Friday, October 1, 2010

Ingenuity Falls - Festival Views 2010

© Stuart Pearl 2010 - (Click on Images to Enlarge)

A 60' wide curtain of flame seemed to envelope the riverbank. The red torrent poured from grand old steel that had marked the heyday of Cleveland industry. Rock music and crowd sounds drifted from the source of the falls. This was the Detroit Superior Bridge, site of Cleveland's 2010 Ingenuity Festival.

Nautica Queen on the Cuyahoga

I'm always looking for new photo projects in Cleveland. I search for interesting light. It is the type which combines with our everyday skyline shapes and textures in a way that creates unique and interesting perspectives of these commonplace scenes.

I try to celebrate the mundane in ways that are visually unique and memorable. My friend Don Nikolai and I spent last Saturday night walking the length of the Veterans Memorial Bridge as well as the West Bank of the Cuyahoga. It was quite a spectacle. We wanted to check out this year's Ingenuity Festival.

Don Nikolai on the West Bank

Musical sounds, strobing lights and the aroma of food enveloped us we strolled the lower level of the bridge. Sometimes we walked on concrete. Other times a metal grate was the only thing separating us from the river. You could see the water splashing into the Cuyahoga ten stories below.

The old Cleveland Subway system once travelled this lower bridge level, providing transit from Superior Aveneue on the East bank to riders at the W. 25th and W. 9th Street stations. The rails were torn out though in the mid 1950's when the stations were closed.

Ingenuity Fest tried to present something for everybody. A very diverse crowd of visitors seemed to enjoy what was offered. Everything from performance art to gallery hangings, stage production and light shows were available to view. Old utility rooms and power closets were turned into display areas for sculpture and other creative efforts.

Sculpture could even be fabricated from common plastic cups and then artistically illuminated. Moving the festival to the lower level (old Cleveland Subway) of the Detroit Superior bridge was an innovative decision. The venue provided an exhibit stage nearly 3/4 of a mile in length while providing stunning views of the Flats and Cleveland skyline. Combined with the festival waterfall and ongoing light shows, the onlookers were always near some sort of visual treat.

Geared turntable of the Center Street Swing Bridge

Was Ingenuity Festival a success? I don't know how you would quantify that. But Don and I saw thousands of Clevelanders enjoying themselves talking, interacting and transfixed by the creative efforts of a lot of great local talent.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Great Balls of Fair!

© Stuart Pearl 2010 - (Click Images For Better Viewing)

Jeanne and I mark the end of summer by visiting several local festivals. One of our favorites is the Geauga County Fair. It has a great "country feel" and the jaunt out to Burton, Ohio is always a pleasant drive from the city. It's also a great place to graze for dinner, wander the merchant booths, see interesting livestock and just watch family and kids having fun.

This year we saw something new and quite entertaining. Imagine a large shallow pool holding a bunch of clear, floating beach balls, each containing a young, energetic child running in place like a hamster in a wheel. We have no idea what this is called, but the kids were having a riot. Their young parents were enjoying the sight too.

Perhaps Jeanne and I are getting older, but we had other thougts as we watched the happy chaos. "Gee, I wonder how much air those things hold?" The kids were obviously hopped up on cotton candy, Pepsi, icecream and other fair food as they twirled in place. And the balls were sealed with a large zipper to keep the water out. Jeanne told me not to worry.

"That's ok, they probably unzip the kids right before they start getting lethargic and a little blue in the face." My wife always knows when to say the right thing.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Summer's Last Adventure


© Stuart Pearl 2010 - Click on Images to Enlarge

Boys and creeks seem to go naturally together. I remember as a young boy how streams and ponds drew me like a magnet. Small fish, tadpoles and frogs were wonderful treasures to be stalked and captured.

Perhaps this is the last summer adventure before school starts for these young fellows: exploring the creek. Jeanne and I decided to spend Labor Day hiking around Tinkers Creek and Viaduct Park. While enjoying Bridal Veil Falls we saw these young fellows walking the creekbed in search of surprises.


Descending the terraced shale they stopped to inspect clear pools of water. Maybe they saw minnows or small crayfish.


Eventually they find a bare tree branch, long since stripped of it's bark, adorning the creek as seasonal driftwood. Hoisting their prize in victory they give a yell and proceed down the stream.

Jeann and I took a more sedate route down the gravel path. One of the overlook decks provided a safer view of Bridal Veil Falls. The area also has some enjoyable loop trails and we took advantage of those.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Backyard Fountain

© Stuart Pearl 2010 (Click on Images to Enlarge)

Jeanne and I have always enjoyed water sounds - as long as they aren't created by leaky roofs, faucets, or gutters. Streams and fountains can offer a welcome break from the mowers and leaf blowers of suburbia.

For several years we had considered building a backyard pond. Since I'm pretty handy with home projects Jeanne thought this would be easily within my talents. Enter the "Honey-Do-List."

Our property had a number of issues though. Numerous backyard trees would mean lots of seed pods, debris and leaves in a pond. We quickly decided against that maintenance headache. We'd also have to contend with obnoxious surface roots which would make digging all but impossible in the spot next to our patio.

Visiting local garden centers we came up with the idea of a do-it-yourself fountain. They can be small, require little or no digging and can be placed almost anywhere.

You can take the easy route and buy the ready-made water feature. Lowes and Home Depot have "fountain in a box"for less than $100: take it home, add water, plug it in, and you have instant burbling. But where's the challenge in that?

Jeanne and I tend do home improvement projects from scratch. They always take longer. However, they are much more creative and we get exactly what we want.

The first step in building our fountain was to find two large, glazed flower pots at our local garden center. We also bought a small pump, tubing, about 35lbs of decorative granite rocks, and then began preparing the area for installation.

The flower bed where we intended to build the fountain is plagued by tree roots. A large silver maple provides great shade to our picnic table but constantly raises patio blocks with it's shallow roots. I was concerned that future growth would shift the fountain's base.

To deal with this I dug a four foot diameter hole about 10" deep. This was filled with about 1,000 pounds of gravel. Jeanne and I had gradually worked up to the challenge of pouring so much gravel by having moved eight yards of topsoil into the backyard last month for another project. Still, we hit the Advil pretty hard that night.

Once poured and leveled, the gravel bed was now ready for the other items. I next added a four foot diameter Bluestone pedestal I'd had cut into a circle by my local stone mason. This was made from four squares, each weighing about 50 pounds. I made sure these were level and then Jeanne and I added the two pots.

The second smaller pot was inserted in the larger one, being raised into position with paver bricks.

We then installed a pump, placed decorative rocks, added water, plugged it in........and watched it leak all over the place. This was a problem since my intent was to build a fountain and not a sprinkler system.

To mount the water pump in the base of the large pot, it is necessary to thread the power cord through the pot's drain hole and then seal it. The latter was not done very well with the plumbers puddy I'd been provided.

Several hours later the pots were drained, dried, and ready for more caulking. This time there was no obvious sign of dripping. And that evening we had our first patio dinner by the fountain.

The appearance and sound of our backyard fountain far exceeded our expectations; we were very happy with the results. It blended in perfectly with our landscape and sounded very relaxing.

But within a day, Jeanne noticed the water level was slowly going down..... again. Since I didn't see an obvious leak, I told her it must be due to evaporation and the large thirsty birds in the neighborhood. She didn't buy that story.

We soon noticed the base of the pedestal was always damp. And that's when we realized the flaw in our project. Although we were very careful to select fired and glazed pots, we forgot that these pots are not glazed on the BOTTOM. The clay is hardenned throughout from being fired, but it still retains it's porous nature. Water was slowly seeping out through that bottom area.

Fortunately the craft shops know all about this deficiency. They sell latex spray-on sealers designed exactly for this purpose.

We'll be disassembling the fountain in October to protect it from winter. When it's been thoroughly dried we will make the "modifications." Untill then we continue to enjoy relaxing patio dinners by our fountain. It really is very soothing. And if you feel like building one yourself, drop me an email and I'll tell you what to do........ and what to avoid.

The leak no longer seems so important. Yesterday we discovered a massive algae bloom had exploded in both pots. The combination of bright sunlight and high temperatures had created an excellent growing medium. Jeanne couldn't drive to Home Depot fast enough to buy a pint of algacide. And once we finished with the dinner dishes, we began scrubbing the fountain's rocks. Relaxing indeed.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Spring & Early Summer Images from Cleveland

© Stuart Pearl 2010 (Click Image to Enlarge)

Spring in Cleveland brings interesting weather, fascinating cloud patterns, and high contrast light. The low angle sun often provides interesting photo opportunities.

This image of Frank Geary's building on the Case Western Reserve campus was shot one early cloudy morning on my way to work. That's a great time to do photography. The sun is just coming up and it's low angle creates wonderful shadows, textures and highlights. Shot with an ultra wide angle lens and a circular polarizer the building looks like something from a Tim Burton movie.

Just a couple of mornings later bright sun creates contrasting reflections amidst pools of darkness.

A short walk away is the Cleveland Botanical Garden with an island of tulips greeting you at the main entrance. Continuing south on East Blvd, the Cleveland Museum of Art's new wing comes into view. It's lines offer start contrast to the original classical design.

Beyond this point the south stairs come into view with vistas of Wade lagoon and other scultpture.
With the Lagoon in the background, the morning sun washes across Chester A. Beach's "Fountain of the Waters" which sits by the south entrance to the museum. Beach was an American sculptor (1881 - 1956) and is known or his medallic art and busts.

A few miles west is the Playhouse Square area containing Cleveland's theater district. NPR affiliate WVIZ/WCPN Ideastream is headquartered there with its distinctive " Idea Center" vertical signage.

Remodelled Euclid Avenue sports modern bus shelters for the RTA Healthline as well as some interesting public art.

"Chorus Line Luminaries" by urban designer and public artist Stephen Manka challenges your vision with shifting colors as buses approach.

Manka's stainless steel sculpture is a stylized interpretation of dancers kicking in a Broadway chorus line. It is fascinating to study the light display from different angles. As the sun sets the backdrop of office buildings provide a canvas of many contrasts.