I cannot remember a hotter or dryer fall here in North Alabama. It has been so hot and so dry that I have hesitated venturing out with my cameras much at all. The waterfalls have all but dried up, and I fear a very lackluster display of autumn colors this year, perhaps even worse than last year. On top of that, this dry weather has brought the armadillos out of hiding to ravage my lawn looking for grubs, but that’s a story for another time. So, I decided that I needed to get out from behind the computer and go somewhere, anywhere, even if what I ended up photographing was less than spectacular. I decided to check out the Dismal Canyon located in the northwest part of the state. Now, I have been to the Dismals maybe thirty times, but I have not been there in a couple of years. I contacted a photographer friend of mine down in Helena, Alabama to see if he’d like to join me. Since he had never been there before, and since the trip wouldn’t interfere with Alabama football (we went on a Sunday), he was all in.
The Dismals is located near the town of Phil Campbell and it is on private property. There is an entry fee to enter the canyon, but I think it’s well worth it. One reason for settling on the Dismals, is the fact that the canyon floor is some fourteen degrees cooler than the average Alabama summer temperatures. The trail loops 1.5 miles around the property passing huge towering boulders, peaceful waterfalls, caves and sandy bends along the Dismals Branch. As suspected, the water levels were low, but the main Rainbow Falls was flowing well due to the fact that a damn feeds it. What surprised me was the fact that most of the canyon was still pretty lush and green. The rocks were covered in dark green moss and the ferns were standing tall.
Here are a few shots from my most recent visit.
Last week, I took a drive up to our neighboring state of Tennessee. Living in Athens, Alabama, less than 20 miles from the Tennessee border, I have the opportunity to visit that beautiful state on a fairly regular basis. The contrast between the two states is quite stark and the changes become apparent almost as soon as you cross the state line. The generally flat Alabama landscape gives way to rolling hills and beautiful vistas. Farms come into view along with red barns, hay bales and beautiful woodlands.
Tennessee also has no shortage of waterfalls. I have a book that lists all the waterfalls in the state, and it numbers well over 300. I have photographed a number of them, but I have never photographed the falls in, or near, Tullahoma. The waterfall most identified with the town, located in southern Middle Tennessee, is Machine Falls. It is an impressive 60-foot waterfall when the water is flowing. It is located in the Short Springs Natural Area. I had hoped to make this my second stop of the day, after checking out another smaller waterfall I had heard of called Rutledge Falls.
Rutledge Falls is located just northeast of Tullahoma, along Crumpton Creek. It is located on private property, but visitors are welcome. Numerous signs greet you, but warn you to stay on the path, alerting you to the slippery rocks and informing you that you are venturing forth at your own risk. I should have heeded the warning better, because, as soon as I began to navigate the boulders which led to a prime viewing spot, my feet went out from under me, and I landed hard on my elbow. It was at that point that I began contemplating just why they call it a “funny bone” when there is nothing at all funny about it. Boy, did that sting. It took me a few minutes to recover, but once I did, I had to admit that my mishap was almost worth it, because Rutledge Falls did not disappoint.
Although a good portion of the falls was dry, the far right side still had a fairly decent flow. I set up my tripod and began taking some shots, experimenting with a new neutral density filter that I had just purchased. I got maybe thirty shots off before, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted something move. It turned out to be a teenage boy, who appeared out of the forest, on the opposite side from where I was. He had on a bathing suit and was followed by at least a dozen others, who were headed for the swimming hole just below the falls, and right in the middle of my picture. A few brave souls even climbed the thirty-foot waterfall in order to jump off the top it. I knew, that at that point, my shooting for the day was over. That’s alright though. I’d gotten my picture and the kids got some well-needed relief from the ninety-plus temperatures. Besides, they were not about to stay out-of-the-way of some fool photographer.
As it turns out, I never did get to photograph Machine Falls. I heard rumours that it was pretty dry, so I figured I’d just pass on them that day. I’ll just have to keep them on my “to do” list and try again on a cooler day and after a good soaking rain.
Last week, our son got married in Atlanta. My wife, daughter and I drove over from Alabama a bit early in order to help out with the preparations, the rehearsal dinner and to help welcome friends and family members who were arriving from long distances. My sister, who came by way of Wilmington, North Carolina, had heard that there was a Dale Chihuly exhibit at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Being a fan of the glass artist’s work, she very much wanted to see it. Since we had a bit of free time, she invited us to join her, my brother-in-law and our father. Although my wife and I had already seen a Chihuly exhibit at the Cheekwood Gardens in Nashville a few years ago, it didn’t take much coaxing on my sister’s part to convince us to join them the next morning. We got to the ABG main gate early, when it opened at 9 am, in an attempt to avoid the crowds and the hottest part of the day.
We were not disappointed. I am always amazed at how Chihuly adapts his installations so perfectly to the particular venue. In Atlanta, his pieces of glass seem so perfectly placed. It almost makes one think that the garden designers created their fountains, pedestals, basins and general landscaping with Chihuly art glass in mind. It obviously was the other way around, but you have to wonder how they achieved such a perfect marriage of art and presentation. The show we saw in Nashville shared some similarities, but for the most part, was totally unique to that mostly wooded setting. We also couldn’t help but wonder how Chihuly manages to transport his delicate glass pieces, all over the world from his Tacoma, Washington studio, without breaking them. They look so fragile. Perhaps he is prepared to have some breakage while having the ability to repair and replace broken pieces on-site. That would make sense.
The exhibit at the Atlanta Botanical Garden runs through October 30. Night tours are available Wednesday through Sunday and provide a unique way of seeing the artistry of this amazing craftsman whose work has appeared in over 250 museums and gardens around the world.
Here are a few photos from our recent visit to the Atlanta Botanical Garden. They mainly highlight the Chihuly exhibit, but there are a few images of a general nature that I included. #atlantabg
This past week, while photographing the covered bridges of Blount County, Alabama, a photographer friend and I came upon this scene of an old bicycle being repurposed as a flower planter. It was just propped up against a maple tree near the town of Oneonta. You could say it was being “re-cycled.”