In which our intrepid hero leaves the safe confines of his home and encounters an unexpected bit of Africa…
On my first excursion out of the city, on April 6, I decided to drive around southeast-central Ohio. Although technically spring, it still seemed like winter. The weather was brisk, the sky soon became somewhat overcast, and leaves were nowhere to be found. Gray seemed to be the color of the day.
However, as I began to leave town driving east on East 5th Avenue, I soon encountered an unexpected splash of color.
[Remember that you can click on any image below for a larger, better version of that image]
Still on the east side of Columbus, I encountered a literally colorful ramshackle barbershop.
What I particularly liked about the barbershop, aside from its randomly colorful appearance, was the bevy of barbers there. Dave Lynch, no doubt a master barber, appears in large letters on the sign. But next to him Nelson Lynch (a brother? Son?) makes his appearance. And wait, what is that below? A sign welcoming their newest barber, Gary. Clearly, though, Gary wasn’t enough. A sign on the door tells the world that another barber is still needed. A lot of hair clearly gets cut here.
Soon enough, I was out of Columbus.
I think it is worth taking a minute to explain the “methodology” I use for the pictures in this blog. From the beginning, I envisioned Unearthed Ohio as primarily consisting of pictures taken from a vehicle; roadside pictures, in other words. There were several reasons for this. The first was that I wanted to cover a fair amount of ground with my excursions and I soon enough discovered that just driving around on back roads and frequently stopping to take pictures is quite time-consuming on its own. To get out of the car and walk somewhere to take pictures would greatly reduce the time I would have. So typically, I get out of the car to take pictures on average slightly less than once per trip. I have a tripod but so far I have not even used it (my inherent laziness comes into play here as well).
Having said that, taking pictures from a vehicle has many limitations; so many that most photographers would probably not do it. But thankfully, I am no photographer, only a lazy guy with a camera. But the limitations are truly serious. First, one has a limited field of vision in which to take pictures. Essentially, pictures must be shot out of the left side window or through the windshield looking forward. Once summer gets into gear, the latter poses a problem in terms of bug smears on the windows—it is usually not feasible to constantly stop to clean windows, so some shots may be less than optimal if forced to be taken through the front windshield. Rarely a picture can be shot out of the right window if it is in just the right position.
I did buy a vehicular camera mount; they are typically intended for spotting scopes but can be used with cameras as they have the same size bolt. One rolls up the window a few inches, then clamps the device to the windowpane. This keeps the camera steady and the device can pan back and forth, up and down. Of course, it means that either the device must be attached at every stop or the window must remain open. In some excursions I have used it frequently; in others, I have primarily taken handheld shots and hoped I was not too shaky.
The second main problem with vehicular shooting is that you have to be able to stop your vehicle in the right spot. Ideally, the road you are on is either deserted or has a very wide shoulder. Or perhaps there is a vacant parking lot across the street, if you are in an urban area. All too often, however, you have only a few seconds in which to get a shot off before you must get moving again, because there are vehicles coming up behind you. Sometimes the traffic is bad and you have no place at all to turn off, so you must simply abandon the shot.
Related to that is the fact that you are usually moving at a fair clip. Often, by the time you realize you have encountered a good subject for a photo, you are already past it. Then you are faced with a decision: do you continue forward, look for a place to turn around and then come back and get the shot? Or do you forget about it and keep on going? Between being unable to stop and not seeing a subject in time, I could not tell you how many images I’ve missed getting. Tons. I console myself with the fact that this means many roads are worth “repeating” for me.
Trips are also worth repeating because of the changing seasons. Landscapes can look remarkable different depending on whether it is spring, summer, fall, or winter. Often winter will reveal sights to you that in summer you would never have imagined lurked behind a veil of foliage.
Below is one example. As I headed east out of Columbus, I eventually drove into the small town of Granville, which turned out to be home to Denison University, one of the older places of higher learning in Ohio (founded in 1831). As I was stopped at an intersection, facing a tree-covered hill, I eventually realized that there was a building up on the top of the hill. Had it been summer, I would never have seen it through the trees. Weeks later, I did some research and discovered that this building is Doan Hall, built in 1878, which originally was the university library but now is the administration building.
Shortly after passing through Denison, I cut south and crossed I-70. Now I was in the Buckeye Lake region of Ohio. As I was driving, an odd image caught the corner of my eye. For a split second, I thought I had seen a zebra in my peripheral vision. Usually those sort of image flashes are reserved for evil clown dolls from the movie Poltergeist. However, I turned and looked and sure enough, I had seen a zebra.
Now, you don’t see a zebra every day and certainly not on the side of the road. So I found a turning point, turned around and came back. I pulled over to the side of the road on a very narrow shoulder. What I saw was a perfectly normal farm, with perfectly normal livestock, with two exceptions. The owner had one zebra and one ostrich. Now, occasionally you will see ostriches on a farm, just like you may see llamas or alpacas or miniature horses, because someone is engaged in a (n often misguided) attempt to raise them commercially. But one ostrich or one zebra doesn’t really get you anything commercially. So I can only assume that the owner of this farm woke up this morning and said to himself, “Goddammit, I want a zebra. And I’d better get an ostrich to keep him company. Now where are my post toasties?”
The pictures are not great because the traffic was bad and I was in an unsafe position and had to take a couple of quick shots and get away.
As I’ve mentioned, I like ruined or dilapidated buildings. Ohio certainly has its fair share of them, both in cities and in the countryside. Below is a nice, slowly collapsing barn. The number of collapsing or collapsed barns in Ohio is huge, simply huge. Often barns are not constructed in as sturdy a fashion as houses, especially if they are built on the cheap. And many farmers, for whatever reason, don’t bother to keep their barns in good condition. They don’t re-paint the barns, don’t do maintenance on them. And very often, when a barn does go to ruin, or collapses, they don’t even bother to clean up the debris. They may just build another barn next to it. Consequently, rural Ohio (like much of rural America generally) is a huge cemetery of ruined barns.
Having said that, I’ve come to consider barns to be “low hanging fruit,” so to speak. I could fill this blog with nothing but barn images, if I so chose, but I choose not to. Instead, barn images will be shown only very sparingly.
Just a quick shot of the road in front of me. I take such pictures every once in a while, mostly to give an impression of what it might be like to be driving in that neck of the woods. Most of my pictures, of course, are taken out the side of my SUV, so every once in a while I like to show people the road ahead of me.
I still am not 100% sure what this image on the side of the building is supposed to be. At first, I thought it was an anthropomorphic hamburger, but I notice it is holding a pizza in its hand. Do anthropomorphic hamburgers like pizza? These are the sort of philosophical questions that keep me up at night. If you have an opinion on what this image might be, please let me know!