Seeing Things, Saying Things

Musings About Writing, Photography and Teaching

Posts Tagged ‘on photography

Up Early to Catch the Sunrise

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I made it a point during a stay last October at a bed and breakfast outside of Tucson, Arizona, to get up early to catch the sun rising over the Santa Catalina Mountains.

The view wasn’t as colorful or spectacular as the sunset I had photographed from the same location the night before.

But it was a nice view nonetheless. It was quite cool in the desert. It might be in the 90s during the daytime, but the air cools rapidly after sunset.

There was a small wisp of clouds over the mountains that caught the early  morning light. The air was still aside from a few birds chirping away.

It was one of those moments I won’t soon, if ever, forget.

New York at Night

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I made my first and only visit to the observatory of the World Trade Center in early November 1981. I was visiting a friend who lived in the Big Apple although we had met back in Springfield, Illinois, when we both worked for the state.

We visited the WTC twice on the same day. The first visit occurred during daylight hours. I might have said something about what a nice view it would be at night.

Whatever the case, we returned that evening and I made this image. I don’t remember having a tripod. Perhaps we went back to Mark’s apartment to get one. I can’t imagine that I was traveling with a tripod.

This image was made on slide film and over the years it has badly faded. I scanned it anyway and through some Photoshop work was able to regain some of the image.

It would not only be the last time I visited the WTC it would also be the last time that I saw Mark. In fact, I can’t remember his last name or how to get in contact with him. Our last visit, though, was a memorable one.

Casting a Long Shadow

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I was in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park to photograph the spectacular fall foliage, which was at its peak color.

Intestate 271 and the Ohio Turnpike cross over the Cuyahoga Valley in close proximity and you get an expansive view if you stand beneath the bridges and look eastward.

The shadow crossing the image is the I-271 bridge. I wonder how many of the thousands of travelers who cross over this bridge every day notice or even know they are passing over Ohio’s only national park?

In the foreground below is the towpath trail, a popular path for joggers, walkers and bicyclists.

All That Remains is the Glitter (and Some Memories)

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It is graduation season at the nation’s colleges and high schools and millions are donning caps and gowns and going through ceremonies and rituals that have been around for as long as any of us alive today can remember.

And graduates have probably been saying for just as long that they were only doing this for their parents.

I suspect that if the graduates could take a vote they might do away with all of the pomp and circumstance.

But many of them go through it anyway even though I know a number of people who skipped their graduation ceremony and at least one who was there, but sitting with the audience and not walking across the stage like the rest of us.

When I taught at John Carroll University, faculty members were expected to participate in the ceremony.

After one particular commencement, I remember going the next day to get a haircut or some such mundane activity and wondering what the graduates were thinking today.

All of their lives they had been preparing for going to college. Then college came and it must have seemed like an eternity before they would graduate.

But they did and now it was the morning after. What are they thinking now that a major part of their life is behind them?

I was reminded of that question when I ran across this “glitter” on the bricks in front of the Rose Well House on the campus of Indiana University.

The Well House is one of the more iconic landmarks on the Bloomington campus and countless grads had their picture taken in front of it.

Graduation Day at IU had been four days earlier and some graduates had left behind – although probably unintentionally – some reminders of that day.

Now it is time to get on with the rest of their life. But cheer up grads. There is always graduate school if you don’t want to face life just yet. And you will always have your memories.

S Curve

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What you see above is what railroads call an S curve because if viewed from above it makes a figure S.

But I see something else. I see a meandering path that creates motion for the eyes. Any basic photography instruction manual preaches the virtue of creating images with motion because it gives the photograph a dynamic quality.

Railroad tracks make visually interesting images because they naturally create a sense of motion.

Having an interest in trains, I was here to get a photograph of a train coming through that S curve. I knew that soon after I made this image that a southbound Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad train would becoming along.

Yes, I photographed that train navigating the S curve. Yet sometimes the track alone is enough to create a good image.

I see this photograph and I am beckoned to wonder why lies around that curve in those woods in the distance.

No Longer Running

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I keep finding myself drawn to photographing abandoned service stations in my travels. I’m not sure why that is, but more than most abandoned businesses, service stations tend to still have a classic feel to them, even those that are in run-down condition.

Service stations typically were free-standing structures regardless of what era in which they were built. Many of those that have been abandoned and which are still standing were built of brick and featured a standard design.

The oldest ones had a single island for the gasoline pumps. There would be two garage doors for the service bays and a front door leading to the office/waiting room that also sold sundry other automotive-related items. Remember when oil companies used to issue road maps?

Maybe my fascination with old gas stations is rooted in a childhood ritual. During our travels about town Mom or Dad would stop at the filling station to “fer ‘er up.”

You didn’t have to leave your car. The attendant or even the owner would come out to you on the driveway.

My parents often knew the owner and chatted with him for a few minutes. They were guys you felt you could trust.

Service stations were part of the tapestry of small town America, but it is not like that today. In New Jersey a guy still comes out to fill up your car, but everywhere else I’ve been in recent years it is self service.

Today’s service stations — if that is the right term for them because they hardly provide any service — are large modern convenience stores that just happen to sell gasoline among other products.

Shown above is a former Marathon station in downtown Arcola, Illinois, that has been semi restored. The restoration has consisted of new paint and restoring the “best in the long run” Marathon herald.

It is located a block east of U.S. Route 45 just over the Illinois Central Railroad tracks. It probably took a major financial hit when Interstate 57 opened in the 1970s east of town. That is a story that is all too familiar in all too many small towns in America.

One of the Magnificent 92

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Indiana has a lot of stately courthouses that tower over the square of the county seat communities that they serve. Most were built in the late 19th and early 20th century.

I don’t know if this makes Indiana unique or any different than any other Midwest state.

Nearly three decades ago, the late Ira Wilmer Counts, Jr., a professor of photojournalism at Indiana University traveled the state and photographed the 92 courthouses in the Hoosier State.

I don’t know how long that took, but it probably wasn’t done in a week.

His work was placed on a display with the exhibit text written by his colleague, Jon Dilts, who was my adviser during my time in graduate school at IU.

Their work was eventually made into a book titled The Magnificent 92 Courthouses of Indiana and a poster. I had a framed copy of that poster that sat on the wall above my desk for many years.

Professor Counts didn’t have far to go to photograph the courthouse in Bloomington, the home of the IU main campus and the county seat of Monroe County.

I admired Professor Counts’ work for his ability to vary the angles and compositions of the courthouses.

I never had Professor Counts for a class during my time at IU. I only knew him casually, if that.

He had a distinguished career that landed him a place in the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame.

An Arkansas native, Professor Counts is best known for his prize-winning photograph of a black student seeking to integrate a segregated high school in Little Rock in 1957.

When he died of cancer at age 70 in 2001, Professor Counts merited an obituary in the New York Times and other publications. His book about Indiana courthouses was mentioned in the Times obit.

Whenever I see a courthouse in Indiana I’m reminded of Professor Counts and his devotion to telling the story with images of the architecture of another era.