One Night in Santee

Seems like I’ve spent more nights in motel rooms since January than I have all of the past couple of years. There have been kayaking trips, conferences, and the rare vacation get-away. Some of the rooms have been spectacular, such as my recent stay at Charleston Place Hotel, or our trip to Washington, D. C. Some have been routine, such as the Quality Inn in St. George, SC, that seems to be where we seem to have stayed lots recently.

Of these, the most unusual has been the Whitten Inn in Santee, South Carolina. I think I hinted recently that I would write about the experience once I’d had enough therapy. A slow, restful weekend seems to have been enough therapy, so, here goes…

It had been a long day of paddling. We had battled heat and crazy motor boats both on Lake Moultrie and on the Tailrace Canal. One of our fellow paddlers had said she felt like she had been riding a moped on I-85. Some of our group had planned to camp out, then paddle Sparkleberry Swamp the next day. I was in no mood to camp, so I decided to find a relatively cheap place in Santee so I could get some rest before the next day’s trip. The requirements were simple. I just needed a good clean room, and preferred a place that had a restaurant on the premises. I would be happy with a sandwich and not having to drive somewhere once I got settled.

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Paddling Lake Saluda

Saluda Lake Siltation

When I mention Saluda Lake to my acquaintances, many don’t even know it exists. They usually reply, “Don’t you mean the Saluda River?” Or, they try to correct me by naming one of the many other lakes fed by the Saluda. Most don’t seem to be aware that there is a rather large lake on the west side of Greenville with that name.

I can see why Saluda Lake is overlooked. While it’s a nice lake, the banks are almost completely built up, and there is very little public access. There is limited access right at the dam, but no place where one could easily launch a boat. The only boat ramp is on the north end of the lake on Motor Boat Club Road. It’s privately owned, and the signs make you think the owners are somewhat less that friendly.

And we mean it!

Despite the limited access, Alan and I decided to give it a shot. The lake is relatively close, and I’d never been on it. The plan was to put in at the one boat ramp then paddle north up the Saluda River to at least Farr’s Bridge on Highway 183. For a variety of reasons, we didn’t quite make it that far.

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Image-Stacking in Charleston


It’s been a very long, hard two weeks. Right after the funeral on Monday I drove straight down to Charleston for PowerSchool University – an intense training session on our new student database system. I learned some neat things I’m going to try when I get back to the office, but it was almost information overload. I did manage to sneak out for a couple of hours one evening to do some photography, and was keen to try out the new image-stacking techniques, as well as the content-aware fill tool in Photoshop CS5.

My friend Ken had given me the idea to use image stacking with crowd scenes. The idea was that there would be a blur of activity around a few static individuals. Since I was staying in the heart of Charleston’s tourist area, I figured I’d have ample opportunity to give this a try. Turns out it was a nice idea, but the process in Photoshop probably wasn’t the best choice of tools.

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Focus-Stacked Macros

Lilly Focus Stacking

Last summer when we were in Maine one of the people staying at the B&B with us was also a photographer. Over breakfast one morning he told me about image focus stacking. The technique is similar to HDR photography, but instead of exposure, different images with various focus and depth of field are combined. Several shots are taken at various focal lengths, and the images are “stacked”, taking the best focused areas from each image to create a very sharp final image.

When I got home from Maine I downloaded Keith’s Image Stacker . Keith Wiley does astrophotography, and wrote the software to sharpen some of his images. I know some people who have gotten excellent results from his program, but I just couldn’t seem to get the hang of it. I lost interest. Last week I upgraded to Photoshop CS5, which has built-in image stacking, and my interest was renewed.

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Remembering Eddie

On Friday, June 18, 2010, Eddie Taylor lost his battle with cancer. Eddie was married to my sister, Beth. They have three children, Mason, Blair, and Phillip. Our friendship began out of rivalry. It was 1985 and Eddie had just started dating Beth. That year Newberry College played Furman, and beat them in the very … Continue reading Remembering Eddie

Sparkleberry Swamp

Sparkleberry Channel

I had been wanting to paddle Sparkleberry Swamp for quite awhile, but always seemed to miss opportunities. I had a solo trip planned for a couple of months ago, but had to cancel when my cat suddenly got ill. I did Jocassee instead. Another trip was planned for a month later, but we canceled because one of our paddlers got ill (we did Jocassee instead.) Several of the Greenville group were staying over after the Pinopolis Lock paddle and heading up on Sunday to paddle Sparkleberry, and this time it didn’t look like anyone was going to get ill, and we were nowhere near Jocassee, so I finally got my chance.

Sparkleberry Swamp, also known as Rimini Swamp, isn’t a natural swamp. It was formed when Lake Marion was created and the forests of the upper Santee River were flooded. Its boundaries are nebulous, depending on water levels and who you ask. Even though it’s not a natural swamp, it has all the characteristics of one. If you picture in your mind what a southern swamp is supposed to be, it probably looks a lot like Sparkleberry.

I spent the night in the town of Santee in a dumpy little motel that deserves its own blog post. Maybe, after therapy, I’ll write that one up. Our group met at the local Bojangles for breakfast, then crossed Lake Marion on I-95, then headed north along the east shore.

This part of the state is about as desolate as it gets. It’s on the lower edge of the Carolina sand hill region, so pine forests and sandy soil are the norm until you reach the actual swamp. We passed through the towns of Summerton and Rimini, which I didn’t even know existed.

When we got to Sparkleberry Landing it was already sweltering. The water was high, and even at the landing the scenery was fantastic. We unloaded the boats and were soon underway.

One of our group of seven had been to the swamp several times before, and served as our guide. It was a good thing. I would have followed the more open channels either north or south, and would have missed the real path through a narrow stand of trees. I was glad I had a functioning GPS and spare batteries. Continue reading “Sparkleberry Swamp”

Paddling the Pinopolis Lock

Pinopolis Lock

I had two conflicting paddling opportunities this weekend. My buddies from Lowcountry Unfiltered were going to be paddling the lower Savannah River, and the Greenville Canoe and Kayak group were planning a paddle on Lake Moultrie through the Pinopolis Lock. It was quite the dilemma. Ultimately I decided on the Pinopolis Lock trip because it sounded more like a one-shot deal.

I had seen photos and even a couple of online videos of the Pinopolis Lock. The lock is the highest single-stage lock in the US, and the second-highest in the world. It raises and lowers boats 75 feet from Lake Moultrie to the Tail Race Canal, which then connects to the Cooper River and on to Charleston.

We wouldn’t be paddling quite that far, though. Our plan was to launch from the YMCA beach near the dam, paddle about a mile to our lunch spot, then enter the lock. We would then do a few miles on the canal, then cut back into Wabdoo Creek to our take-out.

View Lake to Lock Paddle in a larger map
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Help Save Funding for SCETV!

I normally don’t copy and paste from other websites, but this is important. Funding for SCETV may be drastically reduced because of a veto by Gov. Sanford. Here’s a press release… ETV Appeals to the Public to Contact Their Legislator and Help Overturn Governor Mark Sanford’s Vetoes For Immediate Release June 11, 2010 Columbia, SC… … Continue reading Help Save Funding for SCETV!

Augmented Reality

Iron Man HUD

One of the reasons I upgraded to an Android phone was my interest in Augmented Reality. I knew I would be doing some traveling this summer and wanted a way to check out items around me quickly, without having to bring my work Blackberry along. I got a chance to put the new smartphone through its paces last weekend in Washington DC, and here are some of my initial feelings about AR…

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