Wednesday, September 23, 2020

M/V Marathon at night

Events have limited my time at the river in the past few days, but last night I made time for a stop and was rewarded with this photo. It has some flaws technically, but I like it anyway.

For those wondering, this is the M/V Marathon of Marathon Petroleum Company after having locked downbound at the Robert C. Byrd Gallipolis Locks and Dam. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Let's try this again


A few weeks ago I posted an overexposed image of the Greenup Locks and Dam (Mile 341). Tonight I decided to see if I could salvage the image by getting artsy with it.

I think it worked, but I'll admit I'm a bit prejudiced here.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Monday, September 7, 2020

M/V Leslie M. Neal


More Trump flotilla pictures


Here are a few more photos from Saturday's Trump flotilla on the Ohio River from Huntington WV to Ironton OH.

The event began around 2 p.m. From the pictures I took in both directions while standing on a bridge sidewalk, I counted more than 100 boats participating. Most boats had more than one person aboard, so you can figure several hundred people participated on the water. That doesn't count how many may have watched from the shore.

To give you some idea of distances:

The parade started at the East End bridge between Huntington and Proctorville OH. That's at about Mile 305. The bridge where I got the photos after the event started is at about Mile 309. The downstream view from the bridge looks toward another bridge at Mile 311. From the speed of the boats and from what I saw, by the time boats at the back of the pack were getting started, some boats were already at the mouth of the Big Sandy River at about Mile 317. I heard that some boaters may have ended their run at the riverfront park at Ashland KY at about Mile 323. The parade ended at Ironton's Center Street boat landing at Mile 327.

Those are the numbers; these are the pictures.

From Huntington:

From Ironton:

Again, comments are moderated. Partisan comments will not be approved. There are other places for that.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Trump flotilla on the Ohio (Updated)

Today a few Trump supporters with boats gathered on the Ohio River to show their support for the president's re-election campaign. By a few, I mean at least a hundred.

I went down there to see how many people would show up for this event, and I was surprised. Another surprise was that I saw no sign anywhere of people supporting Joe Biden. I looked for them, but if they were at the staging point, on a bridge sidewalk overlooking the river or at the end point at least twenty miles away, I missed them.

As a reminder, this blog does its best to stay out of politics, but if there is a river event related to politics and it brings people out, I'll cover it if I can.

This was a good day to see the variety of recreational craft on the river, that's for sure. By accident or design, I didn't see any barge traffic on the two ends of the flotilla.

I shot about a hundred photos from Huntington to Ironton. I saved maybe 25 of the best. Here is another one, taken up on Huntington's 6th Street bridge. The tractor driver is Paul Hart, a resident of Chesapeake, Ohio. In case there are any farm implement fans reading this, the tractor is an International Harvester Farmall Cub.

I may post more photos from the flotilla. It depends on how tomorrow goes.

P.S. Comment on the boats or the event itself if you want. Political comments will not be published.

UPDATE: The Huntington paper had its own photo gallery of the flotilla, and in the comments section readers posted photos of people holding Biden signs at the riverfront park as the flotilla went by. Some of the comments were unnecessarily ugly, which is one reason why comments here, if there are any, won't allow political bickering.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Tour guide at Greenup


This afternoon I went to the Ohio side of the Greenup Locks and Dam to see if there was anything interesting to photograph. Because of the position of the sun, there wasn't. As I stood at the top of the bank surveying the scene, I met four older people who had arrived in two vehicles, each bearing Missouri license plates.

We talked about the dam, the river, how the power plant was built in France and shipped to New Orleans and then up the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. I talked about the bridge that was added to the dam 35 years ago and gave them a brief history of the dam itself. They asked if there was a place on the other side where they could see if boats were locking through the dam. I said there is, but it's been closed to the public since 9/11.

After about 30 minutes they left and I wondered if I should contact Chuck Minsker at the Corps of Engineers in Huntington and bill him for my services as a tour guide. Probably not. Probably not.

Before I left, I got a few photos, but none really good. My first shot was different, though, because I wasn't paying attention to the camera settings when I snapped the shutter.

At home, I was able to play with it to get this.

It's not really salvaged, though. The dam and the electric plant look okay, but the sky and the water definitely don't. Oh well. They both are different, though.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Two boats at South Point ... and a loss


Today we had two boats at the Marathon Petroleum fleeting area at South Point, Ohio. Pictures in a minute, but first some sad news.

Many of you know by now that last Monday Jack Fowler, the only executive director the Point Pleasant River Museum and Learning Center has had in its 21-year history, passed away. Fowler did so much for the museum and for the awareness and preservation of river history in one of the most river-oriented cities along the Ohio. He won't be there to see the groundbreaking for the new museum, sad to say.

At a reception Dec. 15, 2017, at the Point Pleasant River Museum and Learning Center before the 50th anniversary commemoration of the Silver Bridge collapse, Jack Fowler, right, the museum's executive director, talks to Tom Smith, West Virginia secretary of Transportation, about what caused the bridge to fall. About six months later, the museum building would be damaged by fire. Most of the exhibits were saved, but some, including the bridge model, were damaged. Ground could be broken soon on a new museum, with the hope it will be open before Labor Day weekend next year. 

I wrote few thoughts and published them in the Huntington paper. Jack definitely will be missed.

Today I went to South Point and got photos of the M/V Galveston Bay at the lower end of the fleet ...

... and the M/V Marathon at the upper end.

I've seen a lot of the Marathon lately. The Kentucky is in the area, too, but the Detroit -- the first of these three boats that Marathon took delivery of, spends almost all its time elsewhere. The same is true of the M/V Nashville, formerly the M/V Valvoline, which itself was the first of three similar boats Ashland Inc. took delivery of in the late 1980s.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

A missed opportunity ... but I'm glad

If I had planned by evening better, I would have had some interesting photos to share. The M/V Dan Elder came up past Huntington WV while I was at Harris Riverfront Park as the M/V AEP Future was coming down the river. They met about a mile above the park.

The AEP Future was heading into the late afternoon sun, and there were at least two people on barges as it passed. If I had only been up on the bridge ...

But I wasn't. Today was the first time in a long time I could have play time with my oldest granddaughter at the park. Once we were there constantly, but school and work and COVID-19 and other things got in the way. I think this was the first time we had gone to a park to play since February. Or it seemed that way.

You know what? I don't care that I missed the boat pictures. There are other boats. There is only one seven-year-old girl in my life who needs time with her papaw.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Geese on a log

It's not nearly as interesting a concept as snakes on a plane, and I seriously doubt even Samuel L. Jackson could salvage the plot, but we did see them today during a short stop at Virginia Point Park in Kenova.

We were down there to see the M/V Francis J Blank.

Not such an exciting day on the Ohio River, at least around here, unless I missed something, which is possible.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

A good evening at Sand-O Harbor

This evening I went down to Sand-O Harbor, as the late Willie Wilson called it, to get a picture of the M/V Amherst. The Amherst was there, but not in a spot where I could get a good picture. I did, however, get decent photos of about half a dozen other boats. There was too much going on to not stay and enjoy the light.

Here is one of my fair-to-middlin' pictures from the evening. It's the M/V Sandy Drake of Crounse Corp.

(Best viewed large. This is a low-res version of the original, by the way.)

There are lots of photos to look at and to process to make them look really good. It should keep me busy for a few days.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

An old picture is new again

Lately I've been going through some old pictures. This evening I found this one. I worked on it some and it now looks like this.

The thing is, I remember taking this picture. All the data stored on the file says it was take in 2014. Not possible, I say, but the data don't lie. This was six years ago. Time flies, don't it?

I took this with my old camera. In 2014 it was less than seven years old, but it was obsolete. But I didn't have money for a newer camera with a better sensor, better lenses and more features. Plus I was what I called a dumpster-diver photographer. I used whatever free software I could find.

Even if the professional photographers looked down on my equipment, I still got some pretty good images in those days, if I may be allowed to brag on myself.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

M/V Marathon

There's nothing like the sight of the M/V Marathon heading into the morning sun. Except maybe heading into the evening sun, but today I caught it at morning, and it looked pretty good.

Nice looking boat. It's hard to believe it's been on the river almost ten years now.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Times change (Updated)

A little over 11 years has passed since the Ohio River Blog hit the internet. A lot of things have changed since then, but this blog hasn’t. Maybe the time for change has come.
In 2009, there weren’t nearly many people devoted to posting photos of towboats and such on the river. There were several, but not nearly as many as there are now. Cameras have improved. So have cell phones. Today a deckhand with a new iPhone can take a photo that would have been deemed magazine quality in the film era. Seriously. I have a copy of Ohio Magazine from the 1980s or 1990s. It had beautiful photos of the river taken by a pro, but today a deckhand with a smartphone or a cook with a camera off the shelf from Best Buy could duplicate those images with just a little training. Because of that, the number of boat photos on the internet has exploded as people upload their images to Facebook.

Boats weren't my only interest, though. I like bridges and weather and wildlife and all the other things you see along the Ohio. Fishing has never interested me, but I enjoy getting photos of people fishing. You'll have to figure that one out; I can't.
Look at the number of Facebook pages devoted to river topics -- towboats especially. It has increased, too. If RiverWorks Discovery existed a dozen years ago, I didn’t know about it. Now it’s a great place to go for river-related photos and information.

So where does this leave old coots like me? I did some thinking on the matter a few days ago as I sat on a bench at the top of the riverbank in Greenup, Ky., as I waited for the M/V Marathon to come up the river and get in position for a photo. Ten years ago, a professional photographer of my acquaintance did a lot of commenting on Facebook about what he and other pros called “Wal-Mart photographers.” These are the people who go to Best Buy, get an inexpensive digital SLR and declare themselves photographers ready for business. They might not know the difference between a JPEG and a RAW file. They might not know how to shoot on manual. They might not know the difference between Micro Four Thirds and CMOS. They might not care about any of these things. But they can call themselves photographers and take business from people who know how to work a camera and how to make good prints beyond having 4-by-6’s printed at their nearest Walmart.

As for me, as time passed I grew tired of people downloading my photos and not giving me credit. Taking a picture that’s been posted here or elsewhere and not giving the photographer credit is theft of intellectual property. I’ve heard of a few people who download photos from various sources and post them on Facebook without giving credit. That’s the same as passing them off as your own work.
Some of us shoot and post. Some of us prepare before shooting. There’s a lot of work that goes into making a good photo before you press the shutter button, and sometimes there’s a lot of work that comes after. I’ve been shooting photos of the river since the 1960s when all I had was a Kodak Instamatic and very little money for developing. I like to think my skill level has increased since then.

And we won’t mention how much a good camera costs nowadays, or a good lens. I want to buy a particular lens, but when I compare its cost against something I need to do around the house, the lens has to wait.

People who share without giving credit probably see a pretty picture they want to post on their own site. People like me see the time and money that has been invested into getting that one special image, and it hurts to see it lifted and no credit given for what we put into it.

In the past year or so, I’ve seen my former contributions to river photography become less and less necessary as others have gotten the bug to snap pictures of towboats and post them on Facebook and Instagram. My hard drive is full of good stuff that I’ve shot for my own enjoyment primarily. I need to publish them someday while I’m still able. I know I've said that a lot but sorting through those photos is a time-consuming task for someone who has a full-time job and who likes to spend time with his family as he can.

But I’m working on some opportunities to get  even better shots before the end of this year. No matter how many photos I have that I'm proud of, there's always one more out there waiting for me.

While all this was going on the past ten years with still photography, video took off big time. I moved into my house when the best internet access you could get was dial-up. We got something close to broadband around the time this blog started, and it’s still pretty weak compared to what some people get. A couple of months ago I loaded a 45-second video to Facebook, and the process took more than an hour. My son the school bus enthusiast doesn’t upload anything to his YouTube channel (Project 681) until he can use the wifi on the Marshall University campus. I’ve thought about adding video to this blog or creating a YouTube channel, but my service here is woefully inadequate for that stuff.

And people don’t read anymore. 

So what does that mean for this blog? Probably fewer entries and more focused entries. I’m not about to be the guy I was ten years ago when I drove to the river to get photos of a boat I hadn’t seen before. There are a few boats I will go out of my way to shoot, but I’m more interested in getting a photo I haven’t gotten before than just shooting for the sake of shooting.

A new challenge is something I desperately need. I don't want to post just pictures of boats or bridges. There are photos to be made that speak of something to me, and they might speak of something to you, too. Don't expect me to duplicate what other people do on RiverWorks Discovery or on Facebook sites. That's not me. When I started my career in journalism, I figured if I chased the same stories everyone else did — if I followed the pack — nothing would stand out. So I made my own path. There have been a few detours, but it has served me well the past few decades.

I might make a greater effort to sell some of my best photos. Or find a place to exhibit a few just for the fun of it. As all that is going on, several of the links on this site are outdated. The list will be shortened soon if not eliminated entirely.

Times change. This blog and this blogger need to accept that fact. So what should he do? That's the question that remains to be answered.

UPDATE: Hmm. I wish I had edited this more thoroughly, but the sentiment remains. We have a lot of people out there taking pictures of the Ohio River. The challenge for people like me is making our work stand out. So stay tuned as I figure that out.

And thanks for reading, whether this is your first visit to this site or if you're a long-timer. I appreciate you. Really.

And keep shooting and making me up my game. I appreciate that, too.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

M/V Linda Reed ... yes, another photo of a beautiful boat

This is a still that I pulled from a video I shot a while back. I had to work on it a little bit, but I like how it turned out, especially with all those horizontal lines.

Crounse boats make such good photos. Boats from most other companies do, too, but we see boats from Crounse, Marathon, Amherst Madison and FMT up this way fairly often, so those companies provide the best opportunities to get good photos.

Now if I could just get on one and get some real closeups ...

But that's a goal for another day.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

M/V O. Nelson Jones

Of course I got another picture of the O. Nelson Jones last week.

You always get another picture of the O. Nelson Jomes.

Monday, July 13, 2020


The Coast Guard buoy tender Osage docked overnight at Huntington's Harris Riverfront Park this past Saturday evening. I got down there as the sun was going over the Ohio hills, so things were just starting to get dark. I got some pictures anyway. Here are a few.


The Osage comes through here about once a year, and I try to get down to the riverfront when it's here. Sometimes I make it. Sometimes I don't.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Sistersville ferry, 7/5/20

When the folks in Sistersville, W.Va., posted on Facebook on July 2 that the ferry was back in operation for the first time in about 20 months, I had to get up there and ride. The fact the Waterways Journal had asked me to do a story about the ferry helped the decision. Their request came before the coronavirus hit and messed up everything, but by Sunday, July 5, the ferry was running and I had money for fuel.

The ferry is like others on the Ohio and is attached to its barge on a pivot. When the ferry leaves one side for the other, it backs out and swings around 180 degrees, leaving an oval wheel wash like this.

A few more photos, including one of Crounse Corp.'s M/V Debi Sharp coming by while we were on the Ohio side. That's Bo Hause, the captain of the ferry, up in the wheelhouse, by the way.

Sunday was hot and almost cloudless. The air temperature on shore was in the 90s, and it must have been 105 or more on the barge.

Soon enough it was time to leave. The heat had left me pretty tired and I wanted to get back to Huntington before dark, so I left sooner than I had wanted to. But I had other stops to make on the road home. Photo opps, you know.

While I was up that way I was able to get a look at a couple of historic (to me, at least, sites that I will write about soon.

The ferry alone made it a good day. The other stuff made it better.