Archive for the ‘rural’ Tag

School’s Out, Bigthes!   6 comments


School's Out, Bigthes!

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I suppose whoever painted the end wall might have been served by staying in school a bit longer.

Where I live, we don’t get a chance to shoot “Urbex” very often, as Rural best defines this area. I’ll admit to a bit of professional jealousy when I see photos from my friends shooting in cities, abandoned warehouse and mills, and other places that demand a backpack full of Purell hand sanitizer.

Well, I found one. Even here.

I was returning from a shoot recently when I noticed a dilapidated complex of buildings just off the road, but mostly hidden behind overgrown foliage. I went back to investigate. It was an old elementary school with a perfect setup: All doors were off their hinges; there wasn’t a single No Trespassing sign to be found; and I had my good, heavy boots on.

Mad respect for my Urbex friends. This stuff isn’t easy. Inside, there were many hazards to avoid. In places it was pitch-dark. And I was alone. When you go through a place like this, it’s about more than finding interesting angles and vignettes – it’s a mood, a creepy feeling of the lives and experiences that were once here. Every little sound causes a bit of a shiver up the spine. Then you start thinking… Is there something here I don’t want to see? What if a rat nibbles on me? What compelled vandals to trash this place?, the fun of breaking stuff, or an utter hatred for their school-prison?

I left the building and was bathed with bright sunshine and fresh air. Enough creep in one day for an Urbex rookie.

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They Leave the Nest So Early…   7 comments


They Leave the Nest So Early...

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My friend, Jeff Garvey, invited me out to an abandoned schoolhouse near Arapahoe, N.C. Jeff reclaims old buildings slated for demolition, and repurposes the wood and materials to make absolutely delightful birdhouses that reflect the character of old N.C.

After taking this frame from the second story, I went downstairs to look for more trouble.

I could hear a lot of chirping on the first floor. It seemed that multiple birds were inside. A mother wren was making quite a racket, frenetically flying back and forth among the rafters of the schoolhouse. Following the source of all the chirping, I found a dilapidated nest on the floor near a pile of lumber, and two very young baby birds nearby… the source of the commotion.

Jeff knew what to do, so I called him in for a look. He put the nest back where it belonged, tucked it into the rafters, and then picked up the kids and carefully placed them back in the nest. “Mom” was pleased, although she still put up a fuss as we backed out of the room.

(Please don’t worry about handling baby birds in a situation like this. The parents will NOT abandon them. Birds have a limited sense of smell and cannot detect human scent. That old advice we learned as kids turns out to be a myth.)

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Above is Nikon D600, Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8, f/8 at 24mm, nine frames with Promote Control, merged to 32-bit in Photomatix Pro, adjusted in Adobe Camera Raw, then Photoshop for luminosity masking and other adjustments.

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Back Whence It Came   6 comments


Back Whence It Came

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Tree. Wood. Ore. Metal. A wagon forged by the hand of a man. All will decay. Nothing lasts forever.

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We descended to the bottom of the trail shortly before 5PM, knowing our target. Placed near the equipment shed for the old Stone House, these wagons have been in place and deteriorating beautifully for years.

Unfortunately, since it was 5 o’clock, a few maintenance people were converging on the shed, parking their trucks in all the good spots. Problem. I didn’t think twice before walking up to one of them and jocularly saying, “You know, I traveled over 1,000 miles just to shoot these wagons.” Oh… you’ll move your truck? Why, thanks!

The guys were talking together, but surely also sizing up these people from ‘Away.’ One of them, an older gentleman in bright red suspenders who looked like a cross between Albert Einstein and Kris Kringle, was Frank. I know this because he had a huge sign made of welded pipe running across the back window of his pickup truck – his “Office”.

The sign said, “F – R – A – N – K

I asked him, “Are you Frank?”

“Nope. I’m Ernest,” he replied in a deep New England accent.

“Somehow I doubt that,” I said as we shared a knowing laugh.

And with that, we were introduced to Frank Eastman, a colorful local who has tended the grounds of the Stone House for several decades. After the other guys went home, we chatted with Frank for quite a while. He had worked with the Maine DOT for many years. We talked about how someone had once offered to restore the wagons for display, but Frank had declined, preferring to see them decay in their natural form. After a time, he felt comfortable enough to let us in on a local trail secret — a waterfall that most people don’t know about — and he asked if I could shoot it for him someday.

That’s for next year, when I’ll likely meet up with Frank again. Some people you just want to keep in touch with.

The Donkey Conveys   11 comments


The Donkey Conveys

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Leaving Moosehead Lake in Maine, we found this relic on the side of the road, causing a quick turnaround to take some shots. Luckily, the owners of the property were nearby, and they allowed me to have a look around (but not inside, thankfully.)

I was a bit surprised when I went around the back of the house and found a donkey on a line. Yes, a real donkey. Although I tried to avoid him, he kept coming after me, either looking for a handout or a free portrait.

I didn’t have any food on hand.

_DSC5749 - Version 2

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Deere Prudence   10 comments


Deere Prudence

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It’s prudent to be mindful of your surroundings when you’re out exploring.

Always on the lookout for good locations, we passed by this scene and I couldn’t help but note the John Deere tractor parked next to an old shed. The placement looked idyllic – a perfect setup.

We turned around in a driveway down the street and came back for the shot. The tractor and sheds were set back from the road quite a ways, and I wanted to get closer. But, a small, abandoned house was just to the right, and there was a prominent, hand-painted sign hung on an old tree that conveyed a clear message: “No Trespassing.” The driveway where we had just turned around was for a newer house, and as is often the case, the newer digs are built off to the side while these old beauties dissolve into the landscape.

The whole setup was just creepy enough that I didn’t choose to find the owner for permission, and I sure didn’t think it was a good idea to go any further onto the property. People can get ornery around here when you mess with their stuff.

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Processed as an HDR image with texture overlay and sepia toning via Silver Efex Pro. I wanted to create deep, mysterious shadows on the edges while maintaining a lighted path for the eye to travel to the tractor. Hopefully, the overall effect gives the viewer the same trepidatious feeling I had when taking the shot.

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Elbow Grease   12 comments


Elbow Grease

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Sometimes, you just get lucky.

We were driving through a rural area and passed by an interesting place, so we wanted to turn around to check it out. Just before our turn out, we saw a man and woman approaching an old, abandoned house through a yard full of weeds and grasses. As we passed the house again, we noticed the woman standing on the porch.

The place we wanted to see was closed, so we turned back to our original route. As we approached the abandoned house once again, we saw the couple waving us down. Perhaps there was some sort of trouble.

The couple had seen us passing by for the third time and thought that we were ‘locals’ who were checking them out. As they told us later, “Everyone around here is related, so we thought it would be a good idea to let you know that this house belongs to our family.” Good information to have on both counts, I thought.

We heard their interesting story about how the man and his sister had been adopted by different families, and had only found each other recently after a 17 year search. The old house had belonged to the sister’s father, who passed away some time ago, leaving the house unoccupied.

Being the curious sort – and, of course, armed with a camera and tripod – I asked if I could poke around a bit. What had once been a beautiful old farm house was now collapsing in on itself. Along the front and sides, all of the doors and windows were blocked with plywood. Rats! (Um, not real rats. I just couldn’t see inside.) Around back, though, there was an old mud room door with no glass in the windows, just some loose cardboard that had seen better days.

“Would you mind if I just stuck my camera through this window?”, I asked. I find it never hurts to ask. “No problem.”

It was so dimly lit inside that I didn’t even know what was in there, and given the musty, moldy smell coming through, I wasn’t about to go inside. Apparently, it had been quite some time since the detergents and mops were used there.

The “skylight” is courtesy of last year’s Hurricane Irene, which had peeled back a significant portion of the tin roof. It’s a look.

It’s just a simple Rurex (Rural Exploration) composition – one not particularly noteworthy, at that – but it gave us the chance to stop along our route, do a little exploration, meet some interesting people, and then check for ticks.

Pete and Kelly, if you see this on the blog, please drop me a line at my email address. Thanks for letting us peek into the old place. It was a pleasure to meet you.

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Little House Full of Prairie   5 comments


Little House Full of Prairie
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Soooo… as I was sayin’, it can be difficult to find good photo targets here in the summer due to the overwhelming growth of foliage. In the winter, it dies back and you can actually see what you’re shooting.

We were returning home by a back road one day when we zipped by this place. I just had to turn around to get the shot.

The place looked abandoned, and I would have loved to find a way in — not likely — but I left wondering why all the windows had been left open. Maybe someone actually wanted to speed up the process of decay? Perhaps they want to leave an easy exit for the raccoon? Curious…

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