My attempt to document 40 sunrises in Eastern Cincinnati. Spring 2011.

insects

Sunrise 157: Alms Park (Misty Hills, Tall Oaks, Spring Blooms)

A unique lighting situation @ Sunrise 157

A hard climb to Alms Park but the view makes it worth it!

Are these magnolias? (Nope. Dogwood!) They’re so small and the other magnolias have lost their blooms so I’m not sure…

Rain-battered yellow blooms race to fill up as much forest floor as possible before their taller brethren block out all the light.

I woke up Sunday morning with a penchant for a sunrise. After last week’s surprisingly beautiful spring sunrise (and subsequently & understandingly the most popular post yet so far of the project), I spent the rest of the week working early and ignoring the rainy & stormy mornings. After all, I didn’t feel it was appropriate to push such a beautiful set of pictures further down the front page unnecessarily! :).

This morning’s sunrise was certainly a unique one. I experienced a strong dose of nostalgia because I haven’t visited Alms Park for over three months! The last post featuring Alms Park was Sunrise 127, featuring the *incredibly lucky* cubic frost crystals. It is probably the most viewed picture I’ve taken for this project due to it’s popularity on the social news site reddit.com where it hit front page and was likely viewed by a couple hundred thousand people, if not more. I’m not sure of the numbers because wordpress doesn’t track individual pictures. Here’s the picture from that fateful day when the day break light was perfect and my camera just so happened to focus on the exact right spot:
(Cubic Ice Crystals on Clover; Sunrise 127)

So it came as no surprise that as I snaked my way down through Mt. Lookout and into the thickly forested residential neighborhood between Delta & Linwood Ave, it felt as if I was meeting an old friend. The route to Alms Park from Mt. Lookout is quiet and full of life (both of the human kind and the natural type). The old residential through-ways were originally designed for high volume so they are wide and smooth. When the Grandin Viaduct was torn down sometime in the past half-century, traffic volume dropped off and now the neighborhood roads are serenely peaceful in the morning before sunrise. The area features one of the oldest planned suburban neighborhoods (dating back to the 1920s or so) and the designers were tactfully mindful of the local forest. At times, the ride to the par almost feels as if you’re traveling through a small tucked away neighborhood in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest.

The route to Alms Park is also one that displays the challenge of Cincinnati’s terrain quite nicely. The entire route is a slow climb up to the the peak of the mountain from the basin of the valley that Mt. Lookout sits in. Just before the entrance to the park, at which point you’ve already climbed to the peak elevation, the road takes a steep dive down through a patch of old forest where the air is always noticeably humid and cold. At the base of this drop is the entrance to Alms Park, where one must climb another 200ft up a steep hill to the overlook.

I always feel an incredible rush of clarity when I finally reach that peak. It’s a route that’s short but also hard to rush. By the time you reach the top you’re surrounded by the ethos of Alms Park: The Forest. I’ve mentioned it in posts past, but Alms Park and Ault Park have such good balance when viewed side by side. Ault Park is organized, designed, open, symmetric, accessible, full of lawn & gardens, and the epitome of a well planned city park. Alms Park is tucked away, organic & asymmetric, cut out of the forest, filled with huge oak & pine trees with only a small garden by the pavilion. Ault Park has a sunrise shelter, Alms Park has a sunset shelter. The forest is around you in Alms Park, unlike Ault Park where the forest is held back to the boundaries of the park so that the beautiful gardens can take center stage. In Alms Park the forest is around you & above you. In short, Alms Park is the yin to Ault Park’s yang.

When I started off for Alms Park, there were clear skies above me. It seemed, however, that change was in the air.
Looking west up Erie Ave, heading to Alms Park in Mt. Lookout

I made a detour in the neighborhood behind Alms Park. One of the “No Outlets” has a nice cliff view of the eastern sky. At this point the sky is still relatively clear but that will soon change as the sunrise heats up the valley. The mist rises up into Alms Park, flooding the hillside with fresh moisture. I’m still convinced that the fog provides a micro climate on this hillside that isn’t well understood. It’s just… so lush.

Looking down Grandin Ave. Half a century ago there was a bridge at the end of this street. It was torn down at some point, turning this wide residential thruway into a quiet neighborhood street. There’s not a lot of historical documentation on the so-called “Grandin Viaduct”.

I always forget about this beautiful oak tree in the front lawn of St. Ursula Villa school. I wish I had spent a bit more time here over the winter, but I’m glad that I got this picture of the tree as it just begins to plup out in its spring coat.
Here’s one from the late autumn when the yard was frozen over and the dew had turned to crystals:
From Sunrise 122 (A great post, check it out)

Another pic from Sunrise 122:
 Frost & Oak

Apparently I’m really drawn to this tree in the fog… here’s another one:
The same oak but from a different angle… from Sunrise 108 (another foggy alms park ride from the autumn)

A twilight gradient behind the century oak.

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Sunrise 97: Ault Park (Misty Mountain, Compass Flowers, Beetles, Oak Stump)

The center of a compass flower.

A new view. We now see up through the park; before this would have been obstructed by the large oak tree.

Bike and Dew.

A busy bumblebee pollinates a compass flower.

Dew and Deep Green Leafs

A yellow beetle surveys the territory from the top of a compass flower.

I’ve skipped the last several wet overcast mornings but today at 7:00am I ventured out into the humid streets to Ault Park. The sunrise this morning was at 7:22am, the latest so far. Looking back, Sunrise 1 was at 7:14am. I’ve broken through the calendar symmetry and am now proceeding into new territory! I never regret going out in a misty morning, especially on such a temperate day as today. The temperature was in the mid sixties, and other than some light fog here and there I didn’t get too wet.

It’s amazing how heavy my legs felt after taking a few days off. The climb up to the park was a good workout, and by the time I got up there I was ready for my coffee and a break. I discovered several new happenings at the Overlook, including a new replacement bench for the one that was destroyed by vandals, and it looks like the park service cut down the dead oak tree.

I came up with a great idea for what to do with the dead oak tree, but unfortunately it looks like my idea came about a week too late. I realized that this dead oak would have been an excellent opportunity to create one of those stump carvings that I’ve seen in the neighborhood. The stump is probably too low now to do anything with. It would have been a beautiful piece of art. Here’s an example that I found on the way home:

A dead stump turned into artwork. If only I had thought of this sooner for the oak tree at Heekin Overlook! 😦

I ended up making up for lost time and took about 40 pictures this morning through the gardens and around the overlook. I’ll just go ahead and put up the front page disclaimer now!

If you’re on the front page, please click to continue reading. I do this so that the front page doesn’t become too slow for older computers with lower amounts of memory. Click over here to check out the other 30 pictures: —>

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Sunrise 94: Ault & Armleder Park (Fog, Prairie Sunflowers, Clear Skies)

These are the shelters in Armleder Park that we see, on a clear day, from Heekin Overlook in Ault Park.

Blue Skies and yellow Flowers.

Sunrise 94 was the first clear sky sunrise that we’ve had in several weeks. The high humidity that is no doubt left over from the hurricane behavior provided a thick wet blanket across the Little Miami River Valley. The sun rose up in a deep red hue. It was one of those sunrises that you can stare directly into for a full 10 minutes after sunrise without worrying about it being too bright.

I took the opportunity to drop down into Armleder Park and ride through the prairie in the fog. It is amazing how fast the sun dissipates the moisture from the air. The fog rarely lasts longer than 25 minutes after sunrise. The river was flowing quietly and I climbed through the now lush 7-foot high river foliage where the packed mud trail has become a mere suggestion to emerge soaking wet on the other side. Cincinnati is in a northern-most tip of the “Sub-Tropical Humid” climate, the same climate that encompasses most of the South and South/East of the US. This fog is likely a crucial element in the ecology of the river basin plant life. The foliage is lush and green and it seems that almost daily there is a morning transfer of water from the river, up to the air, and then onto the plants as the sun warms the fog. I find it interesting that Armleder Park seems to always be foggy. The Little Miami River is smaller than the Ohio River, and yet the fog of the Ohio River rarely spills beyond the river’s banks. I wonder what’s up with that?

It looks like it’s going to be another beautiful day out there. It’s amazing how much that streak of overcast rainy days can make me appreciate these clear cool late-summer ones.

The early dawn was dark! Looking East over the Little Miami River Valley.

That’s where we’re about to go. Down the hill into Armleder Park.

The colors were dominated mostly by a light pink that is so hard to pick up with the camera.

Into the park we go. Most of these pictures are kind of dark so I’m sorry about that. Under the blanket of fog, however, there truly isn’t much ambient light unless you’re looking straight into the sun.

A vertical shot in an attempt to capture the blue in the sky.

I head straight through the park to the small dead-end that dumps us out in the forest.

The long smooth bike trail around Armleder Park

About 25 pictures total. If you’re on the front page, click to continue—-> (more…)


Sunrise 91: Ault Park (Summer Flower Garden, Ailanthus Webworm Moth)

Pretty flowers.

A “cosmo” pointing up toward the sky.

Beautiful macro shot of a red/orange/yellow summer flower.

This morning I felt it was definitely a time to recollect and enjoy a cool morning summer in the park. The last two mornings I skipped the sunrise. I tell myself it was mostly due to overcast conditions but in reality I think there are several different reasons. I almost feel as though these late sunrises, happening at 7:05am, are no longer a “challenge”! The 6:15am sunrises, which came up before rush hour and when the city was still asleep, had more of an air of secrecy to them. I’m either going to have to find a new challenge (like getting to the park by a half hour before sunrise, and then leaving as soon as the sun crests) or search for more motivation. Time will tell! It’s just depressing to me how deep into the morning my routine is taking me if I wish to take my time at the overlook or in the gardens. That’s life, though, I suppose.

The atmosphere this morning was cloudy so I took the time to check out the flower gardens. By this time, late into the summer, the bushes and flowers have grown up healthy and lush. There is an opening that reveals a grassy aisle into the center of the flower garden that is in the center lawn. The last time I really explored this area, the ground was bare and I was left wondering “hmm, what’s going to grow here?”. The black-eyed-susans, cosmos, and other flowers are now towering over my head and full of beetles, bumblebees, spiders, and ladybugs. I was surprised to find how thick the isolation felt once I walked into the flower garden. On several occasions, while I was stooped in observation taking pictures of the flowers, a jogger would glide by only a few feet from me but on the other side of the flower wall. It reminded me of just how private a forest or meadow can become during the late summer months. I need some time to rebalance and sunrise in the garden was a perfect fit :). I got a bit carried away with the pictures, mostly just having fun with the color and finding all the insect life hidden under the pedals.

This is actually a deer in the forest behind our place. I tried feeding her carrots, but she was only interested in green foliage. Next time I’ll bring broccoli.

The sunrise was boring! Off to the garden.

These first few are darker, I was lucky to get any kind of macro focus. A deep orange flower that I think is a “cosmo”

The centerpiece hidden inside the flower garden.

For the rest of the pictures of flowers and insects, click to continue if you’re on the front page: (more…)


Sunrise 73: Ault Park (Housefly Macro, Cement Textures, Meadow Insects)

The sunrise looking out across the small meadow.

Down at the meadow there are these orange/yellow flowers that stand high in the air. They’re buzzing with life and full of Bumblebees. Their colors looked deep orange in the sun light.

Sunrise (with a strange artifact on my camera lens)

This morning’s sunrise was a bit of a quiet one. The sky was hazy as usual and the ambient light through the atmosphere was a bit dull. The sun didn’t start putting off the orange/yellow light until I was on my way to work. Oh, and because this blog acts as a kind of personal journal, it’s worth mentioning that this morning was the first time I commuted to work directly from the park. The temperature was cool enough before 8:00am (about 72F) that it was fairly comfortable. I could really get used to this 🙂

I hung out at the far side of the park for a bit before embarking for work. In April I explored the small prairie that is maintained by the park crew and was excited to see just how tall it the vegetation has grown. The meadow was thick with flowers and healthy plant life. The only unfortunate part about it was the invasive mosquito species was also present in high numbers. Those things are fast and nasty.

Took about 20 pictures today. If you’re on the front page, click to continue. Flowers, Ants, Pollen, Flies, Cement Textured Macro pictures, etc. —-> (more…)


Sunrise 60: Ault Park (Dying Oak, Annual Cicada Macro, Dense Summer Fog)

After about an hour beyond sunrise, the fog has receded but is still visible a few hundred yards away.
Final shot of the cicada from the side. I tried to capture the dark rich green color of the body.

Green -> brown -> black. Another beautiful organic gradient in the wing pattern.
Foggy Sunrise

This morning made me have the realization that I need to start thinking of Cincinnati as a city with lots of fog. We are well into the summer month now and the morning sunrise fog shows no intentions of going away. Cincinnati does, after all, sit between the seven “hills” if you want to call them that. The fog this morning started off light but actually got more dense as the sun heated up the valley air. There were sheets of the fog blowing into the park from the Little Miami River Valley. For more pictures of the cicada, check out the bottom of this post. The lighting was perfect.

The dawn sky. Light pink with a bit of haze.

Looking out from Heekin Overlook. Nothing down there but fog. It’s about to get thicker.

As I’m sitting in the overlook I notice the black spots on the nearby oak tree. I noticed them for the first time on Tuesday and hoped it wasn’t the result of fireworks damage. Today was the first time I looked up and realized that the old Oak was dying. The spots are where the bark has peeled away and revealed the black wood underneath. The squirrels were clamoring around and couldn’t help knocking off huge pieces of bark from the top of the tree. Makes me sad to see such a great tree die. I wonder how long until they chop it up?

If you’re on the front page, please click to continue. More oak pictures, sunrise shots, and cicada macros coming up —> (more…)


Sunrise 47: Ault Park (More Spring Blooms & Scented Geranium Garden)

Purple and Purple.

Sunrise Over The Valley

Orange Bloom. Love the center of it.

A harvestman. I love his white and black pattern.

This morning was another beautiful sunrise in the Cincinnati Valley. The sun seemed to come up about 10 minutes late from the scheduled time, something that bothers me when I think too hard about it but I know can’t be possible. In fact I didn’t even see the sun until about 6:25 due to the haze in the sky. By the time it made itself visible it wasn’t even that far above the horizon. Weird…

Looking at Armleder Park through the shallow mist.

Purple Sunrise through the clouds

A deep orange/red sunrise through the haze

I decided to stay in Ault Park this morning and enjoy the clear sunrise. With my recent bouts of wanderlust I haven’t had a great chance to get pictures in that small window that occurs after the sun is above the horizon but before it gets so bright that you can’t stare directly into it.

Zoom of the orange sun

Lookin’ at the layers of fog across the trees.

There is a small period of time, maybe 3 minutes, where the sky sheds the red/orange hue and takes on a brilliant orange gradient. Soon the sun light becomes strong enough to hurt the eyes and any pictures featuring the sun will be washed out. It is hard to guess when this window will occur, but that’s half the fun. On morning like today when the sky is clear but the humidity is high, the window occurred about 25 minutes after sunrise. On an overcast or foggy day, that window might not be for 45 minutes to an hour after the sunrise. On a low humidity day with no clouds, the window could be as early as 8 minutes after sunrise.

Canadian Geese

The Jet.

As I was standing at the overlook taking a final picture before the sun became too bright, two things happened in a row that provided perfect picture opportunities. The first thing was that a crew of canadian geese flew right into the sunrise as I happened to have the camera on and ready to go. About 10 seconds behind them came the familiar jet that took off from Lunken also into the sunrise. I’ve seen this jet probably 5 times now, sometimes I refer to it as the jet “with the wing tips folded up or down”. I think it is an old WWII jet but I’m not certain. I wonder where it has traveled to since I saw it last week.

Once the sun light started to become more intense I realized that it was another perfect morning for checking out the spring flowers. This time I ventured down into the arboretum along the tree-lined sidewalk.

If you’re on the front page, click to continue and see more pictures –> (more…)


Sunrise 45: Ault Park (Adopt-a-Garden Blooms, Young Roses, and Harvestmen)

I was as surprised as you, faithful reader, that I was able to get a picture of the valley and the sky without one of them being out of contrast.

A beautiful lily in the adopt-a-garden

What a beautiful rose! The lighting turned out perfectly on this sucker.

Waking up this morning was difficult. My body felt beat up even with 7.5 full hours of sleep. Last night I went on the group ride with Element Cycles. The route we chose was a new one, going down into Kentucky and over to Devou Park through downtown. It was absolutely beautiful, and really hilly. The climb up to Devou Park is no joke – about 2 miles at a 3.5% grade. Even with the uphill climbs (both at Devou Park and back up through Mt. Lookout) we did the 26 miles in 2 hours – averaging 13mph and peaking at probably 30mph on the downhills. It was an excellent workout and I probably only had about 5% left in the tank when we got back. Needless to say, it was a bit hard getting out of bed this morning.

Orange sun punching through the opening above the horizon

Vertical Sunrise

As I left our apartment I looked up into the sky and saw mostly overcast clouds. But there were spots light where the layer was thin, exposing the dark blue morning atmosphere. I took my time getting to the park, figuring that the sun would be non-existent this morning, but was pleasantly surprised to see that just above the horizon there was a familiar break in the clouds. The sun shone through the open sky for a few minutes after sunrise, casting a moving shadow across the cloud ceiling. The sun was a bright orange but the light was quickly absorbed by the patchy sky.

The clouds were looking well textured as the sun slipped behind the bank

I took the opportunity to simply sit and enjoy my coffee. I wasn’t in the most chipper of moods. Getting up early with fatigued muscles isn’t the most fun thing to do, but I was thankful that I wasn’t actually sore. I have the last 44 morning rides to thank for that 🙂

A view of the adopt-a-plot garden, very similar in shape to the garden of old roses

I love these flowers! Not sure of the species. They’re just finishing up their spring bloom.

Too bad I couldn’t get a clear shot! Before they bloom they look like little packs of chicklet gum.

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Sunrise 42: Ault Park (Spring Haze, Ants & Pillbugs)

An old prop plane with its wing tips folded up takes off from Lunken Airfield into the sunrise

This morning was a great start to the short holiday week. When I crawled out of bed, a bit stiff from a holiday weekend and slightly out of routine, I could hear the birds chattering about the hot day ahead. Today should be another scorcher with a high in the mid 90s. This morning, however, the day was still young and the temperature was a comfortable 65F. The atmosphere had a thick accent of haze, indicative of the high humidity we’ve had recently. I’m not surprised to see thunderstorms in the forecast for the week.

The fog was thick down in the little miami river valley. You could see the tops of telephone poles just barely popping above the surface.

The sun has drifted so far to the left that I no longer have an unobstructed shot. You can see it in the above picture just behind the tree, a dark reddish purple sphere.

I had to patiently wait for the sun to get this high above the tree. The camera doesn’t quite do it justice – the richness of the sun was a saturated magenta.

The hazy sky meant that the sun was visible but not blinding. A great morning to look directly into the sun without consequence… for the first five minutes at least.

The upper atmosphere didn’t have the deep blue that I’ve seen on the days with less humidity. It was more of a muted navy blue.

If you’re on the front page, click to continue. Ants & Pillbugs macro-style –> (more…)


Sunrise 34: Ault Park (World War I Memorial, Lightning-Struck Tree, Unknown Conifer)

click for higher quality!

These overcast days have really begun to push my creativity. On a beautiful sunrise morning (hopefully like tomorrow’s if the forecast is correct!) it isn’t hard to get a couple of interesting unique pictures and call it a day. But on these mornings where the sky is dark and gray and everything looks the same as it has for the past five days, I find myself exploring areas of the park that I often overlook out of habitualness. Yesterday, for example, I found out that there were redwood trees in the park. Not the pacific northwest redwoods, but another kind of redwood that grows 100ft high none the less and is critically endangered.

This morning I also experienced another “first”. I met a nice woman who identified me as “the sunrise guy” – this is now the fourth of such encounters* – and she said that I was an inspiration to her new routine of getting up at sunrise and walking her golden retriever through the park. It was an exciting encounter and she even made the claim that this “sunrise movement” is going to catch on! Thanks Polly 🙂

* I probably forgot to mention it – but last Saturday at the Bike+Brew (specifically at the Lackman Bar in Over-The-Rhine) I actually met a guy who found out about Ault Park Sunrise from a post I submitted to reddit. I mentioned that I love the history of Cincinnati and asked him if he knew about Ault Park. He replied “hey that used to be a vineyard!”. I said “haha yeah! I just found that out myself because I’m doing this sunrise project…” and he replied “Oh! haha! I saw your website on reddit’s cincinnati section and thats how I knew it was a vineyard!”. I’m still recovering from that piece of mind explosion.

click for higher quality!Young cones on the conifer trees.

click for higher quality!The large conifer with a picnic bench underneath it.

As I entered the park this morning I stopped early and checked out the two large conifers that rise high above the playground on the west part of the park. I wondered if they, too, were redwood conifers. I don’t believe they are after inspecting the leaves. Also they are bearing small pine cones, something that I didn’t notice on the redwood. These pine cones are actually one of my absolute favorite “fruits” of the park, if you will. I collected several of them last year because they look so beautiful when they are just starting to grow. I didn’t even know what they were when I found them on the ground last spring, and the mystery wasn’t solved until almost a year later when I realized that the small fractal ball I held was actually a pine cone that had another couple of months of growth before it became mature. I actually have, sitting on my dresser at home, two sets of pine cones that I collected last year. One set is from these two conifers in Ault Park. They are large, green, and healthy with symmetrical features and fully developed leaves. The other two are from a park down in Hyde Park, where the trees are smaller and probably younger. The pine cones are small, a bit mishapen, and not as fully developed. Assuming that the trees are the same species and the cones were about the same age, to me it says that the Ault Park elevation, clean valley air, and low pollution provide the perfect environment for these large conifers. Perhaps they are Cedars??

click for higher quality!In a couple weeks they will be marble sized, perfect for collecting 🙂 (If you’re on the front page, click to continue – including the WWI memorial) (more…)