So here we are again (see my original HDR vs. non-HDR), talking about HDR vs. non-HDR. When I was out hiking the Laurel Ridge Trail, I realized my HDR option was turned off on my iPhone. So I figured I would turn it on again and start using it. “Wait!” you say, “the pictures on that trail entry were shot with an iPhone?” Yup. Go ahead and make fun of me, but for most of the pictures on this site I use my iPhone as my primary camera. While everyone may have their opinions, so do I. But I’m going to leave the primary decision up to you.
So what is HDR? It’s an acronym for High-Dynamic Range. To make a long story short (this is a blog entry, after all), the camera takes 3 pictures and merges them together to take advantage of the highlights and the lowlights. Here’s a comparison image between HDR (the 1st shot) and non-HDR (the 2nd shot) below.
OK, I’ll be the first to admit it’s not a great photo to begin with, but you it does show the differences between the two settings. The HDR-photograph, because of the way it processes the images, exposes for the sky, exposes for the mid-range, and exposes for the ground. It then merges the best of those together to give you details in the bright parts of the image in addition to details in the low-lit areas of the picture.
But you might not want all this fancy processing. Some might look at the HDR image and think the trees are from a fairy land. Notice how the chimney on the house seems to be glowing, and I don’t think that’s from radiation or anything.
So, when do you want to use it? It’s going to be your call, but basically when you have a bright sky and dark ground, or when you are shooting pictures with strong sun and shadows. Here’s another comparison shooting in a setting sun situation, with long shadows cast across the landscape.
You can see how the HDR image both brought out the clouds against the sky as well as exposed the ground a little better. But if the 1st picture (the HDR one) looks a little fake to you, especially with the trees in the upper-right, you might want to keep both images.
To use HDR, go into your iPhone camera app, tap on Options, and then turn on HDR. By default, your camera will shoot 2 versions. The non-HDR first, and then the HDR image. You can choose to turn off the non-HDR image by going into Settings…Camera.
So what should you do? Just because I’m writing this on the internet doesn’t mean I’m telling you what to do. You decide. Here are the advantages and disadvantages from my standpoint.
The Glacier Bandits. High-Definition Information since 2007.
You might think finding an interesting trail so close to lots of recreational people is tough. Not so. The Laurel Ridge Trail on the south side of Lake Lanier is just such a spot, providing a 5-mile jaunt. True, there are a lot of people around enjoying the lake, but even late morning on a Sunday you can still find solitude on the trail.
The trailhead is located at 800-1042 Buford Dam Rd, Buford, GA 30518. This leads you to the Upper Overlook Park, and it’s where the hike starts (at least for this blog).
You’ll start your hike at the parking lot, where there’s a core sample behind one of the picnic pavillions. Directly behind that, the trail starts descending down into the valley.
I chose to hike in a counter-clockwise pattern around the trail, so when I started the trail I went left. As the trail descends into the valley towards the dam overflow, you’ll see a viewing platform just below the trail. That probably provides a great view of the valley and the river during winter, when there are no leaves on the trees. However, with the dense foliage, it was imperceptible. The foliage did provide shade today, which kept the bright sun off.
After crossing a service road, you’ll come to a point in the path where the fork splits - take the right-hand path to view the dam. You’ll exit the woods onto a boardwalk platform to cross an inlet, then follow the path to the bridge crossing the dam outlet.
At the furthest point on the bridge, you can see the dam up river where the water is held back. The dam was completed in 1957, and provides a reservoir for the city of Atlanta. To continue the hike, return over the same boardwalk you used when approaching the dam and enter the woods. Make a right at the trail junction to continue on the Laurel Ridge Trail.
The trail follows the river and then at about the 1 mile mark, it starts to head up the hill, paralleling a stream. There are multiple bridges and walks over the river, and this is one of the best parts of the hike, following a mountain stream (OK, maybe that’s a bit subjective).
The trail crosses a powerline right-of-way and then into a wetlands area. The wetlands has boarded walks again, going through the forest. Some of them are marked with the date a local scout troop installed them, and one even has it listed it was one scout’s Eagle Project.
Around 2 miles, you’ll come across a playground structure in the middle of the woods (or so you think!). There’s a parking lot right around the corner. This is the first of several parking lots and picnic areas you will navigate through/around. Make a sharp right and follow the path out to the sidewalk, and then follow that through the picnic areas, past the bathrooms, and back into the woods by the water’s edge. At 2.25 miles, you’ll see an opening out into the Lake (you have passed to the other side of the dam). Take it. It’s a dead-end at the observation platform below, but you’ll be able to look off to the right and see people loading boats into the water, and to the right to see a bridge (which you will cross soon).
Continue back up to the point at which you left the trail. Then go right, cross the bridge, and follow the trail across the water way. The trail will parallel the water for a little ways, and then up and into another parking area. Pay careful attention as you maneuver through the picnic areas so you do lot lose the trail - remember to look for the white markings on the trees.
The trail then climbs up a hill and goes along the water. This is another great portion of the trail. The trailbed is sandy and travels through the forest above the water. In the wintertime, you could probably have a better view of the water, as the leaves on the trees provide good shade, but obscure the view.
The trail will go around a pond, and then past a beaver dam. This section was quite peaceful, and it’s pleasant to be on a trail that weaves its way in and out of public areas, yet still retains a peaceful walk in the woods.
The trail crosses over Buford Dam Road as it makes its way back to the parking lot (and your vehicle). As you climb the hill going back to your car, you are rewarded with the best view yet of the Buford Dam. Here, there’s a window through the trees by which you can see the dam and the cars moving across it. Must come back in winter when there are less leaves on the trees.
If you go:
Ran across a decent article today about “Camping Hacks” designed to make your next camping trip more powerful. While the first few on the list were targeted more for car camping, there were some really good ones for those of us who go days into the backcountry. Some of my favs which I find incredibly useful:
Get the full list at http://www.buzzfeed.com/peggy/camping-hacks-that-are-borderline-genius
The Guardian news site is hosting an interactive exhibit on the 60-year anniversary of Everest. Check it out at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/interactive/2013/may/28/everest-60-years-mountaineering-interactive
Now here’s something useful to blend between the world of outdoors and the world of technology.
The paracable takes an Apple lightning connector, and wraps the cord in para-cable, and then connects the USB to the other end. This makes it ideal for the outdoor-enthusiast. While it was originally designed as a defensive mechanism against being chewed-to-shreds by the owner’s kitten, it’s a great cable for those of us who put our cables through multiple outdoor adventures.
While the Glacier Bandits have not tested these out quite yet, we look forward to ordering it once we are in possession of a device with lightning connectors. And unless my iPhone 4S meets with a catastrophic end, the earliest indication of the lighting connector will be with the new iPad expected to be released October 2013.
As of May 9, 2013, the price of the 3’ cable is $27.95, and the site http://paracable.com/ states they plan to make the 6’ version available soon.
If you’re in the Atlanta metro area, and like to cycle, you have a great trail in the Silver Comet Trail to take advantage of. It goes all the way from Smyrna to the state line with Alabama.
On a recent Sunday, I had the opportunity to take advantage of the trail, and it was a good one. I parked my car at the Trailhead on Seaboard Ave. and started on the ride. The further east you go on the trail, the more traffic you are likely to encounter. By going farther west, you tend to encounter less traffic and really it’s more of a peaceful ride.
Turning immediately west, I pass through some great sights, tunnels, and scenery. It’s really pretty-much empty on the trail.
There were several underpasses of roads with small tunnels, and some bridges over roadways. The trail follows the old Silver Comet rail line brining passengers from Atlanta to Birmingham Alabama. Now that means this converted rail trail is an easy-graded ride (e.g. no steep ascents or descents). It did feel as I rode in to Rockmart, though, it was a climb, but that could have been I was anxious to get there.
Once in Rockmart, there are some places to eat, and a small “downtown”. Not much in the way of bike stores, however. Directly across the river from the trail is a nice park for a lunch stop, so if you want to plan lunch, go ahead and bring something, cross the pedestrian bridge, and stretch out in the park and devour your food.
You’ll get to experience a big tunnel during your ride, and it’s lit inside, so no worries about the darkness. You can certainly see where you’re riding, and even see through to the other end.
Oh, and there’s a huge trestle on the way out of Rockmart crossing over the valley below. Don’t worry if you’re afraid of heights, the sides are quite high so it would take an awful lot to fling yourself over the edge. By the way - in the picture below, I’m not hanging over the edge - there’s an outcrop you can step into in order to get a better view of the trestle and the valley below.
All in all, a great opportunity to ride and stay in a peaceful, car-less setting. Looking forward to another opportunity to ride, and perhaps this time go all the way to the Alabama border.
Thinking right now that I’m so looking forward to the spring and getting outside. I need to be sleeping in a hammock int the backcountry right now.
Yeah, we’re kind-of proud. We turned our bike tour experience from Boston to Bar Harbor into a completely interactive iBook, downloadable onto the iPad.
It’s a lot more than an expanded blog. In fact, it’s 63-pages long, containing information about gear, planning a tour, maps for the complete route (and links to download the route onto your iPhone), and an enhanced description of our experience on the trip. The book contains interactively gallery images of the photos, and hyperlinks for locations along the route that integrate with your maps app. Very cool.
Are we proud? Yeah, pretty-much.
If you haven’t walked part 1, you can return with this link.
You’ll walk past Thomas Wolfe’s home and right in front are a bronze replica of his size 13 shoes. The house is his mother’s famous boarding house, made famous as “Dixieland” in his novels. During Wolfe’s time in Asheville, the surrounding streets were lined with many Queen-Anne style Victorian homes similar to the one in the picture.
Continue down Thomas Wolfe Plaza and and just before you make a right onto Walnut Street, you’ll encounter “Curtain Calls”, stop #20. It’s an abstract metal sculpture to remind you of Asheville’s theatrical presence. This one shows human struggles through an abstract man (or, as Austin Powers would say, “an abstract man, man!”).
Continue along Walnut Street to the Northeast corner of Walnut and Market, and you’ll find “On The Move”, stop #21. This one is truly art deco, showing the history of transportation including honoring the last remaining brick street in Asheville (picture below). The sculpture is interactive, and if you spin the wheel to the right, you’ll hear 11 different sounds of the city through the wheel. You can check out the 8-second video in a different blog post here.
Make a left and head south along Market Street. The next stop is on the corner of College and Market, and it’s a bell. Stop #22 represents “Civic Pride” and the bell is a replica of the bell that hung in the 1892 city hall. That building stood at the east end of Pack Square. The bricks surrounding the base of the bell are in the shape of an octagon, which was the shape of the city hall’s belfry.
The next 3 were located in the park area, and they were elusive. I wasn’t able to find them. They included:
So, we missed finding these three, but what we DID find instead was the farmer’s market at the corner of S Charlotte and Eagle St. That was fun. We picked up some artisan crackers, a great cafe latte and sampled some local cheeses.
Back on track, fueled by the coffee, we found interactive display #26 “Past and Promise” which is a bronze cast of a little girl drinking at a replica of a horsehead fountain on a gas lamp post. A lamp post that once stood on the square.
Continue south along Market Street, and you’ll pass by #27 “Monument Corner” (which we somehow missed) and then onto #28 “Brick Artisan” which recognizes craftsman James Vester Miller, chief mason for the Municipal Building (1925) across the street. The cornucopia over the doorway on the side of that building marks the places where an integrated public market was relocation with the old city hall was razed.
Two more to go! Just before you reach Eagle Street, you’ll see “The Block” off to your right. This is display #29. The bronze sculpture praised the historic African-American community and business center. This work was based on the collective memories of former residents who call the days when Eagle Street was a place to shops, see a doctor, meet friends after school, or just, “be.”
Make a right on Eagle St. and walk to the corner with Biltmore Avenue. On the northeast corner, look up. You’ll see a bronze eagle on the top of a pole. This is #30 “Hotel District”, and that’s just what the eagle overlooks, Asheville’s early hotel district. It’s similar to an eagle that one stood as high as the second gallery of the Eagle Hotel, a stagecoach stop on the Buncombe Turnpike. The Eagle was the 1st gran hotel in downtown Asheville. Later, hotels such as the Swanonoa, Oxford, and Savoy opened nearby.
That’s the end of the Urban Trail. But now you are right across the street from the Mast General Store. A trip to Asheville would not be complete without stop in to the general store, if even to visit the old building and have a look around at the staircase leading to the basement
Here’s a hike in which you don’t have to be an uber back-country hiking to enjoy. It’s the Asheville, NC Urban Trail. There are several interesting things about the hike you might find to your liking.
The trail starts in Pack Square. There’s an inlaid bronze plaque on the sidewalk at the southeast corner of Patton and Biltmore.
George Willis Pack, for whom the square is named, was the incentive for the Vance memorial in the middle of the square.
See the geese and the pigs walking in the middle of the square? That’s interactive stop #2, called “Crossroads.” The road tiles have been pulled back at this spot so you can see a road that Native Americans and travelers traversed on the 1827 Buncombe Turnpike. Stagecoaches and covered wagons made their way across the square, driven by pigs and geese (not really, its just that they brought these animals with them to market). The rails you see in the ground are representative of the train (1880) and the electric trolley (1889) that helped grow Asheville’s economy during the gilded age. Now, turn left and head west on Patton Avenue.
At the corner of N. Lexington and Patton, you’ll see exhibit #3 called “Stepping Out”. This is a top hat, cane, and gloves which represents the theaters and Grand Opera House once standing on Patton Ave which made it the center of commerce and culture. Interesting fact - the 25 bronze sculptures along the trail were created by students attending the University of North Carolina at Asheville (where else, really?)
The next stop (#4) is “O Henry” - it’s a bronze plaque in the sidewalk about halfway down the block along Patton Avenue. Surrounding the plaque are symbols from the famous Christmas tale “The Gifts of the Magi,” which he wrote. There is even an avenue in Asheville that bears Henry’s name. (Sorry there’s a wicked-diagonal shadow through the frame - can’t control the sun!)
Stop #5 is the “Immortal Image” celebrating an existing Victorian edifice, the DrHumor Building (1895), named after the Johnston family estate in Ireland. Above the facing corner rose a circular turret, which was used as a lookout until its removal. At this point, cross Patton Avenue and you’ll see a bench with vines surrounding it. You have arrived at interactive exhibit #6 “Elizabeth Blackwell, M.D.” This bench honors the Asheville resident of the same name. She contributed to the advancement of care for women and children by establishing the New York Infirmary for Women and Children in 1857, which was a very risky move at that time. She also founded the 1st four-year medical college for women.
Continue down Patton and turn right at the corner onto Haywood Street. about 50 feet off the corner is #7 “Art Deco Masterpiece” which is a mosaic crafted in Venice, Italy, which mirrors the art deco S&W Building (built in 1929). the S&W Building was built by Douglas Ellington after his return from France, and at the same time as the building boom. The former cafeteria was one of 64 major downtown buildings constructed during the late 1920’s.
Continue to the corner of Haywood Street and Battery Park Ave. Make a left, and then another left onto Wall Street. Right in front of you, you’ll see a huge iron representing “Flat Iron Architecture” and you have arrived at #8. The iron is a representative of the irons used at a local laundry and it is there to reflect the nearby Flat Iron Building. Wall Street was once a hill overlooking the city, but is no longer. The Flat Iron Building went up in 1926.
Walking down Wall Street is great (it’s probably my favorite street in Ashville - very quaint), and soon you’ll arrive at a bronze cat walking on a wall. Welcome to #9 “Cat Walk.” This is the edge of a retaining wall responsible for holding up a hill more than 70 feet high. When Edwin Wiley Grove decided to develop downtown Asheville, he had the hill removed (I can just hear it now - “Remove the hill!”)
At this point, cross Wall Street and take the steps to the right. You can also take the elevator in the parking garage to get to the next exhibit, #10 “Grove’s Vision.” The glass etching on the display show what the Grove Arcade was originally going to look like. Originally, the plans were for the Arcade to be 14 stories tall, but the Great Depression put the kibosh on that. Interesting that the steel supports still exist to support the tower, but it’s not the height that it was originally planned to be. The Grove Arcade was a public market until 1949, at which point it became a government building until 2002, when it was opened again to the public.
Continuing north on Page Street will eventually lead you to “Historic Hilltop”, interactive display #11. This display explains about the building across the street (to which the display faces). The hotel was constructed by Grove (the same guy who built the Grove Arcade), after the “old” Battery Park Hotel was destroyed by fire. Named Battery Hill because a battery of guns stood there during the Civil War (called “War Between the States” in the south, or “That Recent Unpleasantness”). The display is a bronze cast of a guest book, and looking at the book, you can see signatures of famous names.
Interactive display #12 was under construction while we were there, so instead of seeing Guastavino’s Monument, we went inside the church itself, which he designed. The Basilica of St. Lawrence has North America’s largest freestanding dome unsupported by wood or steel. It was assembled using an ancient Moorish technique by none other than Guastavino (see the connection between the monument and the church?). Guastavino collaborated with Richard Sharp Smith on the construction of the church, which they completed in 1909.
Cross Haywood Street and you’ll arrive at display #13 “Appalachian Stage” This one consisted of 5 figures dancing and playing fiddles during a folk festival. Sorry, but it looks like they had been removed during reconstruction of the plaza behind it. So, continue down the east side of Haywood Street, and at the corner of Haywood and Walnut, you’ll see “Shopping Daze”, #14. It’s a large forged-metal representation of 3 ladies shopping and their dog. It commemorates the time when Haywood Street was the region’s fashionable shopping district and also celebrates the return of that district.
Make a left onto Walnut Street, walk 2 blocks until you are at the southeast corner of Walnut and N. Lexington. As you walk into this area of the city, notice how the inlaid concrete blocks in the sidewalk have turned into horsehoes instead of the leaf. This is because you are into The Frontier Period, representing an earlier time in Asheville’s history. The area you are walking through was frequented by farmers who came into town on horseback or wagon, loaded with milk, butter, eggs, etc. Look for a bench and on that bench you’ll find #15 “Marketplace.” It’s a bronze bonnet and a basket of apples. It’s a representation of what this area of the city was during the 1800’s. Note the double doors on many of the buildings along the roads. Why? they were used both as livery stables and market stalls, and the doors needed to be large enough to accommodate both a horse and wagon.
Walk on Walnut Street, cross over Broadway, and go left, traveling on the right side (east side) of Broadway. Look for the statue of a kid on stilts. SURPRISE! It’s not the kid itself, but the bench next to him. #16 is “A Legacy of Design” and the bench and the statue (OK, it had a little something to do with the statue) represent British-born Richard Sharp Smith who was the supervising architect of the Biltmore house. The bench is a model of the one he designed to go into his office. The street has many buildings he designed with his partner, Albert Heath Carrier.
Continue north along Broadway and then make a right onto Woodfin Street. You may have noticed the concrete tiles at this part of the walk have changed to an angel. This is because you’re in Thomas Wolfe’s neighborhood, and the tile was designed after the icon in his book, “Look Homeward, Angel.” The first thing you’ll run across is #17 “Woodfin House” which is a ceramic replica of a building many Ashevillians recognize asa the YMCA that served the area for 50 years. Before that, it was the house of Nicholas Woodfin, a prominent citizen, lawyer, and experimental farmer. He also delivered the farewell address to the 1st regiment of soldiers to leave to fight the Civil War.
Continue along the south side of Woodfin and you’ll come across “Wolfe’s Neighborhood”, #18. This is a diorama merging the sights of today matched up against the sights of yesterday along this street. The image is a panorama shot standing in the cast of his size 13 shoes.