Friday, December 31, 2010

From the Archives - The Blue Gold Tree of Happiness

Cataloochee Valley, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina  © Doug Hickok

If there was a Tree of Happiness, and it was a tree of Blue Gold, I think the Blue would signify Peace and Harmony, and the Gold, Love and Companionship. Like the beautiful color combination of Blue/Gold, the elements of Peace/Harmony and Love/Companionship are complementary, working together like the Sun and Moon, or Yin and Yang, or Rodrigo y Gabriela, or peanut butter and jelly. They are essential for nurturing and growing our own Trees of Happiness. With this in mind, may your own Blue Gold Tree of Happiness flourish in the coming New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sunrise at Botany Bay

Botany Bay Plantation WMA, Edisto Island, SC  © Doug Hickok

A short hike to the boneyard beach at Botany Bay takes you to an almost surreal place, one of a slowly dying sea island forest. Countless years of relentless tides and damaging storms have eroded so much of the protective beachfront that the woodlands are being inundated by the encroaching sea. Yet, the tangle of dead wood and the haunting shapes of stranded trees make for fascinating photography. And, if Long John Silver ever needed an adventuresome place to bury his pieces of eight, or if Salvador Dali ever wanted fresh material for his phantasmagorical landscapes, then the boneyard beach at Botany Bay would be the ideal spot.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

From the Archives - Old Salem Tree Shadow

Winkler Bakery, Old Salem, North Carolina  © Doug Hickok

Winter is well underway in the South. The air is colder but the sun can still warm-up afternoons. On bright days, the light angles a little lower, and shines a little sharper. Colors can be more saturated. I love this kind of light. In this photo, it's late afternoon, and a large bare tree projects its shadow onto the corner of a bakery in Old Salem. It was near here in 1766 where Protestant missionaries from Moravia (a former province in the Czech Republic) settled to begin their new life in the New World. Today the Town of Salem is preserved as though still in the 18th century, an enclave surrounded by the modern urban landscape of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. It's a wonderful attraction and well worth a visit to anyone interested in American history, and our connection to the Old World. The Winkler Bakery continues the tradition of baking fresh breads in a wood burning oven. And, boy does it smell heavenly! Here's a link to learn more about Old Salem.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Universal Pattern

Beach Sand Pattern Abstract, Kiawah Island, SC  © Doug Hickok

A close-up of dendritic patterns on a sandy beach left by the ebb and flow of tides mirrors other patterns found in nature, perhaps like those of jelly fish tentacles, or the network of veins in an eye ball, or the roots and branches of a weeping willow, or a network of dry river beds on a desert plain, or a summer electrical storm, or the topographical map of a mountain range, or foul flames from the River Styx, or...

Monday, December 27, 2010

Winter Pond Reflection

Wetlands near Savannah, Georgia  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved 
(Velvia slide film)

Our Lowcountry has many wetlands with still waters ideal for photographing reflections and their eye-catching patterns and shapes. This image was made in the Savannah River floodplain near the border of Georgia and South Carolina. Although you're not likely to see narwhals and belugas here, you might see a yellow-bellied cooter. And, although you're not likely to see puffins and kittiwakes, you might see a red-bellied woodpecker. By now, you may have noticed many of our native wildlife species have multi-colored bellies. There's an easy explanation. The food they eat contains a rainbow of colored dyes to make its appearance more alluring, more appetizing. So, it's not beyond the realm of possibility that one day you might also see a mauve-bellied mockingbird, a fuchsia-bellied fox squirrel, a peach-bellied possum, or a spumoni-bellied skink.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


Washington Park, Charleston, SC  © Doug Hickok

Just kidding...
really it's SNOWING!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Later That Same Day...

Love Rays  © Doug Hickok

Love beams radiate from the Holy Family
 with an aim to heal all that ails the Earth.

Christmas in a Nutshell

Nativity from Rottenburg, Germany  © Doug Hickok

Merry Christmas,
and may "God bless us, every one!"

Friday, December 24, 2010

Follow the Yule Tide Road

Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee  © Doug Hickok

"Over the hillocks and through the woods,

to Park Ranger's house we go,
hurrah for the fun! are the acorns done?
hurrah for the camp fire glow!"... tra la la, etc.
It's that time of year to gather with family and friends, and park naturalists, and bears, and be at one with a little eggnog, a little Yule log, a little cove fog, and a lot of good cheer. And don't forget to bring the rum.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Shadow Play of the Gate Scroll

Saint Michael's Church, Charleston, SC  © Doug Hickok

The historic district of Charleston is noted for its abundance of beautiful ironwork, from old church gates, to window grills and graveyard fences. It's a significant aspect of the city's charm. Photographically, I'm often attracted to the interplay of light and shadow, and Charleston's ornate ironwork offers plenty of opportunities to capture these kinds of lighting effects. In this image, the shadow of a scroll from an 18th century gate is cast upon a stuccoed column of Saint Michael's Church. The bluish tint in the shadow is reflected color from a bright, cloudless sky, and lends a pleasant touch to the photo's overall mood. But it would not last. Moments later, the shadow's form had completely changed because of the quickly moving light. Similar to animated puppets in a Chinese shadow play, nothing stays the same for long.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

From the Archives - Bridge Wednesday

Somesville, Maine  © Doug Hickok

Today is bridge Wednesday, the bridge signifying a span between the beginning and end of the work week. Some folks call it "hump day".  To others, it's the day in the middle of the week where they can see the light at the end of the tunnel (woo who!). If you look closely at this photo, just under the bridge, in the shadows, is a small troll. You can barely see him. He's difficult to spot because he's a little shy. See, just there. It's a local custom for people crossing the bridge to toss a few coins in the water, a simple gesture of appreciation, since the troll takes care of the town's best know landmark.

That's why they call it a troll bridge.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

From the Archives - When Really in Rome...

Piazza del Popolo, Rome, Italy  © Doug Hickok

Borga District, Rome, Italy  © Doug Hickok

Ponte District, Rome, Italy  © Doug Hickok

Borga District, Rome, Italy  © Doug Hickok

Ripa District, Rome, Italy  © Doug Hickok

Near The Vatican, Rome, Italy  © Doug Hickok

Borga District, Rome, Italy  © Doug Hickok

Esquilino, Rome, Italy  © Doug Hickok

Colosseum, Rome, Italy  © Doug Hickok

Near Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy  © Doug Hickok

Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome, Italy  © Doug Hickok

... do as the Romans really do, drive really neat, really really colorful, really really really small cars. And park next to really really really really cool places. And drink espresso. Really.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Eyes Have It

Tall Ship's Sail, Charleston, SC  © Doug Hickok

While strolling along the wharf where the tall ships dock, something suddenly caught my eye. I looked up and set eyes upon the eye-catching eye of a one-eyed sail. In my mind's eye, I thought to myself, in the twinkling of an eye, "Oh, My eye! Are you making an eye at me?" While staring eye to eye with the all seeing eye, I shouted, "Mind your eye, you!" But thinking further I wondered if there was more to this eye in the wind than met the eye. I was up to my eyes in doubt. Maybe this wasn't a one-eyed sail, but one of the one-eyed beings of lore. Could it be a cyclops? A Polyphemus perhaps? The eye of Ra even? But of course that was a silly idea. That could be no more possible than a camel passing through the eye of a needle. "Do you take me for a fool?" I muttered. "Do you see any green in my eyes?" Having an eye to the future, I turned a blind eye from that eye in the sky, and moved away in a blink of an eye, keeping my eyes pealed for other evil-eyed things. Without batting an eye, I thought to myself, "This eye-opening episode has certainly been an eye-popping ordeal". And with a wink of an eye and a laugh, I cried aloud, "Aye, Aye!"

Sunday, December 19, 2010

From the Archives - The Dragon of Krakow

Florianska Street, Krakow, Poland  © Doug Hickok

There was a time, long ago, when we dragons ruled the Earth. We dominated the skies with fire and dread. We filled the imagination of men with fear and awe. We were the very stuff of legend and myth. Our magical blood was sought after for its protection against harm, and our teeth were sown like seeds to incite war and chaos. But as time passed so too did our power and prestige, due to the emergence of dragon slayers, like Beowulf, Siegfried, St. George, and Bard the Bowman. Woeful now are the days of dragons, for we are barely remembered, relegated to the roles of cartoon characters, fantasy games, tattoos, or worse. None is a better example of our fall than the Dragon of Krakow. Smok was his name. He dwelt in a cave under Wawel Hill, and ravaged the countryside, but was finally subdued by the wit of a shoemaker's apprentice. Today the unfortunate dragon wanders the streets of Krakow, a shadow of his former self, scorned or ignored, a lonely and broken creature. Woeful now are the days of dragons. Woeful now indeed. 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

From the Archives - Poof!

Vaporetto Ramp, Grand Canal, Venice, Italy  © Doug Hickok

Since no cars are permitted in the city of Venice, the best way to travel from place to place, other than walking the streets, alleyways and bridges, is riding the waterways on public transportation, known as the canal bus or vaporetto. Vaporettos make stops to pick-up passengers at vaporetto ramps, which are like bus stops, strategically located along the canals of Venice. When the vaporetto pulls-up, you just walk down the ramp and hop on. Vaporetto means "steamship" in Italian, but it may also mean "to vanish in a vapor", much like what happened to planet Earth in A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Poof! Vaporetto! And much like what happened to the passengers waiting on this ramp just moments before I snapped this picture. Poof! Vaporetto! Probably the handy work of Vogons.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Tis the Season

Holiday Lights Abstract, Charleston, SC  © Doug Hickok

Wagging the camera in front of holiday lights.

(See November 26th blog entry for wagging the camera tutorial)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

From the Archives - Ship Harbor

Ship Harbor Nature Trail, Acadia National Park, Maine  © Doug Hickok

If you seek a wild, rugged coastal landscape, there is no other on the eastern seaboard like that of Acadia National Park on Maine's Mount Desert Island. Small in size but great in beauty, Acadia offers a wilderness-like experience within a day's drive from many major metropolitan areas in the eastern United States. About 30 minutes from the hustle and bustle of Bar Harbor, the island's tourist center, is Ship Harbor Nature Trail, an easy leg stretcher that introduces visitors to the natural wonders of Acadia. Quiet secluded coves, cool dark forests, and wild rocky coastlines with remarkable views of the vast Atlantic Ocean are all accessible along the roughly one mile trail. In this photo one can almost hear the haunting calls of a solitary loon echoing from the misty cove.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Dickensian Sunrise

East Battery, Charleston, SC  © Doug Hickok

A Tale of Two Moments

It was the worst of times. It was the best of times.
One moment, dawn was bitterly cold.
The next, so lovely to behold.
It was a far, far better thing for them to endure the worst,
for the best was a far, far better thing
 than they had ever known.

The End

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Sultans of Swat

Vintage Posters, City Market, Charleston, SC  © Doug Hickok

Charleston's City Market has been offering goods for sale since the 1830's. Back then it was fresh seafood, meat and produce which Charlestonians shopped for to supply their kitchens. Today the City Market supplies merchandise mainly for shopping tourists. They can find local hand crafts, artwork and collectables, like these vintage posters. Displayed above are icons of the pop/rock music world... The Beatles, The Doors, Elvis, The Rolling Stones and Babe Ruth. Yes, George Herman Ruth! 
Babe and the Sultans of Swat had a brief but mercurial career rocking-out ball parks across America. Where ever they played, their unique blend of hard-driving heartland rock and Big Apple blues made them an instant smash. Many of their songs became memorable hits, and a few went on to become what some in the music business call "home runs".  Oldies but goodies like "I'm Roundin' Third and Headed Home to You, Hunny", "Tootse, You're My Divin' Catch", "High and Tight", "You Send Me Up Like a Pop-Fly", "Ain't No Way I'm Stealin' For You" , "Whiffed on Love", "My Heart Got Dinged by Your Curveball Baby", "Bad Case of Blooper Blues", "Called Out Lookin' for Love", "You Ain't Nothin' But a Sandlot Slugger", "Good Bunting Gone Bad", "Swingin' for the Fences" and their hall of fame hit, their multi-platinum single, "All You Need is Glove". Tragically their run at legend would end with a strikeout. Their sudden and dramatic downfall occurred when many of the band members succumbed to cola addiction.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Imagination Gone Wild

Ornate woodwork, Dock Street Theatre, Charleston, SC  © Doug Hickok

The oldest building designed as a theatre in America is not in New York, or Chicago, or San Francisco. Nor is it in Santa Fe, or Saint Augustine or Williamsburg. Nor is it in True or Consequences, or Kickapoo, or even South of the Border. It's here in Charleston at the Dock Street Theatre. Last year, when I worked on a photo shoot for the Spoleto Festival USA ticket brochure, I came across this interesting detail of decorative woodwork on a door frame at the Dock Street Theatre. The theatre was nearing completion after a long period of renovation, and final touches were being made to much of the ornate interior. There were so many wonderful close-ups like this one that caught my eye. My imagination tends to get the best of me sometimes, but when I look at this photo I see a face, a sort of whimsical, fantastic face that might belong to a Cirque du Soleil character. I thought of them because of their blend of wild imagination and stunning theatrical production.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Charleston Saves Western Civilization

Old Exchange, Charleston, SC  © Doug Hickok

The Old Exchange was the last public building the British erected in Charleston before the American Revolutionary War. More importantly, it was here where local patriots ratified the US Constitution, making the Old Exchange one of the few nationally significant colonial sites of its kind still standing today.
It was also near here where the last sighting in North America was of Genghis Khan, great lord and master of the Mongol Empire. He and his invading armies had swept across the steppes of Central Asia from Mongolia and were driving into Europe, vanquishing in their path city after city after city. Then, needing a break from all the vanquishing, Genghis Khan booked a pleasure cruise to Charleston, where he refreshed himself amid the city's Southern charm and sophistication. He spent ample time strolling along the Battery promenade, taking in the sea breeze, and indulging his sweet tooth with lavish helpings of key lime pie. Thus was Charleston the real reason Western Civilization was spared the wrath of the Great Khan.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Mystery Photo

Mystery  © Doug Hickok

Crinkled aluminum foil
Chaos theory in action?

Jackson Pollock abstract
Hubble shot of an exploding supernova?

Doodling pad of a chimpanzee
US Tax Code?

Shrimp boat reflections in a creek
Cosmic echo from the Big Bang?

Dime store kaleidoscope
Santa obscured by streamers in a NYC parade?

Pre-schooler scribbles
One of the merry pranks of Till Eulenspiegel?

Maze of snail trails on an artist's palette
Cross section of mineral rich rock from Timbuktu?

Atoms smashing in a particle accelerator
Lady Gaga's hairdo?

St Elmo's Fire
Jean-Michel Basquiat's graffiti art?

Mad Hatter's sketch book
Blueprint of the Minotaur's Labyrinth?

Sonogram of Jabberwocky speak
Where's Waldo?

Magnified view of a butterfly wing
Aerial view of the Painted Desert?

Poltergeist in the TV
What fish see?

Pharmaceutically inspired dream vision
Doug's brain wave pattern after chewing Gummy Bears?

Ummm, what do you think?

Friday, December 10, 2010

From the Archives - Finding Splendor: A Postscript

Dear Viewer,
     I'm writing this letter today to inform you the world is lit by splendor, a splendor of color, and line, and shape. Where ever you are now, take a minute to look around and see for yourself. (Go ahead, I'll wait). Sometimes splendor is easy to see. Sometimes not. It may not jump out and say "Look at me!" It may be disguised as the ordinary, the everyday, the mundane. And sometimes splendor is nothing tangible at all. Sometimes it's the ineffable sense of a place, or a fleeting moment of awareness. Or sometimes it's the feeling of something much larger than yourself.
     Below are 3 images from the Midwest that have nice color, line, and shape, and offer a glimpse of splendor. Enjoy!


Old Blue Steps, Newport, Kentucky  © Doug Hickok
Old Silo, Harrison, Indiana  © Doug Hickok
Old Sign, Yellow Springs, Ohio  © Doug Hickok

Oh, I almost forgot to mention, If you're having trouble finding splendor, chew some Gummy Bears. It's the small things that help make a difference. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

From the Archives - The King of Early B-Boy

God of the Tiber, Capitoline Hill, Rome, Italy  © Doug Hickok

A legend from the dawn of Rome's founding tells of King Tiberinus, who drowned in what is know today as the Tiber River, which flowed near The Capitoline Hill, one of the Seven Hills of Rome. Jupiter, taking pity on the dead king, resurrected him as God of the Tiber, a personification of the river's life sustaining bounty.
Inspired by his new life, Tiberinus began a hip-hop group, the Society for the Promotion of a Qool Rome (SPQR), whose task it was to encourage certain avant-garde societal trends, the first of which was a fast growing dance craze known as breakdancing, or as the Romans called it "breaking" or "B-boying". Tiberinus was the king of early B-boy, regarded for his signature moves, such as the Hopping Turtle, the Romulus Airbaby, the Nutcracker, the Pretzel Hop and the Etruscan Munchmill.
In this photo the God of the Tiber is immortalized in travertine, likely finishing a sequence of power moves... a float, a glide and freezing in a slide. Remarkably, Tiberinus managed breaking all his moves in a toga while holding aloft his cornucopia. Now that's kicking it old school.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

From the Archives - "Mad Mountain" Haystack vs The "Killer" Needles

Haystack Rock & The Needles, Cannon Beach, Oregon  © Doug Hickok

The 100 million year stand-off between rival rock formations continues, still. For eons the landmark sea stacks of Cannon Beach have battled for position along a spectacular stretch of Oregon coastline. Although the iconic Haystack Rock has the advantage in size (235 feet in elevation), the upstart challengers, commonly known as The Needles, have the advantage in numbers (2). The fiercely combative monoliths are simply enthralling to watch in action. The complex strategies of moves and counter-moves, feints and counter-feints, are utterly captivating. Of course the minor drawback for fight fans is that you have to be a little patient. The imperceptible nature of this geological fray usually takes a few millennia to play out. But still... you have to admit its a match for the ages!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tahiti in Hiding

Fast and French, Charleston, SC  © Doug Hickok

Tahiti is missing. Rumors abound that it has been secretly placed in a witness protection program. The island paradise is likely hidden in a secluded safe house that is perhaps disguised as a cafe or boutique. Furthermore, Tahiti may have changed its appearance and assumed an alias. (This could mean curtains for Tahitian vacations).
Sources say such an elaborate scheme may be the result of an ongoing investigation into tourist laundering by a neighboring island paradise, Bora Bora, which has allegedly made unspecified threats against Tahiti, its chief rival. Details remain nebulous. Speculation runs rampant.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Cold Blue Fountain

Pineapple Fountain, Charleston, SC  © Doug Hickok

In recognition of our icy cold Fahrenheits, I've turned on the blue lights on the Pineapple Fountain at Waterfront Park. Burrr!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

King of Fashion

King Street, Charleston, SC  © Doug Hickok

A model of stylish fashion...
the King Street Shopping District.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

From the Archives - The Fishermen Warriors of Buda

Fisherman's Bastion, Budapest, Hungary  © Doug Hickok

During the Middle Ages, the Fisherman's Guild of the Hungarian town of Buda took charge of defending its walls during times of conflict. Centuries later, the city of Budapest built the Fisherman's Bastion to honor these brave souls, but more importantly to lure tourists to the Castle District. And they easily took the bate... hook, line and sinker. Hundreds of them visit every day. Designed in a neo-Romanesque style, the monument resembles a fairy tale castle with ornate towers, ramparts, passageways and stairwells. Perched on a hill overlooking the Danube River, the attraction also offers beautiful vistas of the modern day capital.
The three sculpted anglers shown above have cast aside their fishing nets and donned the garb of warriors. Note the fierce nonchalance of their demeanor. Furthermore, not only are they defending the city walls, they're in the city walls!

Friday, December 3, 2010

From the Archives - Gateway to the Renaissance

Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy  © Doug Hickok

As you approach the renown Uffizi Art Gallery from along the Arno River, you pass beneath this gateway facade designed by the architect Vasari, and enter into the heart of the Italian Renaissance. The Uffizi began as municipal "offices" in 1581, but soon evolved into a world class museum showcasing the vast art collection of the Medici, the ruling family of Florence. A sampling of works on display include those of Michelangelo, da Vinci, Botticelli, Raphael, and Titian, a who's who of Renaissance giants.
Walking through this passageway, I glanced up to see this beautiful archway and the balance, proportion, and attention to detail that so identified with the artistic spirit of the age. 
Framed nicely by the opening is the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio, the "old Palace" of the Florentine Republic. Imprisoned in this fortress-like tower was the radical Dominican monk Savonarola, who infamously convinced citizens of the city to burn their books and other "immoral" belongings, hence the "Bonfire of the Vanities".

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Stones of Silence

Stone Angel, Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston SC  © Doug Hickok

Magnolia Cemetery has been called Charleston's best kept secret. Tucked away off the beaten path, it peacefully overlooks coastal marshes, and rests beneath the shade of live oaks draped with Spanish moss. Dating back 150 years, the older areas of the cemetery evoke a beautiful atmosphere of decay, and the remarkable stone art compares to that of Savannah's famous Bonaventure Cemetery. From time to time I like walking among the old headstones and mausoleums, enjoying the tranquility, and searching for interesting compositions, such as this stone angel with Palmetto fronds.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

From the Archives - Where is the Ware?

East Quoddy Lighthouse, Campobello Island, New Brunswick  © Doug Hickok

Passamaquoddy Bay, Schooner Cove, Welshpool, Friar's Head... if this sounds like you're not in Kansas anymore you're right. Where you are is across a short bridge from Lubec, Maine on the small Canadian island of Campobello, from where these colorful place names derive. This mostly rugged landscape of rustic fishing communities, rocky shorelines, and misty forests is a step back in time, a departure from the frenetic life style of the metropolis.
Pictured above is a painted-on window of a shed. It is attached to the East Quoddy Lighthouse, which anchors the northern tip of the island and overlooks the Bay of Fundy. Just visible in the distance is a Herring weir, which the locals call ware. (Where?) Yes, ware. (No, where, where is the ware?) Oh, just there, there is the ware.

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