Archive for the ‘documentary’ Category

The Guardian   3 comments


The Guardian
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If looks could kill.

While kayaking along the Silver River in Florida, we encountered our first group of wild monkeys, the backstory of which you can learn in Shelter from the Storm.

The monkeys weren’t hard to spot. The mother and child seen in “Shelter…” were sitting on a cypress stump near the water. Just on the other side of the large cypress tree, this alpha male was standing guard against the onslaught of other members of the troop. Just behind him, in the woods, there was a cacophony of howling and screeching as monkeys chased each other through the trees. It seemed more serious than just play. I don’t know what the problem was, but there was clearly upset in the tribe deeper in the woods.

Meanwhile, the male’s attention was drawn to a number of colorful boats approaching from the river. Threats all around.

He kept a careful watch on the mother and child. If a rambunctious member of the troop got too close, he’d climb up on a flexible downed tree, bouncing up and down while grunting his warnings. The other monkeys seemed to respect that, and kept their distance.

As did we. This guy gave me a look, so I backed… away… slowly…

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Handheld from the kayak, ISO400, f/6.3, 1/250s, 210mm

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So I’ll Follow the Sun   4 comments


So I'll Follow the Sun
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Despite being on the road in Florida for almost two weeks, the winter weather dictated that we would get only one kayak paddle trip. Fortunately, the Silver River was loaded with wildlife of all sorts.

Passing by one of the many downed trees along the way, we spotted a primordial procession of turtles leaves the water, seeking the warmth of the sunshine. Given that we were bundled up against the cold north wind, it seemed like a good idea.

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‘Gator, Resting   7 comments


'Gator, Resting
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It was early January.

We had come to the Okefenokee Swamp to shelter ourselves from the oncoming storm, the ferocity of which we couldn’t even imagine at the time… rain, high winds, bone-numbing cold. (Okay, so the state park at Okefenokee has really nice cabins, you see.)

Late in the afternoon during a break in the rain, we wandered around to see what we could find, and discovered this guy. We were surprised to see him at all, as alligators are markedly less active and visible in the cold weather. He didn’t mind at all as I snapped a few pictures. Good thing: This was taken at 55mm, a rare opportunity to get so close without being chomped.

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Shelter from the Storm   7 comments


Shelter from the Storm

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Yes… monkeys.

“You’re not going to see any monkeys today,” an experienced outfitter told us at the launch ramp before we started out. “It’s too cold and dank.”

My advice is to take local knowledge — usually quite helpful — with a grain of salt. We came across lots of monkeys.

After snapping the cormorant (Cormorants) while paddling the Silver River in Florida, we rounded a bend and found the first troop of monkeys cavorting near the edge of the water. They were creating quite a ruckus deeper in the woods, swinging from the trees and challenging one another.

There were about twenty individuals, ranging from the dominant male and young-buck upstarts, to teenagers, and pairs like this adorable mother and child. Here, the mother is taking a break from grooming the young one long enough to warm him up. Just on the other side of the tree, the dominant male was posing and bouncing up and down on a fallen tree, warning other troop members not to approach.

You might ask: Why are there wild monkeys in Florida?

At the Silver Springs headwaters, you can find a number of attractions, including the famous glass-bottomed boat rides. In the 1930s, the operator of the Silver Springs Jungle Cruise put the monkeys on a small island in the river in order to spice up the ride for customers.

He didn’t realize that monkeys are excellent swimmers.

The monkeys escaped the island, of course, and began to populate the surrounding woods. As civilization approaches closer to the Springs, some monkeys have been seen in the nearby city of Ocala, or raiding citrus groves, or free-ranging on livestock farms. Some people have claimed that the monkeys pose a threat to humans, as they can carry the Herpes-B virus, fatal to humans, though the threat is surely overblown.

An animal shelter worker studying the monkeys once stopped 15 tourists in the park and asked them what drew them there. Fourteen said they came to see the monkeys (as did we.)

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Full Retreat!   4 comments



Full Retreat!



Full Retreat!


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Okay, I can take a joke, but…

Susan and I had devoted the month of January for a road trip to Florida, camping and kayaking the clear springs across the state. We worked for weeks to get everything ready, eager with anticipation. Finally, a couple of days before the new year, we strapped the boats on top of the truck, loaded all the gear, but then had to hold back for a weekend, as it was raining heavily. (It’s not fun to start a tent camping trip in a puddle.)

Once we made our first stop in Charleston for New Year’s festivities, we checked the weather. More heavy rain was on the way, so we cancelled our next beach camping plan in lieu of a cabin in the Okefenokee Swamp in southern Georgia. While comfortable there, we couldn’t paddle due to high winds and constant rain. I suppose that’s okay, because as it turns out, almost 3/4 of the acreage in the swamp burned badly in 2011. We used to escape to the Okefenokee, as it was the quietest, most primordial-looking place we had ever known. Now it looks like a war zone, with charred sticks that used to be beautiful cypress trees, and it will take many years for it to grow back to its former glory. (That said, fire is a good thing. The Okefenokee is not so much a swamp as it is a peat bog. If the peat doesn’t burn from time to time, the entire area would fill in, with no waterways available.)

We had anticipated staying in the tent in the Okefenokee for a few more days, but weather forecasts indicated that we should move further south for warmth and dryness, so we re-routed to Silver Springs, Florida. More on that wonderful place later.

A full week after leaving the house, we managed to get a paddle in on the Silver River, although it was cool and overcast. When we landed back at the camp and checked the weather, we saw the massive, record-breaking cold front coming down on us. Poring over the forecasts, we decided that rather than enduring 20F cold, we would move down to Jupiter, Florida. Yes, it was much warmer down there, but being at the edge of the cold front, we were inundated with Gulf moisture and high winds. Three days, no paddling.

We had planned to go to the southernmost point of Florida, Flamingo, then to the west coast, but every place we had planned was subject to some of the most rotten camping weather imaginable.

We called a Full Retreat. Enough was enough. Two weeks out on the road living out of the truck; changing plans at every stop; only had one paddle trip; one day of sunshine. Home starts to look pretty good after a while.

On the way back north, we managed to snag this beautiful cabin back in Silver Springs. Surrounded by Live Oak trees draped in Spanish Moss, these “cabins” are more like full-sized houses, with a huge wraparound porch that we enjoyed to the fullest extent. (Yes, it rained that night.)

There were several good moments and highlights along the way; it wasn’t all bad. But as I sat on the porch and contemplated our fortunes, I couldn’t help but think that someone was up there, looking down at me with their thumb on the weather button, and saying, “You know, Rob: You… just… tick… me… off.”

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Through the Glass   9 comments


Through the Glass

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Continuing on with the series from the abandoned farmhouse in North Carolina, I found an interesting composition through a door sidelight in the front hallway, looking back toward the kitchen, pantry and other rooms at the back of the house.

One has to tread very carefully through here; the right side of the house is pretty much missing, and the best path is to balance-beam along the floor joists.

Of compositional note: The original frames were much wider, but when I cropped this to something close to a 9:16 format, it just popped.

Related Posts:

Through the Bedroom Window
Inside Lines
Purity of Intention

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Through the Bedroom Window   2 comments


Through the Bedroom Window
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Although the abandoned farmhouse sits directly on road frontage, if you look out the back windows, there are farm fields about as far as the eye can see.

I tried to imagine what life must have been like in this area so many years ago. There was likely very little traffic, no airplanes overhead, no air conditioners humming. Perhaps the owner was rumbling along the fields in an old tractor; kids out back playing under the huge trees that have long since fallen; the matriarch of the family calling to them through this back window, the breeze fluttering the curtains. Time to come in and wash up for dinner.

It’s eerily quiet there now, except for the occasional passing car. The farmhouse has melted away, but I suspect not the memories that the residents had of living and growing up here.

Related Images:

Inside Lines

Purity of Intention

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Inside Lines   5 comments


Inside Lines

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I entered the abandoned farmhouse featured in “Purity of Intention”, entering not through the front door, but through a window in the room on the right, as Jeff had shown me. Often, due to weathering, the front porch is the first thing to fail on these old houses. I tested the porch floor, and although I had on my heavy boots and clothes, I knew that it was not to be trusted.

Moving carefully from room to room, I looked for the opportunities. One of the first to appear was this view from the back of the central hallway toward the front; the play of light and shadow was compelling, bringing in both a comfortable feel as well as some genuine spookiness. The lines from the stacked boards, the ceiling, and the exposed beams all converged on the front door. The house also showed that the owners had a sense of decorating style, as the blue, green, and yellow paint were all visible from one spot.

Jeff had already removed some materials from inside. The rest, no doubt, was likely the result of vandalism.

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Purity of Intention   10 comments


Purity of Intention

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Across rural North Carolina, old abandoned buildings are either being taken down, or are in an advanced state of decay. Whether they’re removed to make way for one of the new “house farms” that spring up in open fields, or are simply left to melt into the landscape, these testaments to a former, quieter time are becoming much harder to find.

Let me correct that: There are still a number of them out there, but they’re often inaccessible due to being on private property, or sitting in the middle of a vast field with no roads leading up to them.

This one is an exception.

Recently, my friend Jeff Garvey (‘Recycling is for the Birds’ on Facebook) gained unfettered access to this old farmhouse. You may remember my mentioning Jeff, a good man who finds these buildings and with the owner’s permission, dismantles them carefully. He totes the wood and bling back to his workshop where he makes incredible birdhouses using the old materials. Every Saturday morning you can find him at the local farmer’s market with a full display of unique creations. Some of them are truly functional art; others will never see the outdoors because they’re simply too beautiful to give to the birds. (You’ll see one of his better ones soon.)

I spent about four hours alone in and around this beautiful old house. One has to move very carefully… at one point on an upper floor I almost dropped through to the bottom floor. Free access allowed me to spend the necessary time to view, set up, and really soak in what this place is about. From this outside view, we’ll go inside for a few images.

In talking with Jeff about my experience there, I could see the concern on his face as I told him of possible damage done by vandals and pilferers. Some people need to bust brick, I suppose, and others will take glass door knobs, hardware, and insulators so that they can get 50 cents at a flea market. They find little value in these things, and they don’t approach such a place with any sense of respect.

Jeff is different. He loves these old places, and finds a purpose in giving them new life as birdhouses and decorations, so that others can enjoy these relics anew. It’s very important to him; it’s his purpose. There is a purity of intention that I appreciate – I consider it an honor to be able to help him capture the old beauty before it’s gone forever.

Associated Posts:

They Leave The Nest So Early An old school in Arapahoe being dismantled by Jeff.

A Mother’s Kiss One of Jeff’s creations in action “in the wild.”

Grandfather’s Legacy The story of our first visit with Jeff.

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Kirche Sankt-Georg   4 comments


St George wm

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Nothing straight, here…

The St. Georg Protestant Church is located in the historic city center of Hattingen, Germany. Of all buildings in Hattingen, it is surely the one most noticed from afar.

The church was built in 1200 from local Ruhr sandstone. Remains of a Roman pillar base and two column bases from the period after 820 were discovered in 1972 during excavations inside the church.

Since the building anchors the town center, there are many good approaches for a photo, but I think this angle shows it best. The rough cobblestone street and the crooked medieval buildings give a sense of disarray to the scene, so although I straightened up a few lines here and there, it is difficult to find a good point of reference for vertical and horizontal lines. I thought it was better to have a sense of crazy angles in the scene.

Lest you think I went too far with Photoshop’s puppet warp feature, the church’s steeple is truly tilted to one side. Evidently this is one of about 90 listed (and listing) church steeples with this attribute. Some theories suggest that it was built this way deliberately, so that if a storm took down the steeple, it wouldn’t fall on the nave. Others suggest that it’s due to the revenge of an underpaid carpenter. The way I see it, if you put all that slate on a skinny little structure, it’s going to start leaning at some point.

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