Late Winter in the North Palouse

•March 3, 2013 • Leave a Comment

In recent years we’ve had some lingering snows which have pushed back farmer’s spring plowing and planting schedules. These images were taken on the far side of winter. The heavy snow season in Spokane is usually around Christmas, and then there are occasional snow events through the rest of winter and sometimes in the spring. In the snowy winter of 2008-2009 we had snow on June 10th! The late snow takes on a different look, as it sinks and begins to reveal meltwater runs and shapes of features hidden underneath the blanket.

As the snow retreats, the accumulations on unused roads get pretty slippery. The deep snow turns into little ice balls the size of BBs and you may not get to choose which direction you’re going! Even if you do get over the snow, you will still face a layer of mud over still-frozen ground, if your lucky, or you may sink to your axles, if you’re not. One time I got a 2WD pickup stuck on a semi-thawed mud road. I couldn’t get traction on the frozen part to push the front tires over the thawed mud. I was on a road with rolling hills so I shut it off and started walking the 5 miles to Fairchild AFB, where I lived. A half mile down the road a farmer named Wagner picked me up and drove me to his house. I couldn’t get anyone to answer the phone at the dorms so he gave me a ride to the front gate. Then next day a dorm buddy gave me a ride back out there. I backed up in the cleared tracks and made a run at the last hill, spinning all the way. The tires may have been bias ply delivery truck-type tires and not all-season tires. Anytime I’m driving down a wet road and hear the tires flinging mud into the wheel wells, it takes me back. I replaced the Ford with a 4WD Toyota pickup.

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This shot is from the end of my first winter back in Washington. Mica Peak as seen from Mt. Hope.

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Some may take this as a challenge to their manhood…so the County keeps them closed until April 15. It’s not wise to try it; even if you make it over the snow and through the mud, you can see that you’re going to have to try to drive uphill on that old, slippery snow!

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A hawk looks for dinner from a convenient vantage point east of Rockford.

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Canadian Geese check out what the melting snow reveals, in far west Spokane County.

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The deer come out in droves to nibble on the new plant shoots and the young winter wheat. Valleyford.

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You try it, I’ll pass! East of Fairfield.

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You might have better luck walking to the barn. Spangle.

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Sunset light on the elevators and an old log building. Spangle.

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Sunset light in the northeast corner of the Palouse. Rockford.

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There’s a full-sized tree down there somewhere…in a draw. Rockford.

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Wild plants and the textures I mentioned. Rockford.

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East of Rockford.

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The last snow to go from the Palouse is in the form of old drifts and filled-in draws. Steptoe Butte.

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These two shots show the view south from Steptoe Butte.

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The Prairie View schoolhouse has survived another winter, but is in rough shape. Last year the bell tower was removed, plastic sheets were put over what was left of the roof, and the windows were boarded up. I assume this is the start of the process of preserving the classic building. Later on I’ll make a post of my shots taken in and around the school. I think the only thing that kept the building upright is the extra structure of coatroom walls at the front. Plaza.

MWE0101Once again, the sun goes down, the temperature goes down, and the wet snow freezes again. Rockford.

I have been following the last of the snowpack eastern Washington’s open country and it is almost all gone. The holdout was in the big hills in north Lincoln County and the high plains of Douglas County. I’ll continue the late snow theme one or two more times and then I’ll pack up the rest of the snow photos until next winter. It takes the Inland Northwest a while to go green again. I didn’t realize how long it took until I moved back up here from Mississippi; let’s get it going! Right now the wild grasses look as attractive as the matted dead grass on lawns in the city. The gravel roads go through a mud phase and if you drive on them your car gets covered with a fine tan mist. I don’t worry about getting stuck, I just don’t want to get all that crud up into all the machinery. I’ll stick to the paved roads and their thaw season lower speed limits.

Snow on The Palouse: Sunset Light

•February 17, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Some people may revel at the sight of a colorful summer sunset but for my money a more complete immersion in color can occur in the middle of winter. The western sky can have an amazing transition from a blazing orange sunset, through shades of blue up and overhead, and down to pink which fades into deep purple at the horizon. When the landscape is covered with snow, it can capture all of these colors on the surfaces which are angled toward the different shades. I shouldn’t waste anymore time trying to describe it, these photos from the northern Palouse region of eastern Washington will speak for themselves. We tend to have very long twilights here in the Inland Northwest so just because the sun is done, doesn’t mean the photographers should pack it in and head home. Most of these photos were taken in the northern end of the Palouse, just south of Spokane where the wheatfields end at the mountains.

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Mica Peak, viewed from the Palouse Highway, east of Valleyford.

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Mica Peak, viewed from a road east of Rockford.

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East of Freeman.

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Three shots showing frost catching the sunset light, south of Rockford.

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Three shots taken just west of Spangle.

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Light catching peaks in Idaho, as seen from a road south of Rockford.

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Deer head for cover, east of Freeman.

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View ot Tower Mountain, taken from a back road west of Valleyford.

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A permanent fixture on a Spangle shed.

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The local line south of Spangle.

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The landmark barn, south of Spangle.

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Another landmark just north of Spangle, with Mica Peak behind. This one’s looking worse these days, the log structure might not have much time left.

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The grain elevators at Spangle.

As you can see, just becasue the sun sets doesn’t mean you should pack up the camera, a different show is just beginning!

The Winter of 1968-69 vs. 2008-2009

•February 15, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I have spent many winters in Eastern Washington and each winter, we stacked up our snowfall against the dreaded winters of 1949-50 and 1968-69. Well, we finally topped the latter for the all-time local record in 2008-09…by about 0.1 inches. Was it rigged? Perhaps, but from what I have read and heard, we had it a lot easier than they did in 1968-69. I think the earlier winter had harsh storms with wind and bitter cold, where we just had continuous snowfall, day after day. After the snow was gone we still had snow showers every month, all the way up to June 10th! I don’t remember when they stopped but I think the Silver Mountain ski resort tried to be open every Saturday up to July, though your run options were severly limited.

So tying this back to the vintage photos collection, I have acquired estates which contain images from the winter of 1968-69. I examined one group and thought that I knew the approximate area in Spokane where I might find the hoouse. I used that knowledge and Bing Maps Birds Eye view feature and managed to find the house. I went into the neighborhood after the first of the year, 2009, to grab a few quick shots which approximated the angle of the old photos. It was fun…and a little bit creepy…

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I found the house south of Audobon Park in Spokane.

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The neighborhood hasn’t changed much, which is typical for that area.

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Looking west.

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The street is out there somewhere.

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Back to the future, and a sample of another winter of significant snowfall, 1992-93. I drove a 1965 Ford pickup through that one. In late 1993 I bought a Toyota 4X4 and we had very little snow that winter.

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The largest snowfall of the 2008-09 season; it set a two-day record for accumulation. Only three of us bothered to try to get to work that day. You can see that the Jeep had just enough clearance but the Xterra was plowing the snow.

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One of the South Hill streets which was difficult passage for passenger cars. The Mayor of Spokane said, infamously, “It’s just snow, people!” when pestered about the city’s slow response. I didn’t drive around much because there was not really a safe place to park. In this case I found a snow pile and parked behind it. Soon after I made my rounds a contract plowing crew came through the area.

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The Old Sunset Highway, west of Reardan.

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There were deeper cuts farther up the road, where the road was cut into a hill. The County crews had only made one-lane cuts through the drifts. I started into one and found a County dump truck coming the other way. I backed out of the cut…

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A local line crew was out punching drifts and I was able to get shots of them in different spots by leapfrogging ahead on the old highway.

The year after the snowfall record was set, we almost set a new record for the least snowfall for a season, go figure.

Next I’ll see about digging up some shots which capture the beauty of winter.

 

 

Christmas Village, Wallace, Idaho

•January 10, 2013 • Leave a Comment

OK, maybe the photos were taken after Christmas, in early February of 2008. If I remember correctly, I had heard that there was a lot of snow over there and a change in the weather was coming. I don’t have a lot to offer in the way of descriptions, the visual effect should be enough! For those of you who have never been here, the town was the setting for the movie Dante’s Peak.

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The old Northern Pacific Depot.

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Note how the snow is sticking together, wider than the chimney!

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The roof of the bus barn collapsed, you can see a ladder on the wall where someone was checking out the damage.

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A sidewalk trench. I shot from a lower angle, the sides were waist deep on me. I couldn’t hang my camera from one shoulder because of the risk of it hitting the sides.

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A ’55 Chevy parked by the grocery store, in front of a wall of piled-up snow.

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A Nash plays peek-a-boo from under a load of snow at the Red Light Garage. This is all you could see of the car which was parked under the Stardust Motel sign.

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Life imitating Art?

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A garage glacier defies the laws of physics.

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Another sidewalk trench on the west side of town.

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Somebody poured this one too fast!

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All of downtown Wallace is a Historic District and there are many details to be seen in the vintage frame homes.

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The need for snowshoes was apparent as I trudged through knee-deep snow to shoot this old work truck. A friend actually read that email and gave me a set of snowshoes for the following Christmas. The top of the cab is lower than the stake bed sides. It’s disguised as a VW bug?

Christmas Village, Spokane’s South Hill

•January 7, 2013 • Leave a Comment

As promised, I am going “back to the future” with seasonal shots, mostly from the record snowfall season of 2008-2009. The fact that snow actually fell on June 10, 2009 shows you why environmentalist types had to change the term Global Warming to Climate Change!

Most of these images were created from RAW files and some are tweaked a bit over-the-top, but I think it ads some White Christmas nostalgia to them.

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The Rockwood Bakery, just off of Grand Avenue on 17th.

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A snowbound car, in the Garfield neighborhood.

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Another home in the Garfield neighborhood.

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I believe these homes are on 25th Avenue, not far from Garfield.

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I used this image of a Cannon Hill Park home for a Christmas card. There were people moving by the windows so I set up the tripod and acted like I was looking somewhere else while making the exposure. It was shot on a Sunday afternoon so everyone was home and all the lights were on.

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A renovated home on Highland Boulevard, near Rockwood Boulevard.

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A home at the west end of Sumner Avenue.

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Another one of the grand, Sumner Avenue homes. A color temperature shift to make the lights white caused the sky to go cobalt blue, but like I mentioned, it’s all about the nostalgia of a white Christmas.

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Another home at the western end of Sumner Avenue.

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One last shot from Sumner Avenue. There was a fire at this home in 2012 and it has been repaired. The grounds have undergone a transformation as well and most of the trees in the back yard have been removed.

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Here is an example of a RAW shot which has not yet been tweaked. The home is near Rockwood Boulevard. I drove by the home in late 2012 and this is about how it would appear to the naked eye.

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Crank up the sliders in Photoshop and it becomes the home of Santa Claus. OK, not really, but you can see the advantage of starting with a RAW format file. RAW is an uncompressed file so it contains more information. In order to create a JPEG, information has to be left out of the file to make it smaller, or to compress it.

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Here is the front side of Santa’s house. The plume of smoke was not added. Some photographers use a process called HDR, or High Dynamic Range, which involves shooting more than one shot at different settings, then using software to blend the images into one. If done right it can create a breathtaking images. If overdone, it ends up looking flat or artificial.

By the way, we had a snowstorm overnight which made everything look this way, but the temperature went above freezing, the wind came up, and took the snow out of the trees.

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This home is located in the Grapetree development. The image was an experiment in bringing up shadow detail in a RAW file. The JPEG image makes the roof look black.

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The same home in the Grapetree development, with less RAW file tinkering.

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To finish the Christmas village, I’ll add the Cathedral of St. John, on Grand Boulevard. It was completed in the 1950’s and is also an excellent venue for music. So far I have attended performances of a pianist, a boy’s choir, a brass ensemble, and guest pipe organ players within the grand, no pun intended, building. It is also one of the venues for the Northwest Bach Festival.

I haven’t been doing much winter shooting in town since the big snow season of 2008-2009. Getting around was tricky back then and shots of Christmas lights have limited applications. It would be more interesting to try to take mood shots in the snow, perhaps when  the fog has moved in. But then again, it will be cold and dark and the confines of a warm home seem so much more appealing, in comparison.

Early Work: Eye on the Sky

•January 6, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I received my first 35mm camera in 1980 or 1981. It was a Pentax ME Super with three lenses, I believe they were 28mm, 50mm, and a 135mm telephoto. I took it with me all the time as I explored the landscape in and around the country valley where we lived.

At this point I started to act more like a photographer and I can see that in some of the compositions. I had a copy of The Photographer’s Handbook, by John Hedgecoe. I didn’t read all about the mechanical aspects of how a camera works, I was more interested in the pictures…go figure. I didn’t try to copy the photos in the book but I took the ideas with me as I explored my surroundings.

I managed to lose that camera kit during a family trip to New Hampshire. We got into the car after visiting a lake and when we got back to the rental chalet, there was no camera in the car. It was replaced with Pentax K1000 and a 50mm lens, which I still have today.

I shot Kodak color print film most of the time and only a roll or two of black and white. I still have most of my 35mm negatives, going back to that first camera. In recent years I bought a 35mm film scanner and was eager to run some of those old strips through it. The years have taken their toll on the materials but many of the earliest exposures can be fuzzy due to the inexpensive zoom lens I had with the K1000. Some are just bad photos, since I didn’t really know what I was doing!

I’ve scanned and cleaned up some examples from that first year with 35mm. The subject matter is in the sky but they also show the kind of rural surroundings that I still enjoy today.

The negatives have led a rough life, and it shows!

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The morning sun, shot behind our house on a foggy, frosty morning.

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The sun becomes a lamp in a neighbor’s yard.

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Classic Eastern countryside, sunset viewed from the top of the hill over our valley.

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Same group of trees, looks like a shower had passed. I used to dig for old bottles in the woods off to the right.

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Sunset colors viewed from our back yard.

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A member of the Harkins family drives a tractor back to the barn at sunset. The Harkins family raised dairy cattle and corn in the fields to the west of our valley.

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The Harkins farm at sunset. The Harkins family must have settled this part of the county, their name was on many mailboxes.

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Composition at work, framing the moon through the trees next to our house.

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I think I was trying to capture the diffused light on the tree trunks. Taken from the road in front of our house.

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A classic Harvest Moon view, probably inspired by something I had seen somewhere. I studied photographs wherever I found them.

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A full moon coming over the trees next to our yard.

As you can see, I was starting to think about what I could do with the elements in a landscape, as opposed to just shooting the scene as a snapshot. I lived at this location for two years and a progression shows in the work from the second year. I was off and running with film and once I got my driver’s license, my reach began to extend beyond the valley or wherever I had ridden my bicycle. I didn’t go looking for more landscapes though, I started searching for vintage cars to photograph, wherever they were hiding. I will post some of those photos at a later date since I am eager to share more current work.

In December of 1982 I joined the U.S. Air Force and during that career, I was able to visit and photograph many places in the U.S. and also parts of Japan. I learned by trial-and-error, which can get expensive at one-hour photo labs. Sometimes a dumb mistake, like an incorrect aperture setting, would affect a whole roll of film. I must not have been paying attention to the light meter.

In these early days I was not striving for perfection; I was just enjoying the hobby and yes, the first part shows! I was having fun and if you’re not having fun, why keep doing it? To put this in to perspective, the photography was added to something I already enjoyed, getting out into the countryside and exploring.

 That feeling still carries me today, as I travel the back roads of the Inland Northwest.

Introduction: Who is this guy?

•January 6, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Hello! I’ve started this blog to share my photography with family, friends, and anyone else who would like to take a look. I have been documenting the world around me ever since my father first handed me a camera to take a few shots of a parade in Baltimore. He was a photographer when I was little, so it must be in my DNA. The camera was a Brownie and as a kid I didn’t know about the slow shutter speed. As a result, my shots of parade entries turned out blurry, but the storefronts across the street were in focus.

I had better luck with his 35mm camera when I took some shots from Federal Hill, also in Baltimore. We were there for the launching of the schooner Pride of Baltimore in February of 1977. He told me to shoot other things because he had already photographed the boat. I photographed scenes around the Inner Harbor, including the submarine U.S.S. Torsk and ships in the industrial area.

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This is a vew east of Federal Hill. The iconic Domino Sugar plant is in the background.

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The U.S.S. Constellation. It was the last sail-power-only ship built by the U.S. Navy. It was given a major renovation in the 1990’s. I visited it once on a school trip.

Later this same year I was given my first camera, a Kodak Instamatic 110. One of the first photos taken with the camera was a shot of me, holding another birthday gift. I still have some of the negatives and many of the original prints which came from the negatives. As a teenager I didn’t treat them well. They were stuffed into a paper envelope for decades. The film used was grainy enough already so I’ll warn you in advance that the posted shots from the negatives and prints are going to look a little rough! These may be scans of the prints rather than the negatives. I shot color film in the camera as well.

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We attended some of the hyrdoplane races on the Susquehanna River. These are shots from the pits. The boats in the racing shots are too far away to be worth showing. I don’t know how many times we went to the races so I’ll give this one a rough date of summer 1978 or 1979. Note the guy with the dude hair and the cutoff shorts.

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Folks who are familiar with my body of work, know that rural landscapes figure prominently in my portfolio. This series of shots from an abandoned and burned dairy farm may be the ones that started it all. I was already interested in old cars and developing an interest in antiques, and found both here. The car on this site was upside-down hulk, covered in vines and weeds, which I never identified. You can see the older subdivision in the background which was built on the former pastures. The other two shots show stall dividers and a watering bowl. The bowl shot is one of my all time favorites.

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This is another one of my all-time favorites for the mood of the scene. It was shot through the kitchen window of our second apartment in this complex. The parking lot was open to the west and you can see that the snow and the wind came in from that direction.

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Now where would a child of the 1970’s be without his “Star Wars poster on the bedroom door,” as mentioned in the lyrics of an Everclear song?

My next camera was a Polaroid One Step, received two or three years later. We were now living in a 200-year-old farmhouse, farther out in rural Harford County, Maryland. The house was bounded by a park on two sides and by a cornfield along one side which wrapped partly around the front. It was a beautiful location offering a great open view of the sky to the south. Develpment hadn’t yet reached that far out into the country. Today the park part of the first shot is still park, but there is development in the background where you see the tilled field. The point of all that is to say I loved exploring the open land and wondering what was just beyond my horizons.

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Our Tenessee Tidewater Walker hound, Brutus, poses regally in the back yard.

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Here is Brutus again, on my bed, his nap interrupted. At this time I began to experiment with the camera, in this case using the limited exposure control to darken the surroundings.

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Here we go with the Star Wars thing again. I was trying the underexposure background blackout, but didn’t notice that my blanket was reflecting light onto my brother’s hand and face. He was holding a coathanger which I had fastened to the bottom of a model of an X-wing fighter.

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I can see that I was thinking about lighting back then, but when my mother saw this shot she said something like “That film isn’t cheap.”

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I’m not sure where I got the idea for this shot. I think I put the mirror on top of one of my speakers, which I had placed on a hall table. We only lived in this house for about a year and then we moved one more time, farther out into the country into a little valley along Deer Creek. There I was given a Pentax ME Super 35mm camera kit, and things really took off.

I’ve only presented a few examples of my earliest works with a camera, to share how I got my start, and to mention some of my earliest influences. I’ll still visit the vault from time to time, if I get a good scan of a negative or print. I’ll put together a post with some creative, early 35mm shots and then I’ll come “back to the future”  with more current work, such as the image in the blog’s header.

In the mean time, my stomach is telling me it’s time for dinner!

 
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