Germans where the center of gravity now lay, Cosina went on to build Zeiss Ikon digitals with Leica M bayonet mount. Effectively, they gathered in two of the last three prestigious German brands, leaving only Leica to carry on making what I have heard described as "fetish objects for wealthy amateurs".
The little Vivitar on my X-T20 is the equivalent of a 28mm lens on full frame, which would have been very wide 50 years ago, but of course now 16s and 20s are mainstream. The Vivitar, built for Nikon, has the vestigial ears for communicating aperture settings to the vintage pre-automatic Nikons of the 1960s and early 1970s, but the lens is fully manual on the Fuji adapter. The lens is sharp enough, especially stopped down to 5.6 or 8, there's not much distortion, overall it's decent optically. As noted in some of the reviews, it does flare unless the sun is at your back, and I have ordered a hood to maybe help hold it down. But the best thing is the old film-style color, the same as I like in my Takumars. The wide angle gives a completely different perspective to what I am used to, and it has been fun to experiment with. The picture above was taken in the back yard of my mother's house in Ocala, Fujifilm X-T20, Vivitar 19mm f/3.8. And the picture of the camera and lens was taken with my trusty Pentax K100D backup rig.
This picture helps capture the absolute desolation of Allendale County.
It seems that someone else passed through Allendale County in 2015 and was impressed with the collection of derelict motels. He matched up the ruins with postcards from the heyday of pre-Interstate 95 tourist traffic and was able to identify many of them. If, like me, you have a morbid interest in economic and social decline, you might enjoy his web post, The Tobacco Trail Through Allendale County.
Highway 301 still carries some truck traffic, but the Interstate Truck Stop in Ulmer SC is long out of business. Ulmer, in the northern part of Allendale County, peaked out in 1930 with 199 inhabitants. At the last census, it had 88.
U.S. Highway 301 was a good road for its day, and even now is not bad. Much of it through Florida, Georgia and South Carolina is four lane divided highway or five lane with a center passing lane, though for the most part not controlled access. Its main drawback is that it runs parallel to I-95. Before the interstate was built, 301 was considered one of the quickest routes from the northeast to Florida.
The town of Allendale, in the South Carolina county of the same name, made a big investment back in the 1950s and 1960s. Tourists poured south down Highway 301, bound for Florida, and the people of Allendale saw great opportunity in serving them. But as I-95 siphoned away the traffic, the businesses of Allendale one by one failed. Now Highway 301 in Allendale County is lined with derelict buildings. I counted nine motels in ruins, plus numerous gas stations and restaurants Even the attractive State Visitors Center just north of the Savannah River crossing from Georgia has been closed. Of all the county seats in low country South Carolina, Allendale looks the worst.
For anyone looking to travel between central or western North Carolina and Florida, dropping down I-77 to Columbia, then following U.S. 321 to Ulmer and picking up U.S. 301 to Florida is a good route. It's not as quick as I-95 on a good day, but it is far better on one of the big Interstate's increasingly frequent bad ones.
A blacksmith at work at the reconstructed 1800s homestead at Silver Springs State Park. Fujifilm X-T20, SMC Takumar 55mm f/2.
It seems like a strange assignment for a GP30 built in 1963. The EMD GP30 line was a turbocharged 2250 horsepower four axle 567-powered road engine, designed for moving merchandise rapidly on the main line. It sported a distinctive hump-backed profile, courtesy of the GM Automotive Styling Center. 2111 started life as C&O 3029. It was rebuilt in the early 1980s, retaining its turbo but derated to 2000 horsepower. At some point the engine, along with several sisters, was sold to Alabama & Gulf Coast Railroad, where it soldiered along for a few more years.
Eventually the A&GC sold the engine to Conrad Yelvington Distributors of Daytona Beach, FL. Renumbered to 2111, she labors on in 2019, moving long strings of hoppers through the aggregate yard at Wildwood. The work is about as far from her original purpose of hustling merchandise at speed from division point to division point. The string is moved a car length at a time across a dump trough. The engine idles as one worker hoses down the load from an overhead catwalk to hold down dust, and then another operates mechanism to dump the load. Then the engine blasts three shorts on its polished brass horn, spools up, moves the string one car forward, and idles back down. The process is repeated until the whole string is unloaded. It's hardly an ideal application for a high-horsepower, turbocharged diesel, but it is a testimony to the rugged reliability of the old EMD 567 engine. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the C&O GP30 rebuilds were very reliable, and the fact that Conrad Yelvington runs a small fleet of them suggests that it is true.
The various Conrad Yelvington facilities are a real bonanza for fans of ancient diesels. The company operates several old Alcos, including a couple of S2s, built between 1940 and 1950. I photographed an RS1 at their Ocala facility in 2018.
An anhinga perches on a sculpture at the edge of the lake at Tuscawilla Park, Ocala FL as it dries its wings. Fujifilm X-T20, Super Takumar 150mm f/4.
Independent craft breweries have sprung up everywhere, and I enjoy trying the local ale when I travel. Florida has about 200 breweries. One of them is High Magnitude Brewing of Gainesville. They started in 2012 and seem to be doing well. Their Ursa is a hoppy, fairly strong American IPA, just my style. I doubt if they will ever get distribution in North Carolina, but I will be sure to enjoy a six-pack on my frequent trips to Florida. Gainesville is a fun place to visit, so next time I am there to walk through Kanapaha Gardens and have a slice at Leonardo's, I may finish the day with a couple of drafts at the First Magnitude tap room. Fujifilm X-T20, SMC Takumar 55mm f/2.
Hi-Wire Brewing of Asheville makes more than just IPA, Bed of Nails for example. A taste will leave no doubt it's an ale, but not so hoppy and bitter as an IPA. I like it, Joe likes it, even Marcia likes it. And yes, Hi-Wire even brews (gulp) a lager. They've been around a while and have enough cred to get away with it. Plus, a gose. Who else brews a gose? Fujifilm X-T20, SMC Takumar 55mm f/2.
South Carolina doesn't have as many microbreweries as North Carolina (around 50 as compared to better than 300), but it's coming along. Westbrook Brewing Company of Mount Pleasant has been around since 2010. Their IPA is inoffensively tasty, not as hoppy, bitter and strong as Jade or Garden Party, but still unmistakeably "IPA". Fujifilm X-T20, SMC Takumar 55mm f/2.
So, the Flaming Lips wrote Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots in, I suppose you could say, homage to Yoshimi P-We, drummer for the Japanoise bands Boredoms and OOIOO. Starting with the Wikipedia entry for Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, we find that the Lips felt that "her machine-sound abstract singing sounds like she is battling monsters". Following links to other Wikipedia pages (in other words, going down a rabbit hole), we find that another member of Boredoms was "Chew Hasegawa (now of Japanese funeral doom band Corrupted)". So what is Funeral Doom? Wikipedia classifies it as a division of Doom Metal, which, of course, is a sub-genre of Heavy Metal, which could be called a top-level genre of Rock. Arguably, Black Sabbath was right up there with the Beatles and Stones as a God of the Stone Age. Funeral Doom is "played at a very slow tempo, and places an emphasis on evoking a sense of emptiness and despair. Typically, electric guitars are heavily distorted and dark ambient aspects such as keyboards or synthesizers are often used to create a 'dreamlike' atmosphere. Vocals consist of mournful chants or growls and are often in the background".
Funeral Doom has a lot of cousins in the Doom Metal family. Wikipedia lists the following - Black Doom; Depressive Suicidal Black Metal; Blackened Death-Doom; Death Doom; Drone Metal; Epic Doom; Gothic-Doom; Progressive Doom; Sludge Metal; Stoner Metal; and Traditional Doom.
Wikipedia notes that there are several regional variations of Doom Metal, including "one of the greatest doom metal outputs", Finnish Doom Metal. Stateside, we have Louisiana Doom Metal, Washington D.C. Doom Metal, Pacific Northwest Doom Metal (wonder if Kurt was playing that when he changed his name?), and Palm Desert Scene.Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.
I could follow this hole a lot deeper but I have a feeling it would never come to an ending. Signing off, not to "Dixie", but to Mournful Congregation's "Scripture Of Exaltation And Punishment".
Cardinal in a bush in Miller Park. Pentax K100D, SMC Pentax F 80-200mm f/4.7-5.6 at 200mm, f/8, 1/320s, ISO 400.
Yadkin Valley Railroad runs two lines out of Rural Hall, NC, one to North Wilkesboro and the other to Mount Airy. Interchange with Norfolk Southern is done via trackage rights at Liberty Street yard in Winston-Salem. Norfolk Southern kept the Winston-Salem - Rural Hall line as it had enough traffic to make it worthwhile. One lucrative operation is movement of unit trains of ethanol to Hot-Z Transport Company's transloading facility in Rural Hall. These can be heavy trains. I recently found a standard NS 12-axle road set, EMD SD70 1196 paired with GE D9-44CW 9133, switching the Hot-Z track, tying up the entire Rural Hall yard and periodically blocking Highway 66 in the process. The Yadkin Valley train from up the river waited west of town until Norfolk Southern finished their work and cleared the through-track. Then it came through to run to Winston-Salem with interchange traffic. The NS units spent the night idling on the side track near the old depot.
Perhaps the next day 1196 and 9133 ran out to Donnaha to Yadkin Valley's open-air maintenance facility. Lately I have seen foreign road engines there, and have wondered if Yadkin Valley was doing contract maintenance for the other lines. The other day I found a CSX engine at Donnaha getting washed, so perhaps that is the service being provided. This is purely speculation on my part, but maybe NS and CSX are leasing space at Donnaha to have non-union contractors wash engines, rather than have railroad employees do it in their own facilities.
Westinghouse, now Siemens, operates a turbine production plant outside of Rural Hall, with a long, winding light-rail spur from the Yadkin Valley for rail shipments. My guess is nothing has gone out by rail in decades, but the right-of-way is still intact. Google Street View from 2013 shows the rail lifted from Tobaccoville Road onward, but a recent visit found the road crossing recut and rail relaid into the plant. A slug of derelict cars, tagged by local satan-worshippers, was spotted near the road. Again, speculation, but is YVRR trying to show evidence that the spur is still in use, to stave off local efforts to have it removed? I seriously doubt they expect to get any business from the turbine plant, but if the plant is someday repurposed as a warehouse or break-bulk facility the railroad might get some carloads out of it. On out Tobaccoville Road, the spur into the cigarette plant has been lifted, leaving just a short siding. YVRR has spotted a wrecked covered hopper on the remnant, again perhaps to assert their property rights against adverse possession or condemnation procedures.
20 years ago I thought the lines to North Wilkesboro and Mount Airy almost certainly would be abandoned, but YVRR is proving me wrong. They are aggressively pursuing opportunities to increase revenues and resolutely defending their properties. Railroading in the upper Yadkin Valley has never looked this good, at least in my lifetime.
Foothills Brewery's premium IPA. Fujifilm X-T20, SMC Takumar 55mm f/2, f/2, 1/320s, ISO 250.
A shot of Amy's mobile on a cloudy day without the heavy backlight of the previous examples. The lens, a Quantaray 28-90 Macro zoom, is one from a box of lenses that Joe and Marcia found at a yard sale. I didn't expect much of it, but have been pleasantly surprised. Quantaray is a house brand of Ritz Camera and many of the Asian manufacturers have produced them over the years. Pentax K100D, Quantaray 28-90 Macro f/3.5-5.6, 55mm atf/4.5, 1/500s, ISO 200, cropped and processed.
Just about to burst into bloom. Fujifilm X-T20, SMC Pentax F 80-200mm f/4.7-5.6, 1/850s, ISO 800, cropped and processed.
Finally enough warmth and sun to bring out a few blossoms. But it will be back into the low 20s tonight and tomorrow night, so today will be the best opportunity for flower pictures for a while. Fujifilm X-T20, SMC Pentax F 80-200mm f/4.7-5.6, 1/250s, ISO 800, heavily cropped and processed.
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