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

observatory

Sunrise 86: East Cincinnati Loop (Foggy & Clear Summer Sunrise)

Looking North/East up the Little Miami River Valley. This used to be the pre-glacial Ohio River Valley, several hundreds of thousands of years ago. Up on top of that ridge, if you have good eyes, you’ll see Heekin Overlook.

After checking out the Cincinnati Observatory, we stopped by Heekin Overlook at Ault Park. The view into the valley was stunning.

Sunrise 86 was one of the more beautiful summer sunrises of the year. If the ideal sunrise of the spring is a partially cloudy and humid morning full of late-sunrise oranges, the ideal summer sunrise is one of a clear atmosphere with dense fog in the low-lying valley and a bit of a cold bite to the air. This morning’s surnise was exactly that. I had a friend with me this morning, who stayed over to redeem a long-standing offer to join me on a morning sunrise ride. We did a nice loop through the eastern hills. After taking advantage of “free coffee refill Mondays” at the Mt. Lookout UDF, one of my favorite things to do, we cranked it up the hill at about 6:30am, 20 minutes before the sunrise at 6:50am. We started off with the dawn opening and sunrise at the Cincinnati Observatory, then off to Ault Park’s Heekin Overlook for the remainder of the early light. Heekin Overlook had a breath-taking view down into the foggy valley over Armelder Park. We dropped down into Linwood to Armleder Park, checked out the foggy meadow, and then hightailed it over to Lunken Airfield before climbing Mt. Tusculum up past Alms Park.

The dawn sky, about 10 minutes before sunrise

The sun is starting to creep further to the right along the horizon as summer continues on into fall.

Just before sunrise! The sky turned a deep teal color, a shade that doesn’t stick around too long.

Sunrise @ The Cincinnati Observatory

It was a perfect mixture of fog in the low elevations, with a clear blue sky above.

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Sunrise 80 (!!!!): The Cincinnati Observatory & Ault Park (Eastern Tour, Stunning Cincinnati Summer Dawn)

This is the sky 20 minutes before sunrise. Deep orange fading into a gradient blue, a color palette that I expect to see 20 minutes AFTER sunrise on a hot humid day.

The Cincinnati Observatory. For months I’ve tried to take a picture of the observatory against the sunrise but I could never get a decent frame. This morning I decided to try it from the back of the building, and I wasn’t disappointed. By far my favorite picture of the day.

This morning was another beautiful clear summer sky. It also marks my 80th sunrise – exactly twice the original goal of 40 sunrises. I originally had planned doing a full tour through the East Side, starting a half hour before sunrise, and featuring all the major stops along the way. This 11-mile (closer to 18 if both lunken loop and armleder loop are considered) route would have featured:

  1. Mt. Lookout Square and a coffee stop @ UDF (or Lookout Joe’s if they’re open!)
  2. The Cincinnati Observatory
  3. Ault Park & Heekin Overlook
  4. Down the hill to historic Linwood, past Crusade Castle.
  5. Past the St. Stephen Italianate church on the corner and the mysterious “Smoke Sonada Cigars” mosaic
  6. Linwood Public School (abandoned elementary school)
  7. Over the cement stairs, across the rail road, and over to Armleder Park
  8. Around Armleder Park’s loop and a view of the Little Miami River
  9. Back to Eastern Ave past LeBlonde’s old factory, towards Lunken Airfield
  10. Lunken Terminal and the Bike path, along with the Pioneer Cemetery
  11. The Wilmer/Carrel bike path and the Revolutionary War Cemetery
  12. Beyond the school-on-stilts to the Ohio River Launch Club marina and Ohio River
  13. Back through Columbia Tusculum’s historic district and East End’s 1860s farm-style buildings
  14. Up the hill past the painted homes to Alms Park
  15. Around Alms, with the view of Lunken Airfield and an eastern view down the river. Maybe check out the old 1869 wine cellar.
  16. Past St. Ursula Villa (LeBlond’s old home) back to Mt. Lookout Square.

And probably much more. Man, the act of going through and finding those pictures for the links really made me appreciate just how much “footage” I have of this area! I promise to re-visit the “best-of” section (top right of this website). I’ve kind of let it go on purpose because I can really appreciate the seasonal change when I pick out the best pictures two months later.


As it turns out, I started off the route correctly (at UDF and the Cincinnati Observatory) but I ended up being so social at Ault Park’s Heekin Overlook that I didn’t make it down into the valley! That’s OK though because I met a nice gentlemen named Bill and we talked for about 40 minutes about Cincinnati history and various little pieces of trivia. I learned a lot and he even filled in some long standing mysteries I had about the cement stairs down on Columbia Parkway. I also spoke with Aaron, a guy who works with the park service, for a bit about what it’s like being a horticulturist and working for the park all day. Looks like I’ll have to post-pone this route until next week!

I left my place at around 6:10am to give myself lots of “headroom” for taking pictures of the dawn sky before the sun came up. I’ve realized that these clear summer atmosphere’s provide an absolutely excellent pre-sunrise display. In the spring, when there are more clouds and more humidity, the post-sunrise light is the best. But on these clear mornings with low humidity, the sky starts to light up at least 40 minutes before sunrise. It’s outstanding!

After looking back on these pictures, I realize that I took a lot of vertical sky shots.

Arriving at the Observatory with at least 20 minutes to spare before sunrise. Already the sky is getting lit up.

I wanted to get another picture of the cornerstone. This is the original cornerstone from the Mt. Adams building, before the lens was moved to Mt. Lookout in 1873. John Quincy Adams laid it down.

The sky opposite of the sunrise (western sky) was a light pink and blue. I couldn’t quite capture the purple tones, but you get the idea.

If you’re on the front page, be sure to keep reading. About 17 pictures total, and today’s foggy sunrise was excellent! (more…)


Sunrise 71: The Cincinnati Observatory (Pinhole Solargraph Camera, Clear Blue Skies, Flowers)

I realized that I haven’t had too many “bike shots” recently. This small patio is where I sat and enjoyed the sunrise. I met a jogger who said that I was the only person she’s ever seen enjoying the sunrise here at her favorite spot.

Pinhole Camera! Ironically (or, perhaps not) the pinhole camera technology dates back to the late 1830s. Only a few years later, the 11″ lens now located in the Mitchell Building (the smaller of the two building on the Observatory’s campus) will be constructed.

Final shot of the sunrise against the Mitchell Building.

This morning I got up with plenty of time to spare. The sunrise was around 6:30am and I was at the Mt. Lookout United Dairy Farmers filling up my thermos ($.99 for the entire 26oz! And free on Mondays! UDF rules) by 6:20am. I read the weather forcast last night so I knew that this morning was supposed to be “clear” with only 10-20% cloud cover.

The forecast was right! After the foggy sunrises of the last week the beautiful clear sunrise was a welcome change. To honor this clear morning Tuesday I continued past Ault Park and ventured on over to the historic Cincinnati Observatory on Observatory Ave. I have never actually seen the sunrise at the Observatory because I normally only swing by on on the way back from Ault Park. With the sun moving all over the sky this summer I wasn’t even sure if the view of the sun would be appropriate. As it turns out the sun has moved far enough back to the right that there were no trees blocking Sol as he came up over the ridge line. I was impressed with just how perfect of a sunrise spot the Observatory actually is, but I can’t be too surprised considering that astrological alignment is basically their biggest concern!

The history alone of the Cincinnati Observatory is worth checking out. I have always found it interesting that the original lens in the large building was originally in Mt. Adams but it was moved to this site due to the pollution building up in the city. I never realized that they didn’t actually move the building from Mt. Adams, just the hardware. So while the lens itself dates back to the mid 1800s, this building dates back to the move to Mt. Lookout in 1873. You can find the cornerstone of the original Mt. Adams building to the back right of the new building, dating back to 1843. Now that I think about it, this may be the oldest building stone in Mt. Lookout. I’m sure this isn’t actually true, but as it stands currently it holds the Ault Park Sunrise record. This even pre-dates the 1850s construction of Crusade Castle & Vineyard.
The cornerstone, borrowed from Sunrise 41.

At the Cincinnati Observatory, the sun rose up from the break in the trees.

Not a cloud in the sky. A beautiful summer morning that you’d expect to see just after a storm.

This spot is out in front of the main Observatory Building (built in 1873). There is a circular brick patio with a handful of benches lining the outside it. It has all the great things that you’d expect to see at a true Cincinnati historic site. Murdock Fountains, late 1800s street lamps, Ohio Historical Markers, A memorial sundial, pre-1900s buildings, and a dedication by John Adams on the corner stone.

Looking East from the patio at the second building on the campus. This smaller “Mitchell” building has the original Merz und Mahler 11-inch telescope that dates back to 1843. The “main” building houses the 1904 16″ Alvan Clark & Sons telescope. Thanks wikipedia!

A vertical sunrise showcasing the late morning yellows and the deep blue gradient.

Looking towards the main building across the sundial memorial.

To the west of the main building I saw a funny contraption sitting on the lawn. Upon closer inspection (and with no physical contact whatsoever, of course!) I realized that it is a pinhold solargraph camera.

I imagine the purpose of this camera is to capture the sun’s path for the 31-day period between June 28 and July 28. They’re almost done! I’d like to see the results of this camera and I hope that they publish it. It’d be neat to see the same thing for a month of sunrises, too.

I wonder how they compensate for the possibility of the camera being blown over by the wind?

Outside the Observatory there are two big flower pots.

The red / white combination of flowers made for a great arrangement. Considering how my own flower pot experiment is failing miserably, I took mental notes and physical pictures.

Classy Arrangement. Maybe next time I try this at home I’ll use this as inspiration.


Sunrise 41: Ault Park (John Quincy Adams, Clear Warm Skies)

Happy Memorial Day! This morning I took advantage of the holiday and slept in. Some friends of ours came in from out of town and we stayed up a bit late last night. I did, however, get the 41st sunrise in yesterday morning with the help of my friend Mike. Mike brought his bike along with him and we woke up early Sunday morning to catch the sunrise.

After two days of overcast stormy conditions, the sky cleared up nicely for Sunday’s sunrise. There were scattered clouds in the sky but the horizon was clear. The air was pleasant and a bit warm, indicating that the coming day would be a hot one. The high for yesterday and today hit around 92 F, a drastic change from the mid 40s that marked the cooler days last week.

The sunrise was a deep orange in the clear sky before the light was scattered by the clouds

A great sight after several days of overcast mornings

Timelapse Photo. If you’re on the front page, click to continue –> (more…)


Sunrise 36: Ault Park (RK LeBlond Factory, United States Printing Company and Playing Card Company, Murdocks, and much more)

This morning was the first time I have “skipped” a sunrise. By means of coincidental timing and a wife who wishes me to stay intact and electrically solvent, I stayed in bed while the electrical Armageddon took place outside our window at exactly 6:00am. I was considering hopping on my lightly isolated steel lightning rod and riding up to the top of the mountain but I’m grateful that Amanda made the call without me having to :). The timing of the morning storm was impeccable, at 5:30am I had woken up early, noting that the rain that passed through at 3:00am had stopped. But by the time sunrise approached, a new front rolled through the area and brought with it intense electrical behavior, including several thunderous cracks that lit up someone’s tree in the immediate vicinity. I opted instead to finish writing the article from Saturday, Sunrise 36, which involves my most adventurous exploration yet. Knowing that I would still have a post to make for today made it that much easier to not venture out into the chaos.

Fair warning – lots of pictures here, sorry if it slows down your computer!

I got up with the sun on Saturday morning and went exploring around the area, this time deciding to venture north a bit. The only real item on the agenda for the morning was getting up to the Rookwood Pavilion and seeing what I could find out first hand about the remnants of the old R.K. LeBlond factory. I found out about the history behind the factory after exploring the St. Ursula Villa, which was LeBlond’s old estate. I had heard that the old industrial site had sits at what is now the Rookwood Pavilion, a shopping area developed in the mid 1990s. The developers, as it turned out, were respectful enough to keep the old factory and “smoke stack” intact. The factory building itself is now a Don Pablo’s Mexican Grill. I also explored the now-defunct rail line that runs to the south of the pavilion as well as the grassy “urban prairie” to the north of the shopping district that at one time was a small neighborhood that succumbed to the “eminent domain” of over-zealous developers whose plans have themselves succumbed to the recent recessionary period. I continued north up small residential connectors into territory I’ve never explored by car or bike, and stumbled onto the beautifully grandiose “United States Printing Company” and the “United States Playing Card Company”, a building that surprisingly enough was even more impressive.

The Sunrise

After the break in the overcast weather by the great sunrise Friday morning, I was hoping for another colorful morning at the overlook. The morning sunrise was marked with a haze in the atmosphere and a light layer of upper atmosphere clouds. Once again a thick layer of fog had settled down into the valley, causing me to consider altering my proposed “RK LeBlond Exploration” in favor of a southern valley exploration. I have been meaning to take pictures of Lunken Airport and a morning with thick fog and a clear morning sun would provide some fantastic lighting opportunities. In the end I saved this for another day, although I put off making a decision about it for another hour or so – wondering if I could in fact do both.

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Sunrise 33: Ault Park (Another Rainy Day; Dawn Redwood Tree)

I have a morning appointment today so the trip up to the park was quick and pleasant. The air was again very wet and the sky was overcast. But it felt like this morning was a bit warmer than yesterday. It may be that I’m used to the cold already, or it may have been the humidity – but either way the morning was rather pleasant. The morning air was thick with humidity. It was the kind of humidity that is thick and sticky, where the acoustic sounds of the environment seem muffled and it feels more private as you move about through the park. It was almost foggy, but not quite. Armleder Park was mostly visible, giving me the impression that the haze was more evenly distributed rather than patches of thick fog.

I hung out at the overlook for a few minutes but once again got the itch to ride around through the park. The sky was pretty dark again and the trees were still dripping with rain or dew. I rode around to the back of the lawn where I checked out some of the tree displays and informational plaques. There is a specific species of conifer that has always drawn my attention but I haven’t taken the time to look at closely. I wondered if it is the same species of conifer that towers over the playground area and drops small little pine cones, but I can’t tell simply by the shape of this particular (smaller) tree. If you’re on the front page, click to continue –> (more…)


Sunrise 26: Ault Park (Clear, Orange, and Misty)

This morning was a beautiful clear sunrise unlike any that I’ve seen for the past three weeks. Before the last batch of storms I remember seeing several of the bright orange displays but it has been a rare morning that has a cloud cover < 15%. At 6:10 am, a full 20 minutes before sunrise, the sky was so bright it felt like the sun was already coming up.

I’d like to add a quick note before I continue. This morning was sunrise 26, but I actually did have a sunrise 25 on saturday morning. I took so many pictures and did some extended research into a few things that I discovered. The post isn’t quite done (I fell asleep last night before finishing it) but I’ll have it up later this morning. For this reason I decided to make this morning’s sunrise a quick trip. I’ve been taking a lot of pictures lately so it was nice to focus more on the view and less on the camera. If you get a chance, be sure to check out sunrise 25; I’ll link it here (and it’ll be on the frontpage) when I publish it.

For the sunrise this morning, the atmosphere was clear and the air was warm. The valley down below had thick pockets of fog and for a few minutes I had to talk myself out of riding down to the bottom of the hill and taking the morning pictures through the fog. One of these days I’ll get down into the fog! I’m waiting on that seasonal fog that comes around a few times a year. We’re coming due in the next few weeks and I can’t wait. There is nothing quite like exploring the forest and neighborhood in a fog that provides only 10-15ft visibility. The fog stays around he overlooks (especially Alms Park) well past four hours after sunrise.

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Sunrise 16: Ault Park (1960s Bell telephone systems, with a special guest appearance by “The Sun”)

These overcast days have made me lazy. Last week I started setting my alarm at 6:25am, a clean 40 minutes before the sun rise. With the overcast mornings and rain storms we’ve had in the past week, I didn’t bother to re-think the alarm time this week. This morning I woke up at 6:25am and set out for the sun rise at 6:40am (5 minutes before true sunrise – 20 minutes before “overcast” sun rise).

I knew something wasn’t right when I walked into the kitchen. I forgot to make my coffee the night before, so I filled up the kettle and set it on the stove in a sleepy haze. I cracked the window open to get a smell of the morning air and listen to the bird report. The birds were chirping loudly, and I looked up and saw a dark, deep blue sky. Good. Dark and… wait, deep blue? What happened to the gray? I panicked a little bit and walked out side.  Sure enough, the sky was almost cloud free, save for what I could see along the horizon behind the trees. Now, because we’re only about 15 minutes before sun rise and the sky is dark, but clear, this can only mean one thing.  A clear sky with a low-lying cloud bank sitting on top of the horizon, right? “This could be interesting”, I thought to myself. I checked the time – I should have left 5 minutes ago if I wanted to casually stroll up to the park and arrive with some time to spare. I rationed out the water in the kettle so that I had just enough water to fill my thermos, and gathered up everything I needed for the morning. By the time I got out the door and started riding up the street, I was met with an atmosphere that had started to explode in pink and orange. “Oh crap” I thought as I pedaled the hardest and fasted I could up the incline towards the park.

I ended up taking a few pictures on the way. Please excuse the blurry, I was mid-pedal.

I like the entrance into the park because it is appropriate for getting an “eyeball” of what the sunrise is going to do. The massive oaks and old pines rise up 80 feet above me, pointing to the sky but obscuring the horizon. I also noticed that there were gusts of wind, some so strong that I could hear the difference in tire speed as I pedaled into the park. As it turned out, there was an eastern moving front that was trying to come through the valley. You can tell in some of these pictures that the left side of the picture is bright and orange, but the right side is dark and gloomy.

Arriving at the outlook, I realized that I wasn’t too late. I may have missed the opening credits, the but show was just getting started. There was a low-lying front blocking the sun rise (so I didn’t quite miss it!) but the open sky above threw off an array of pinks, oranges, purples, blues, and whites. It reminded me a lot of the sunrise from April 16 (Sunrise 09) where I took my favorite picture, “Wheels of Fire”, against the sun rise. There are two parts to a sun rise like this. The first part is that the atmosphere doesn’t get colorful until about 10 minutes before the sun’s true sunrise time because the clouds are blocking the area just above the horizon. The colors come on quickly but are scattered wide into the periphery of your vision while the horizon itself stays dark. If you are lucky enough to have a completely clear upper atmosphere, the second part of the sun rise comes next.

It caught me off guard this morning while I was taking a picture of the almost flooded east/west lane at lunken airport.

As I turned around I remembered this familiar cloud formation from the aforementioned sunrise 9. The sun finally peaks over the low lying frontal cloud bank, and if you’re even luckier it can be obscured by a higher level haze allowing you to look at it directly. This is a close up taken just as the transition from “stage 1” to “stage 2” takes place.The light illuminates the upper area of the lower cloud bank and provides a rolling mountainous plane. It really is a sight to see. The camera does it justice in some cases, but in person it just looks outstanding. This particular low-lying bank had a unique feature. The lower pieces of the bank started to spread thin, allowing patches of deep orange to shine directly down towards the earth. This provided a surreal situation where you’ve got the bright yellow/orange illuminated upper mountainous region with deep orange spot lights poking through towards the forest.

Needless to say, this sun rise was the last thing I expected when I woke up this morning.

I found myself on the eastern part of the park. I took the long way home, past the observatory and down through Mt. Lookout square.

I had hoped to catch the observatory against the beautiful backdrop, but as I was leaving the park the eastern moving front moved through to block most of the light.

I took the chance to snap a picture looking west on Observatory across Delta Ave. This is just north of Mt. Lookout Square. Behind me is Ault Park and the surrounding residential neighborhood. Observatory runs a parallel east/west with Erie Ave and provides a popular flat stretch for the local runners (and part of the Flying Pig route), considering most of the area is made up of unforgiving hills.

On the way back home I passed a building that I often wonder about but haven’t checked out. It sits on the corner of a quiet neighborhood inlet and Delta Ave. The lawn is always well kept and the brick building sits confidently in the middle of the plot. You can tell it is still maintained but it isn’t labeled in any obvious way. There are newspapers piling up on the front porch – enough to indicate that there is life on the property but that they don’t use the front door.  As I’m staring at the building, wondering how long after the “1940-1950s art deco boom” that is responsible for so many of the Cincinnati Water Works buildings, I noticed a plaque on the wall just to the right of the front door.

The plaque reads “The Cincinnati and Suburban Bell Telephone Company”. Ahh. An old relic of the Bell / AT&T monopoly. I don’t know much about this history (AT&T alone is interesting), but the local telephone carrier Cincinnati Bell is one of the few fragments left that still uses the “Bell” moniker. The history of Unix is tied into AT&T history as well, of course, which means that your ANDROID  phone (running linux) and even the iPhone (which can be traced back to FreeBSD/Unix) can be tied back to the legacy Bell computer systems. All of which are, in a 6-kevin-bacon-degrees-of-freedom kind of way, connected to this building. I bet there are some sexy analog switchboards hidden in the closets of this building. Judging by the brick and “modern” look, I’d place building to have been built sometime in the late 1960s / early 1970s. +/- 15 years, I don’t have anything to compare it to. A little bit more Googling and I find that this logo (seen above in the plaque) dates back to 1964.

UPDATE: The Cincinnati Bell History Page says that in 1971 the company officially changed names from “City Suburban Telegraph Company” to “Cincinnati Bell”.  That places this building as being built between 1964 (when the logo was first used) and 1971 (when the name changed). Holy cow, I was really close in my original guess. The page also mentions that there were several switching stations, one was called the “East” exchange. Perhaps this is the building they’re referencing?


Sunrise 7: Ault Park (Japanese Maples and the Cincinnati Observatory)

(Sometimes you just get lucky.  A small commuter jet coming into Lunken AND a set of Canadian geese flying north for the summer).

This morning was another beautiful day in Cincinnati. The sunrise was similar to yesterday’s: clear, vibrant, and warm.  I arrived at the overlook with 5 minutes to spare, taking time to get set up for the show. Lunken airport was fairly busy this morning, and I actually “accidentally” caught a couple of sunrise pictures with airplanes coming in on approach.

There were these thick pockets of fog scattered through the valley.  This is the first time I’ve seen these since I started this project.  Typically the fog manifests itself as a smooth mist evenly distributed through the air.  Lunken had several pockets hanging out on the runway, interestingly enough.

(More pictures after the jump) (more…)