Posts Tagged ‘Thunder Over Louisville’

The stars were in alignment and I got to spend a nice Earth Day at the Falls of the Ohio.  It was a little cold and windy…nothing layering in sweat shirts couldn’t handle!  I found so many interesting objects and spaces that I filled up my camera’s memory card.  I now find myself with a richness of images I couldn’t post in one go…and so I will try to keep it focused in some way.  As proof that everyday should be Earth Day…the official celebration in the park has been moved to May after the Kentucky Derby.  Supplanted by a horse race!  Last night was Thunder Over Louisville which year after year is usually the largest fireworks display in North America and kicks off the two weeks long Kentucky Derby Festival.  Thousands of people were out here partying on both banks of the Ohio River.  They left their trash after the event, but fortunately it looks like the clean up crews are doing a good job and keeping this stuff out of the park.  After all, it already has enough detritus of its own.  Of late, I’ve been really fascinated by how these big barge cables and ropes that wash into here weather over time. They are made of tough stuff, but the river wins in the end.  Sometimes they unravel and drift beautifully from willow root to branch like mutant Spanish moss.  Some of their colors can even be shocking compared to the neutral earth tones of their surroundings.  Here’s one such scene I’ve been trying to describe.  This is one of my Earth Day photographs.

I later came across a nice length of barge cable stretched out across the sand. For fun, I started coiling it and taking pictures of the different configurations I came up with.  Here’s the way it looked stretched out.

When I look at my pictures at home, many of these cable fragments reference fossils.  I get a strong feeling of ancient sea lily crinoids and nautilus-like ammonites preserved in the rock that was silt millions of years a go.  I also played with the spiral form and activated an intimate space with its spring-like energy.

Creating a tighter spiral evoked ammonite shells and wavy tentacles.  Ammonites were coiled cephalopods with some resemblances to our squids and octopi. The ammonites were so successful for so long.  Beginning somewhere in the Devonian they prospered and radiated out to fill all the world’s oceans until the Cretaceous Period crashed.  Their run lasted more than 330 million years and now they are all gone.  We have a way to go to match that record.

In most of the places I walked today I could hear the Northern Orioles singing.  I tried imitating their call notes and once in a while I could get a bird to reply.  I saw various warblers, vireos, woodpeckers, wrens, and more…however, the most memorable bird event happened at my feet.  I stepped too near the nest of a Song Sparrow and flushed the bird that was hiding with its clutch of eggs.  Here’s a photo of the scene.  Can you find the bird’s nest?  Look closely at the dark spot on the left side of the young willow greenery.

And now…lets look a little deeper and closer at this spot.

Inside were four tiny eggs tinged in green and speckled with brown spots.  I’ve read that the Song Sparrow is heavily parasitized by the Brown-headed Cowbird which opportunistically lays an egg of its own among the sparrow’s clutch.  The unsuspecting parents raise the cowbird as their own.  As far as I could tell, this nest was in good shape.  Perhaps having a really obscure nest site has so far protected it from the cowbirds which are common in our area?  Walking further, I came to another nesting site of a different kind near my outdoor studio.  Like the Song Sparrow…this spot was also well hidden.

The tire swing helps give it away otherwise it easily blends into the natural driftwood environment.  I imagine a family coming to play here because there is evidence of children… including a misplaced fuzzy duck toy.  The kids keep raiding my Styrofoam cache, but haven’t made anything back at their fort!  Walking around the structure, I find the door is closed.

I even crawled up on the “roof”  for a look.  The builders have taken a natural space created by interlocking logs and enclosed and defined the space by leaning and propping up other found wood.  It all blends in perfectly.

I moved a few planks and logs aside and could see the interior.  I set the duck back up and snapped this shot.

Because my driftwood structure neighbors like to borrow the Styrofoam I’ve collected…I decided to leave them a present using the biggest polystyrene chunk they dragged over here.  First, I need to improvise a head.

After finding some appropriate limbs…I set the figure up in the corner of the log fort.  I thought it looked pretty good against the new green leaves of the willows.  In my head I heard this little bit of imagined dialogue…”Wait, wait…it’s not yet Earth Day!  That’s been postponed until May 12.  Come back then and bring the family.”…as he waved all wild-eyed and everything.

I’m not sure how long this guy will last?  It would be nice to think that the kids who play here could see this figure as a part of their creative environment.

The root mass from this great log makes up one “wall” of the driftwood fort.  Here’s another view looking back before I moved on to the rest of my day.

I’m going to bring this post to a close with two photos of a willow tree I saw the other day.  These trees are buffeted by the elements and begin to take on character and personality as their will to survive kicks in.  With their branches reaching for the sun…their incredible roots hang on to the mud and are sculpted by the Ohio River.  It’s good to think of trees during Earth Day.

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The event was two days a go, but the after images keep flashing before my eyes.  The fireworks display, Thunder Over Louisville marks the official start of the Kentucky Derby Festival which climaxes with a two-minute horse race the first Saturday in May.  Year after year, this fireworks show is usually the largest in the country and has become a Louisville tradition.  I attended with my son Michael and our friends Jeff and his son, Holden.  If you are wondering what this has to do with the usual content of my blog…well it’s just across the river from where I make my art.  The bridge in the distance in the above image is the one that has appeared so many times before in my posts.  Louisville is where it is because of the Falls of the Ohio.  Following are a few of my  images from this event.

The newspapers reported that 700,000 people attended this year’s show.  The weather was clear, bright and sunny, but turned cool after sundown.  People begin choosing the best spots to view Thunder fairly early in the day.  If you arrive late, you may have to settle for a less than prime spot.  All the hotels and taller buildings facing the river are packed with viewers and many fund-raisers and corporate parties are occurring.  Looking for a place to park your car?  Spots within walking distance of the action were asking for and receiving $20 to $30 dollars a space.  We took the bus which was a lot cheaper!  Across the river in Indiana, the situation is the same.  People are jamming the riverbank and facing Louisville.  Their view takes in the city’s skyline.  Here are folks by the river and sitting under one of the world’s largest clocks.

For entertainment, there is always people watching.  It’s an international crowd and we also receive visitors from all over the United States.  The number of nonresident automobile license plates climbs dramatically.  There is lots of food, drink, and expensive colorful souvenirs all creating a festive atmosphere.

One of the big daylight attractions is an airshow.  The skies above Louisville’s riverfront becomes a showcase of mostly military aviation.  The noise some of the fighter jets can make is incredible. Vintage aircraft fly alongside their counterparts in the current inventory.  Here’s a view of one skydiver in the show…

…and one of the more amazing aircraft, the B-1 Lancer stealth bomber which made a few quick passes before flying back to its base in South Dakota.

Of considerably older vintage are the steamboats.  Louisville boasts the oldest boat still going in the country, The Belle of Louisville, but a sister vessel like the Belle of Cincinnati has made the trip downriver to take in the fireworks.  The bridge above the boat is the 2nd Street Bridge and is the one I usually take to the Falls.  During Thunder, the bridge is closed and becomes a feature in the fireworks show.

The fireworks are shot off of two barges anchored in the middle of the Ohio River with the 2nd Street Bridge between them.  Usually there is some loose theme that is choreographed by a medley of popular tunes.  Once the fireworks begin in earnest the noise is palpable.  The concussion of some of the more powerful rockets hits you right in the chest!  Here’s a picture with fireworks exploding off of the bridge and includes a “waterfall” of fire.

The show is the work of the Zambelli Family which has been involved with fireworks for several generations.  Each year there is usually something new…a special effect or color that hasn’t been seen here before.  Here’s something in a rainbow palette.

I have to say, that while I was there I didn’t pay any attention to all the digital devices people were using to capture the event.  It’s when I downloaded my pictures to my computer that I noticed them!

Thunder Over Louisville lasts about half an hour of continuous major fireworks.  There’s lots of smoke and afterward lots of debris from the huge crowd.  For about an hour or so, traffic away from the epicenter is very slow going.  It takes a couple of days for the city to put itself back in order.  I often wonder what the environmental effects of all this are, but the average Louisvillian has come to expect and enjoy this spectacle.  I went to the Falls the very next day and had a quieter adventure.  More on that later this week.

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