Sunday, May 01, 2011

Panning the arch

kw: travel notes, landmarks, photographs, genealogy

Late yesterday we returned from a five-day road trip. I was on a genealogical expedition and my wife accompanied me. We followed I-70 across five states into Missouri, where we stayed at Marshall, the county seat of Saline County, and paid a few visits to Malta Bend, where my father was born, and a goodly number of his ancestors. Drive time each way was a day and a half. We started out last Tuesday early, stayed the night in western Indiana, and arrived in Marshall about lunchtime Wednesday. The Marshall Public Library has a wonderful (though small) Genealogy Room with very friendly people to help.

A couple of hours there made it clear we had plenty of family graves to locate, in three cemeteries. One family was split between two cemeteries because of the fears of one couple that a property was not being well maintained. Fortunately, when we visited, we found it is being well cared for. So here is the rundown.

We first visited Ridge Park Cemetery in Marshall, where the caretaker showed us how to find the graves of the stray couple, the parents of my father's cousin. Then we had dinner and checked in to our hotel. The following day we went early to the Malta Bend cemetery. There we found ten of my father's ancestors' graves, and those of eighteen other relatives, including, sadly, five children and infants.

Some of the gravestone inscriptions faced west, and some faced east; a few faced north or south. There was no geographic pattern, such as facing walkways. It seemed instead that some people would face a grave to the east in anticipation of resurrection, while others would face it to the west as a symbol of the sunset of life. So while I photographed everything, I decided to return in the afternoon.

We went into Malta Bend to look for landmarks my father had marked on a map and an aerial photo. Only three buildings remained. The town had about 420 people in the 1920s, and there are about 250 now. It is a dying town. There are no stores, only two churches still operating, and people do all their business at Marshall or, if they want to drive 80 miles, in Kansas City. Before getting lunch we went to Little Grove Cemetery, south of Malta Bend. We found nine graves of interest there. It is about half the size of MB Cemetery, and both are smaller than one of the 26 sections of Ridge Park Cemetery. In the afternoon, back at MB Cemetery I was able to get much better pictures of almost half the gravestones. In total I got pictures of 39 headstones and several plotstones that announce a family group. Before returning to Marshall, we drove west to Grand Pass, population 52, where one of my great-grandfathers grew up. We saw no buildings of any great age there. For a dying town, it has had a complete turnover of construction in the past century.

I also obtained copies of many documents at the library, mostly lists of cemetery "residents", but also the record of an ancestor who was in the Civil War, and the surprise information that one couple I'd thought had died in Ohio, instead had died in Malta Bend and were buried there. That solves one family conundrum.

We turned in early, and awoke quite early Friday to watch the wedding of William and Katherine. Then we had breakfast and took off, arriving at our hotel in Springfield, Ohio in time for a rather late dinner. We slept well and drove home Saturday. On Friday, however, we took an extra hour to go into St. Louis to see the Gateway Arch.

Though we have passed by St. Louis a few times, the fastest route uses Hwy 270 north of the city, and we had never seen Gateway Arch. Fortunately, parking was not too costly, and there is no admission at the Arch unless you want to go up inside to the top. We are both fearful of heights (though we did visit the Empire State Building last month), and did not want to take the time either.

Getting to the parking garages proved a bit of a challenge. The usual approach, which the car's GPS unit took us down, happens to be partway under water because of the flooding on the Missouri River. We took some side streets, which are all cobblestone in that area; very difficult to drive on! However, we soon stumbled on a garage that advertised "Arch Parking" at a reasonable rate and parked there. It was right on the edge of the Gateway property, but the walk was still about a quarter mile.

The Arch gave me the chance to try some rather challenging panoramic photography. The grounds are simply not large enough to photograph the Arch with ordinary lenses. This is my best attempt. It is composed of three horizontal pictures, taken from an angle that I could get both "feet" in one frame. The panorama stitcher in Windows Live Photo Gallery did a fine job with them.

Then I followed the Arch's shadow to a spot where I could take the next panorama. It is composed of eight images, and it is evident that the stitcher has centered the fisheye simulation at the center of the final image. I had been expecting the ground to come out flat. Silly me! There are also a couple of fitting glitches. I tried using the Canon Stitcher, but it would not properly put the images together at all.

From the opposite side, on the stairway down to the river, I tried again. This time I was far away enough that I could use four images. Again, Stitcher failed completely, but the Windows Live software did a pretty good job with no glitches. The flat ground sure seems to swoop, though.

Both panoramas make it clear that I need to include lots more surrounding material for such projects, so I have something to crop out for a final image. I could probably use a circular mask on the backlit image. These two pictures are fun, but that is about it.

The trip was enjoyable though tiring. We have concluded that we'll fly in the future. A 2,200 mile trip is too much driving for a two-day visit. I have plenty to keep me busy with the family tree, for the next few months.

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