A Digital Journal

Photography by Tony Triolo

A Slice of Life

It came to me the other day, that I ought to digitize and preserve some of my favorite black and white images from when I was a staff photographer for the Huntsville Times. After over twenty years, I had amassed a sizable collection of bracketed reject negatives of some of the images that I thought were significant in some way. It may have been the historic aspect of the event or the notoriety of the subject that compelled me to hang on to a particular negative.

Some images, like this one below, were retained, not for any reason other than the fact that I liked them very much. This one was shot over 30 years ago. I came upon these four boys sitting outside a rural convenience store, eating popsicles. I asked if I could take their photo for the paper, and of course they said “sure thing mister.” Those were the days, before you had to hunt down the parents and ask their permission. I liked the fact that they resisted the impulse to mug the camera, smile and make funny faces, which is what most boys that age typically will do. They were a serious bunch, or maybe they were just concentrating on eating those popsicles. I remember that it was one of the hottest days of the year, so who could blame them. My editor never ran the picture though. He said that the boys looked too mean, too sinister. He wanted a happy summer’s day feature photo, not one where the subjects looked like juvenile delinquents ready to knock over a liqueur store.

I can’t help but wonder where they all are today.

Boys and Popsicles

August 18, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Ocoee Offerings

Sometimes it’s good to just get away from it all. That’s what I did this past weekend when I had suggested to my son, Brian, that we spend a weekend together. We had not had a father-son outing in many years, so we decided this might be a good summer to reconnect. Brian lives in Atlanta, so he doesn’t get to participate in as many of the family events like his sisters do, who live close by. We all regret it, and wish he lived closer, but that’s life.

Brian checks out the scenery from a campground overlook.

We settled on the idea of going whitewater rafting down the Ocoee River in Tennessee. We chose the Ocoee for two reasons. The first was that the Ocoee is approximately equidistant from Huntsville and Atlanta, and secondly, Brian missed out on a similar rafting trip two years ago with his sisters and brother-in-law. So, this was his chance to even the score. This trip, however, would include not only rafting the middle portion of the Ocoee River, but also the upper section where the 1996 Olympic kayaking competition was held.

In an effort to keep costs down and add to the outdoor experience, we planned to tent camp. I chose the Chilhowee campground, even though it is a bit off the beaten track. Located a few miles from Benton Tennessee, we had to drive seven miles up a steep and twisting road, until we arrived at the top of the mountain and the campground. Views from the several scenic lookouts along the way are fantastic, when it’s clear. Unfortunately for us, we had only one day of clear skies during our four day outing. The campground is very isolated and private, but it lacks any kind of camp store, so if you’ve forgotten anything, you’re just SOL. There wasn’t even an ice machine, so when we needed ice, we had to drive 24 miles, round trip, to get it. Despite these limitations, the campground did include a beautiful spring-fed lake for swimming, along with a sandy beach for sunbathers. There are several hiking trails of varying lengths and difficulties. Our plans to hike one of the trails had to be canceled, due to all the rain we had to endure.

Youngsters enjoy diving intoMcKamey Lake
at Chilhowee Campground.
Camping in the rain, especially tent camping, calls for a certain mixture of dedication, resolve, humor and stupidity. I mean, you really have to enjoy it, to put up with a constant state of being wet. As much as you try to keep things high and dry, it’s a losing battle. A two-mil thick nylon tent is really no match for what Mother Nature can throw at you. You can always surrender to the relatively comfort of the family sedan, but that’s really a wimpy way of dealing with the situation. Just deal with it, learn from it, and vow never to go camping again.

Fortunately, Saturday dawned clear and bright once the morning fog had burned off. After almost two days of solid rain, we were grateful for the break, even though we knew that we would probably not dry out anytime soon, since we planned on spending the day in a rubber raft on a raging river. We were scheduled for a mid-afternoon launch time, but our rafting company was running late, so we really didn’t hit the water until almost 3:30. If we were beginning to feel a bit lethargic from the delay, that first wave of water that hit us, definitely woke us up. I don’t have any idea what the water temperature was, but even for August, it was pretty chilly, and it just got colder as the afternoon turned to early evening.

One of the hundreds of rafts that float the Ocoee each day.

Part of having a successful raft trip down the Ocoee, is the luck of being assigned a good guide. You want one who is experienced, obviously, but who also demonstrates that he enjoys what he is doing. He’s one who doesn’t take unnecessary chances, but still wants to do whatever he can to make the trip exciting and memorable. Our raft had only four rowers, instead of the customary six, due to the fact that our group was the last to be assigned a guide. We were sort of the leftovers. That proved to be both an advantage and a disadvantage. The lightness of the raft would mean that we were less likely to get stuck on a shallow rock, but it also meant that we did not have sufficient weight or mass to perform certain maneuvers such as “riding a hydraulic” successfully. As it turned out, we proved that theory wrong.

Rafting past the TVA wooden flume.

John, our guide, was a bit more of a risk taker than the guide we had on our trip a few years ago. Not only did he permit us to get out of the raft and float down the river on our own, but at another point, allowed those who were so inclined, to swim through Class 2 rapids. Brian took the challenge, but it wasn’t long before he was gasping for breath, as wave after wave crashed into his face as he bobbed along. One thing the guide failed to mention, was that towards the end of the day, and just prior to TVA reclaiming Ocoee’s water to be diverted for electricity production, a phenomenon called a “surge” occurs. The water level actually rises which makes for a much more thrilling ride. It also makes the rapids more intense and a bit dangerous. Brian managed to stay afloat, mainly due to his life jacket, and after he had swallowed half the river, he was pulled back inside the raft, looking a bit blue around the edges. That didn’t deter our guide from subsequently encouraging us each to play “bronco rider”, which required sitting on the very front tip of the raft as it went through the rapids. It was one of those “top of the world” moments. I was not up for it, nor was Brian, who was still trying to catch his breath from his swim. Our raft mates both tried it however, and were fairly successful in staying aboard as the force of the water tried to push them back inside the raft.

Rapids intensify just below Ocoee Dam #2.

About the time John ran out of tricks to try on us, we were coming to the end of our four hour excursion. He thanked us all for rowing so well and working so well as a team. He mentioned that it was one of his better trips down the river, but we all had to wonder if he was just pumping us for a bigger tip. It’s unfortunate that our great afternoon had to be followed by perhaps the worst part of the experience, getting back on the smelly bus for the cold and wet ride back up river to the rafting company headquarters and our car.

Oh, and as soon as we returned to our campsite, it began to rain.

August 4, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment