Going Postal on rails

Mail from a train what’s the Zip code for that?


This is one of the must-see attractions at the Southeastern Railway Museum.  I have seen many shots of the Post Office Car sorting bins – usually done as HDR images because the lighting is so hard to manage.  Much of the car is fairly dark except for the super-bright bulb lights hanging from the ceiling.  The car is also long and narrow so what is close up is much brighter than what’s at the other end of the car.

Car 1701 – U.S. Railway Post Office Grand Junction

This stainless steel car was built by Pullman for the Tennessean passenger train. Post office cars were used to sort mail while in motion for subsequent delivery to destinations.  You can see from the picture above, that since this is an official post office, you could even drop a letter in the slot on the side of the car!

RailroadMuseum-34One of the things that I found most interesting was at the opposite end of the car from where the sorting bins are.  A heavy-duty hook hangs from a railing next to a door in the side of the car.

Think about it – all those old movies with the train running past a station and the mail pouch waiting to be picked up.  Yep, I think it’s that hook.  Of course, in most of the movies, there was someone either hanging precariously from the hook or nearly getting knocked off the train by it.  I’m sure in reality that it was probably just used to pick up heavy mail bags and load or unload them but it’s much more fun to imagine the great railroad chase with people running across the top of the train, dodging the hook and ducking below tunnel openings just in the nick of time!

A few notes on my post-processing for these:  I recently had the privilege of attending an Advanced Digital Darkroom class with James Duckworth.  Jim taught us some of the more involved Paintshop techniques and I used some of his methods in processing these.

  1. On the featured image of the mail bins, I took a 5 exposure bracket of the mail car.  Then, instead of running those through Photomatix to get a HDR, I picked out the best overall exposure and one with the best shadow detail and one where highlights were not blown out and brought these into Photoshop as layers.  After some detailed work with layer masks, I was able to get a good combination that looks natural.
  2. For the image with the mail hook, I used focal merge.  I took one exposure with my focal point on the hook, to get that sharp and a second one with the focal point near the middle of the car to get the mail bags and bins in focus.  Once again, these were brought in as layers and I used the mask tool to blend the two and get that extended depth of field.  This is my first attempt at “focal stacking” and I thought it came out pretty well.

Southeastern Railway Museum
3595 Buford Highway
Duluth, GA 30096

Nikon D7100
Tamron SP 10-24mm F/3.5-4.5 Di II
11mm at f/11 – 10 sec – ISO 100

Heron on the hunt

A juvenile Green Heron looking for lunch at Gibbs Gardens lily ponds

We made a trip up to Gibbs Gardens in Ball Ground, Georgia this weekend.  Around the water-lily gardens many flowers were in bloom and there is always a variety of wildlife around the ponds.  We saw turtles, frogs, butterflies and dragonflies a plenty.  This was not at all unexpected but, then we saw the hunter.

At the edge of the lily pond was a bird inching along, his eyes trained on the water, taking small-careful steps as he tracked some unseen fish.  It is common to see birds flying around the gorgeous landscape here but this is the first time spotting a heron. It was really neat to watch him patiently follow the potential prey.

The first time I had seen a bird like this was at Sanibel Island, Florida.  The Green Heron (Butorides virescens)  is deep green on the back with a rich chestnut breast and neck. I think this may be a juvenile since adults do not usually have the pale streaking on the neck seen on this one.

While their cousins, the blue herons and snowy egrets are common sights in coastal Georgia and Florida, the green heron is more shy and harder to see so, we were very lucky to spot this one.  This particular bird seems to be a regular visitor at Gibbs Gardens since one of the employees saw my camera and asked me if I had gotten a picture of the heron as we were heading out.  I will have to be sure to see if he’s still around the next time we visit.

Green Heron (Butorides virescens)
Gibbs Gardens
1987 Gibbs Drive
Ball Ground, Georgia, USA

Nikon D7100
Tamron 16-300 Di II VC PZD Macro
300mm @ f/6.3 – 1/100 sec – ISO 200

#GibbsGardens #BallGroundGeorgia #Georgia #avian #bird #GreenHeron #ButoridesVirescens #south #southern #gardens #Nikon #WithMyTamron

Cee’s Fun Foto ChallengeFeathers


Railroad History preserved

The private railroad car “Superb” used by President Warren G. Harding is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth, Georgia is full of fun and history.  The first time I visited here, I spent my whole trip checking out the trains, busses and other vehicles that are outside.  There’s so much to see that I didn’t even venture into the actual museum that is indoors.  Well, this time I went inside and I’m glad that I did!

As you enter the museum-proper, the first thing you see is a Pullman passenger car with a lighted sign and red, white and blue bunting on it.  This private railroad car named “Superb” was used by President Warren G. Harding and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  You can imagine the President standing at the railing, waving to the crowds as he made his way across the country in 1923 aboard this car.  President Harding died in San Francisco in August of 1923 and his casket was carried in a funeral train back to Washington DC in this same car.


Telegraph Office at a Train Station

The museum holds many exhibits of historic trains and cars but also memorabilia of the train stations and the businesses that serviced the railroad traffic.  There is a lot to see here so, when you make your visit, be sure to check out the treats that are inside too.  Oh, by the way, it is cooler inside so you might go in just to get out of the blazing sun!

Southeastern Railway Museum
3595 Buford Highway
Duluth, GA 30096

Nikon D7100
Tamron SP 10-24mm F/3.5-4.5 Di II
11mm at f/10 – 1/20 sec – ISO 800

Southeastern Railway Museum

Engine 1026 – GP7 Locomotive – Georgia Railroad
This locomotive was built in 1950 by the Electro-Motive Division (EMD) of General Motors

I went on another outing with the North Georgia Photography Club yesterday. This time, it was much closer to my home so I was very glad to join them.  The Southeastern Railway Museum is in Duluth, Georgia off of Buford Highway.  I have been here before but had not been back in quite a while so, it was a lot of fun!

The museum includes a variety of train engines, cars and memorabilia as well as other vehicles such as MARTA busses, taxis, and automobiles from years past.  It is wonderful to be able to get up into the train cars and wander around the yard.  There is so much to see and lots of great image opportunities to be had.

The image above is a locomotive and a series of cars that are back in the area where restorations are done.  I love seeing all the track and switches in the yard.  This equipment is as interesting as the trains themselves.

I have lots more from this trip so there is more to come when I get my post-processing done.

Southeastern Railway Museum
3595 Buford Highway
Duluth, GA 30096

Nikon D7100
Tamron SP 10-24mm F/3.5-4.5 Di II
16mm at f/8 – 1/200 sec – ISO 100

Die Weissen Rössl

White Horse Square is at the center of Helen’s Main Street

At the center of Helen’s Main Street is White Horse Square (in German: Die Weissen Rössl).  This is a collection of shops and restaurants built around a small square with all the Bavarian atmosphere you could ask for.

DRAWINGS OF WHITE HORSE SQUARE, A PROPOSED QUARTER ACRE DEVELOPMENT ON THE MAIN STREET OF HELEN, GEORGIA by By Stephenson, Al, Photographer (NARA record: 8464474) (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

My image focused in on one of the lamp posts in the square that is topped with four white horses, the namesake of the square.  This one is located just outside of the Old Heidelberg Restaurant & Pub which is the oldest German restaurant in Helen.

This is a great spot to stop and look around the town.  Quaint little shops surround you and you can satisfy your hunger or thirst at a number of spots here.  It is also good for finding a shady corner to get out of the sun on a hot summer day.

White Horse Square
North Main Street
Helen, GA 30545

Nikon D7100
Tamron 16-300 Di II VC PZD Macro
38mm @ f/10 – 1/400 sec – ISO 100

#VisitHelen #HelenGA #AlpineHelen #BlueRidgeMountains #NorthGeorgia #restaurant #mountains #alpine #vacation #ExploreGeorgia

Pretzels and Beer, now that makes sense!

Just down the street from the Heidi Motel that I wrote about yesterday, is Hofer’s of Helen.  This is an authentic Konditorei (Bakery) and Cafe that serves good stuff like bratwurst, beer and soft pretzels and a wide variety of baked goods.  This is what I would expect from a location intended to be a Bavarian village!

Hofer’s of Helen has been open since 1991 but the original Hofer’s Bakery was started by Horst & Gerda Hofer who came from Schwabach Germany to the U.S. in the late 1950’s.  The Hofer’s started their business in Atlanta as a wholesale bakery before opening their own retail shop in 1973.  Now, you can experience their award-winning products while enjoying the beautiful mountain setting that is Helen, Georgia.

Hofer’s of Helen
8758 N Main St
Helen, GA 30545

Nikon D7100
Tamron 16-300 Di II VC PZD Macro
22mm @ f/11 – 1/500 sec – ISO 400

#HofersOfHelen #VisitHelen #HelenGA #AlpineHelen #BlueRidgeMountains #NorthGeorgia #restaurant #mountains #alpine #vacation #ExploreGeorgia

A case of thinking too much?

What happens when you try to make sense of tourism

Anybody who has visited Helen, Georgia will probably recognize this.  The windmill that is a well-known landmark of the area stands high above the main road (North Main Street) of beautiful Alpine Helen.  It is a quaint little hotel that has been here a long time and may be the most photographed site in the area.

Trying to make sense of it all

This is when I start thinking too much.  First I think:  Windmills, aren’t they connected to Holland?  I thought this was supposed to be a Bavarian village.  What’s that all about?  Then, the more I though about it, wait a minute – Heidi was Swiss, not German!  Oh great, now I’m spoiling the whole thing by trying to make sense of it.

I went out on the internet and tried to find some explanation of how this combination made sense.  Why have a windmill in the mountains and why use Heidi as the name if you are trying to represent a German village?  I couldn’t find an explanation.  So, I guess we just have to take this as a wonderful bit of mixed references to European history and folklore and leave it at that.  Come to think of it, this isn’t supposed to be a historical re-creation.  It’s just a way of letting American tourists feel like they’re in the Alps so, nevermind – let’s all just enjoy the view!

The Heidi Motel
8820 N Main St
Helen, GA 30545

Nikon D7100
Tamron 16-300 Di II VC PZD Macro
18mm @ f/8 – 1/250 sec – ISO 100

#TheHeidiMotel #VisitHelen #HelenGA #AlpineHelen #BlueRidgeMountains #NorthGeorgia #windmill #mountains #alpine #vacation #ExploreGeorgia