Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Schoolhouse Rocked

This weekend, I had opportunity to attend the Gillespie County schoolhouse tour. The tour is itself both a conference and a tour-they invite teachers to come from all over Texas, attend workshops, and tour the historic schoolhouses of Gillespie County, Texas. You probably could have guessed most of that without me telling you but, what you might not have guessed, is that Gillespie County has a disproportionate number of schoolhouses. When I say "disproportionate" I really mean a record number, as in almost more than any county in the United States. There's some mention of "world record" or some such thing, but you get the idea. There are a record number of these small, historic schoolhouses dotting the rural Texas landscape out that way. To get inside of these places and shoot is quite a treat. They are historic buildings, crafted in the style of the early 1900's typically, very central Texas in their construction. Think lots of old stone, wooden floor places and you've pretty much got it.

The trip itself was a bit of fun. We drove out to Fredricksburg by way of the Texas Hill Country so we got to pass through many of the small towns. There are a host of new wineries out that way and lots of building and construction going on as well. At one point, we hit traffic! That's a trip, let me tell you, as it's usually nothing but quiet, empty country roads out that way.

Once we got out there, we went to a few schoolhouses. The first school we visited, I got to talk to a man who had attended the school as a child. He also served as Sheriff of the town for a while (more on Sheriff Milton in a future post.) Next up, we visited a school that had a new school in the front with the older, original school out back. We were originally told the old, historic school was "filled with snakes," but this turned out not to be the case. One of the nice ladies from the historical center walked us back there and pushed open the door. We found no snakes but, in what was described as the "snake pit" we found a wonderful place to shoot. Really the best shooting of the day in that little schoolhouse (more on this to follow as well.) One of the walls was pink and had a chair and another wall had a green door with a green chair. It was awesome and reminded me a bit of the recent Dakota trip. Really fabulous finds there, I tell you, great shooting.

Then, we finished off the school tour by going to Luchenbach, Texas, the town made famous by the song ("Waylon, Willie, and the boys" were not there, I can assure you.) We got stuck in the rain and I shot off a few "car windshield in the rain shots" (more to come on this later, I promise) before we toured the last old schoolhouse before heading back to Austin. On the way back, we stopped in Stonewall, Texas to hunt for some peaches. The hunt was a success, at least, as I returned with a small basket of fresh peaches. Yum!

All in all, a great trip. Some great finds, I got to meet the Sheriff, got some peaches, and fired off more than a few shots I might actually like. Oh, and in perhaps even better news, I managed to find a flash card from Dakota I hadn't uploaded yet so, on top of all of this, I got to check out more Dakota images as well. Cool beans.

You know it's shooting season when I am shooting way more than I can upload! I've been invited tomorrow to shoot a model. Going to try to make it over to Precision Camera for the lunchtime model shoot so maybe look for some shots from that to come soon as well. Happy shooting season, y'all!

Have a peach!

Until next time...


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Abandoned School Tour

Possibly heading out tomorrow to shoot the Gillespie County schoolhouse tour. Every year they have a tour of the abandoned schoolhouses in Gillespie County, Texas (think Fredricksburg here.) That's right, I'm going out near places with names like "Stonewall," "Johnson City," and the oh-so-famous Luchenbach. Yes, that's right. I'm headed to Luchenbach, Texas only without Waylon, Willie, and the boys (they'll have to head out on their own. Sorry, fellas!)

This shot is from our recent Dakota trip. It's from Rugby, North Dakota, on a farm. As part of my Dakota trip I did manage to shoot a couple of old schoolhouses and so, what can I say? I just can't get my fill of them. Out to Gillespie I go, "God willing and the creek don't rise." (It's supposed to rain tomorrow. Here's hoping the weather holds.)

In other, almost unrelated news, I have been doing battle with my tripod yet again. Got it together, sort of. Managed to attach the foot back to its rightful place, after "Special Forces" Dan was kind enough to mail it back to me from Dakota. All well and good, but then the damn head got loose, so I had to tighten that, and then it pinched me and pissed me off. Damn tripod, how I curse you so! Still better than the alternative, so I'll shut up now but, c'mon man, did you really have to pinch me? Must you draw blood like this? What's next? Care for a pound of flesh to go with that, you utter vampire you!

Couldn't manage to find my kick plate yet again. Somebody asked me on the Internets what a kick plate is. That one's easy, man, it's the part of the camera I keep loosing! Seriously, it's also called a "quick release plate" or a "side kick" and it's the part of the tripod that attaches to the camera so that you can remove the camera more quickly from the tripod head. Annoying but necessary in proper tripod operation. Of course, the little "quick release plate" is prone to getting lost, especially in my camera bag. Always seem to loose the freaking things. Managed to find it only after totally emptying my camera bag and scouring the bowels of the old girl. Managed to find almost everything *but* the kick plate (old boarding pass, stale crackers, about five old pens, spent flash memory, the list goes on. Geesh, what do I keep in there?) Finally found it. Of course, it's always in the last place you look, right?

Seriously, I so should do a blog post on what's in my camera bag, just so I embarrass myself into cleaning it out some. Why do I carry around all of this crap? I need to strip down and do the visual artist equivalent of "an acoustic set" sometime soon. It's either that or get a freaking pack mule and, frankly, I don't want to go with the donkeys, m'kay.

Who am I kidding? Even if I were locked in a room with nothing else, I'd still misplace the freaking kick plate. Man, I so hate that thing, it's not even funny. 

Until next time...

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Dakota Road

This is a road in rural North Dakota. This is what the roads look like there. This is the vast expansion, the big open sky, the heartland of America in all its glory. An interesting thing about my trip to Dakota-when I was young I would have never wanted to go there, to this place, to see roads like this. Nope, not me. I was much more of a city kid. Always wanting to be near the action, flying by the seat of my pants, hanging on with friends, jumping stoplights, and partying in nightclubs until late at night. There's something about being in this kind of land, seeing this kind of place, that really changes you. I can feel it in my bones. Maybe it's just me getting old. Maybe I'm wiser now than I once was. Those friends who jumped stoplights and dressed up in goth clothing to hang out downtown in nightclubs seem all but a distant memory to me now. Now, why I welcome sights like this.

I didn't grow up in this land. It's not in my blood, not my bones, not a deep set part of me, no, but I welcome it. I enjoyed seeing it. A funny thing about image processing from this trip. Yes, I photographed a lot of empty rooms. Heck, I always do that, don't I? But, the images that really speak to me seem to be more of this nature. This big open sky. Those fields, That rural icon that, to me anyway, just screams "Dakota!" at the top of its lungs. Yes, there's something about that place that attracts me, but it's not really, or perhaps more precise to say not *only* in the abandoned architecture and the essence of the farm people. It's the land itself. I'm somehow drawn to the land itself.

It sure was different anyway.

Until next time...



Thursday, June 09, 2016

What's Upstairs?

More work from our recent Dakota trip. There's something about images that have a little mystery to them that can kind of do it for me. I mean, you don't really know a lot about this place. What's on the table? Where is this place? Where do those stairs lead? What's with the light shining through? More questions than answers perhaps, but does that make for good images?

Sometimes, I feel like I want to get all mysterious on you all the time. Like, I never again want to take a single shot which lays it all out bold. Prefer to hide in plain sight and leave a little off the table for a change. But then, too much mystery, why it leaves people scratching their heads, doesn't it?

I guess maybe the best is to leave a couple of open questions on the table. Not put it all out there, but too don't leave everybody guessing everything all at once. Striking a balance is usually the way to go, even if we often find it hard to do just that.

Do your images ask questions? Do they lay it all out there for the viewer? Do you wish you could add some questions or maybe take some off the table? It's a curious circumstance that, but maybe good to pose these questions as we go out into the world shooting, no?

As for the "real" answers, why, I almost don't want to tell you, but here goes. (Spoiler alert!) This was taken in a church basement. For some reason, I don't know why, it reminds me a bit of that old joke, "when you die in an elevator, be sure to push the UP button!" This actually is a church basement and, yes, somebody left the door cracked. That is real light coming in, nothing fake about this one. There were other photographers wandering in and out as I was shooting in this little hallway. Not sure what was left on the table, but it's a really old church, been abandoned for a while now, so not surprised something was left. The basement itself had a big kitchen in it (more to come on that later.) This was the hallway, leading from said kitchen to the outside world. Yes, it was a bright sunny day out there, if not a bit cold. So now you know. Shot with the Canon 5dS and the walkabout zoom lens, on a tripod, stopped down a bit but not too much because I like to do that sometimes.

Until next time...

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Minot Downtown

Talking with my crew the other day, I said something like, "Maybe I'll put in something from Dakota," to which they replied, "we haven't seen any of your work from Dakota yet!" Actually, come to think of it, neither had I, so I thought it might be appropriate to post something here. This is still not "the real work" as friend Tazz calls it but, you know, it's something kind of closer than what you might have been expecting.

This was taken in downtown Minot with the walkabout lens and the Canon 5Ds. Funny thing about "blue sky" days such as this one, they traditionally don't make for good picture taking opportunities. Those pretty blue skies often don't photograph well, but then, I swear, there is something so cheerful about a blue sky that it makes you shoot better. There's something "happy" that transcends the light and contrast, at least I sometimes try anyway and sometimes, with luck, grace, or skill, somehow manage to make it work in the end. That blue sky can really cheer me up and a cheery Carol makes for a better photographer somehow. (Well, in all honesty, maybe I just suck a little less at that point.)

Back from Dakota and now my thoughts turn to all of the projects I want to do. I have some along the lines of the mundane: get a new roof, fix up the house, take the dog to the vets, etc. and some more photographic oriented: make a new little book, put up an ebook, update the old website, etc. We'll see how much I can manage. I do feel like things are starting to come together, at least I have started to put the house together a bit. A new roof is in the works anyway so there's that.

Besides, shooting in a blue sky like this is a lot better than shooting in the pouring down rain, isn't it? (Well, maybe not but, like, work with me here, ok?)

Until next time...


Monday, May 09, 2016

Notes from the Road Day 2 - Peeling Paint Nirvana

Come on now, who does not love a really good blue door? This is one of the early shots from our property walkabout today. What can I say about that? I know I have not been tweeting and facebooking as much as usual. This is because I've been working it, folks. I've been out shooting. We toured 12 properties today, each one fabulous in a different and exciting way. I used only iPhone and it held up fairly well considering what I put it through. Good stuff in these abandoned playgrounds. It's like peeling paint and old couch nirvana and you know, you just know, how much I love that kind of stuff. Heaven!

Biggest note so far is a feeling. I feel oddly energized. Those of you who know me know I always do this kind of work, I started doing this kind of work, architecture done differently, lots of abandoned spaces and big, empty rooms. I cut my teeth on this kind of stuff and I still eat it up for breakfast (yum!) So, yeah, it feels like going back to my roots but then also, BAM! new environment, change of place change of scenery. Old but new, fresh and I feel so invigorated. I really feel alive on days like these. Good times, good shots, good food, good people, good places, and the work just seems to fall out like it should. I hope I can keep up the pace.

Had breakfast at our hotel, got an early start, felt like I could have used about three more hours of sleep but seem to be holding up ok. Morning was spent going to the properties and getting a feel for the locations. Wonderful stuff. We had lunch at Rockin Relics in town (good eats there as well) and now it's a bit of rest while the light sucks but also gearing up for late afternoon shoot. Back to some of the properties, back to the fun. Here we go, wish us luck.

So, yeah, it's what I do, it's what I always do but somehow better. Wish you were here but hopefully I'll have some shots to share real soon now. Let's hope the light and the weather and our aching backs hold up as best they can, eh?

Until next time...

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Greetings From Dakota

Continuing in this series of "Bed" this is the bed I'll be sleeping in tonight. I'm currently hold up in the small, rural town of Rugby, North Dakota shooting abandoned homestead farms and out buildings (think barns here, folks.) Trip promises to be different, a lot of fun, slightly different shooting from what I'm used to and also some new scenery.

So far the trip has been going pretty well. Had to get up in the middle of the night (3:30 am!) to catch the blue van to the airport. Didn't hit any traffic and got to see parts of Austin I had forgotten exist. Flight to Minneapolis was bumpy (storms afoot!) but otherwise ok. There is a tram in the Minneapolis airport, so chalk that up to learn something new everyday. I had to take a smaller "commuter" jet and it was most cramped and bumpy but luckily only about an hour of flight time. Pretty crazy how they have small jets like that flying out of Minnesota but then I guess not that many people find themselves in North Dakota now, do they? Besides, I'm so over transportation. This photography thing has trained me well. I don't care if you stuff me in a rickshaw, if I ride a pony, an elephant, an emu, or whatever else happens along. I'll ride anything. OK, that didn't exactly come out right but, like, you get the idea. I'm over transportation, just get me there already.

The airport in Minot is brand spanking new and we were in and out pretty quickly. Got a nice rental car, grabbed some grub at an Irish pub in town and then headed to do some grocery shopping, just to pick up supplies for the road. A little strung out from the trip, we then headed into Rugby which is going to be our base for the rest of the week. Found out they have white trees here. Didn't know I missed them so much until I saw them again.

There are some auroras afoot but the recent (giant) fire up Canada way might be blocking our view. Might try to do some night shooting, depending upon how things go. Got a lot of properties lined up to check out so might not make it into the evening hours.

Also found out we made the local paper. "Photographers descend on Rugby!" is what they are saying about us. Yes, um, we're here, ok? Thank you for the welcome.

Until next time...