Excursion 12, Part 1 (A Man of No People)

In which our intrepid hero explains his hermit ways…

One reaction that I’ve had to the photographs posted in these blog entries has been to wonder why my photos rarely ever contain people in them.  One person who viewed some of the photos in the blog wondered jokingly if they were images taken after the Zombie Apocalypse.  It’s true that human beings are far and few between in my photos.  One reason is that my photos are all developed using Soylent Green software.  But there are other reasons, too.

[Remember that you can click on each image below to see a larger, better image]

There are aesthetic reasons and practical reasons why people do not show up often in my photographs here.  The main aesthetic reason is that most of my photographs tend to be either architectural in nature or landscapes.  In neither type of image are people the primary point of interest.  A close second reason is that my aesthetic interests lean strongly towards the dilapidated, decayed, aged or ruined.  Throw a kid into such a scene and it kind of ruins the effect.  I want people who view such photos to get a little of what I feel:  a sense of time gone by, of ages past, or perhaps a sense of loss or loneliness.  For someone like me, for whom Shelley’s famous line “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:  Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair” has a powerful effect on the soul, it is the people of the past rather than those of the present, who hold sway.  Call it the historian in me, or the romantic.

The practical reasons are considerable as well.  First, keep in mind that my methodology is roadside photography:  I am in a vehicle, taking photographs from a camera mounted to a car window.  That’s a bit unusual to start with.  I am thus more conspicuous than the average “candid” photographer taking shots of people.  You can, perhaps, imagine as well the reaction someone might have to seeing a big, bearded guy in a black SUV taking photographs of you or, say, your children.  You’d be reaching to press “911” in a heartbeat.  In a different excursion a few months after I took the pictures in this entry, one angry person actually chased me about 15 miles in his car.  I do this for relaxation, not adrenaline!  Moreover, as many of the photographs I take involve dilapidated houses, I do not necessarily want to capture images of their residents and post them publicly, especially as most such people may be poor, debilitated, and/or elderly.

A roadside vantage point is also not always the best place to get shots, especially if one is typically on the move rather than sitting in the same spot for a long period of time.  I have taken more pictures with people in them than I actually post here, but most were simply not good or interesting enough to post.  There have been other times when I wanted to take a picture but the would-be subject declined to be photographed.

As a result of all this, the bulk of my photos will continue to be pretty people-free.  However, I can say that there are a few pictures in blog entries to come that will feature actual human beings (as have some past blog entries).  So don’t lose all hope.


For this particular excursion, on June 15, 2013, I decided to head north from Columbus.  I headed north for some time, then turned in a more easterly direction before finally looping back.  These pictures are all from my outbound journey.  The above photograph, taken during my “ice cream shack phase,” shows the perils of running ice cream shacks—many of them just don’t last very long.  This now-closed Creme Corner is in Sunbury, Ohio, a very pleasant village (population 4,389, salute!) about 10 miles northeast of Columbus.  The village has almost doubled in size in just the past 10 years; Delaware County, in which it is located, is the fastest growing county in Ohio (in part because much of the county is an extended suburb of Columbus).


I’ve mentioned before that old barns are “low hanging fruit” in Ohio, but I did like this large and nicely weathered old barn in the early stages of becoming overgrown.  It was still stately, the barn equivalent of a red giant star before its final decline.  This is the first of a quinttych of barn images in this entry.  All the barns are red, too, but this is the least so—only the roof has any color left in it.


Here’s a close-up of the outbuilding, framed by the under- and overgrowth.


Barn number two of the quadtych is this very functioning barn, though a bit weathered.  There were actually two men loading the wagon but anti-social person that I am, I managed to take at least one photo in which they were not present, and by God, that’s the one you get.


Next up we have this large and decidedly red barn, at least in part a livestock barn judging from the pasture that surrounds it.


The fourth barn in my quinttych of red barns is this little barn.   It is far smaller than the typical barn is, so the old car in front of it looks disproportionately large next to the barn, because our minds are conditioned to think of barns as being larger.  I did not realize until putting this blog entry together that I had actually taken photographs of five different red barns in a row.


The best is last, though these images actually appear in the order I took them.  This is one of my favorite photographs on Unearthed Ohio.  I was able to pull into a driveway down the road from this barn to get this off-street angle looking back at the barn.  I was amazed to see how everything in the landscape pulled the eye straight towards the barn:  the road, the fence, the power line—even the clouds cooperated.  I was extraordinarily lucky to get this shot, I think, and on a perfect day.


Just to satisfy your curiosity, here is a close-up of that barn, which may be in the process of being disassembled for its lumber.


And here we are, back to another ice cream shack in the harsh glare of the mid-day sun.  Many landscape photographers never take photographs in mid-day, and one can see why.  However, someone engaging in the hobby of roadside photography as I do does not have the option of only taking photographs during sunrise and sunset; the whole point is to drive and explore as well as take photographs, so one must make do with less than optimal conditions from time to time, whether it is is weather or time of day or something else.  Just keep in mind that if I had not been driving in mid-day, I would not have been able to take the photograph of the preceding barn.  This ice cream shack is Corner Cones, which is in the tiny hamlet of Marengo (population 342, salute!).  There are actually a few tiny, tiny people in this photo, if you strain your eyes.  They watched me photograph the shack.


I believe I was still in Marengo when I took this photograph of an interesting dilapidated residence.


Outside of Marengo, back in the countryside, I found this tiny abandoned house.  It is rather unremarkable, and I was not able to get a good shot of it because of the foliage, but I show it here anyway in order to frame the story of the following photograph.


While I was taking the previous photograph I caught some motion out of the corner of my eye.  I turned to look and what did I see but a line of sheep stepping from out of the underbrush!  One by one, in single file, they emerged from the foliage and began walking across the grassy field.


No human or other animal was guiding or herding them; they were on their own.  They traipsed past me and then reentered the underbrush at another place.  I just happened to be in the right place at the right time to witness their little trek.  This is one of the things that I like so much about this hobby—cool, unexpected little things happen like this all the time.


I think by now I had turned east and perhaps had already crossed over I-71 and was paralleling it heading northeast.  While driving up one country road, a glimpse of color caught my eye and I stopped to discover a brilliantly-colored restored old pick-up truck peeking out from inside a garage.  From the time I was four or five years old I have been fascinated by old cars—the feeling has never gone away over the decades.  There have been many times when I have wished I were more mechanically inclined so that I could keep and maintain and antique vehicle like this.

While I was stopped on the side of the road taking this photograph, the owner of this property saw me and so wandered over to find out what mischief I was up to.  He cheered up after I explained what I was doing and that I wanted to take a picture of his nice truck, so we chatted for a while.  He then gave me a tip:  he owned some land not too far away that he rents out and the person living there has an antique vehicle of his own, essentially one of those situations where someone buys an old car to restore but never actually gets around to actually doing it.  He gave me directions as to where this old car might be, so I set off on a mini-adventure to find the vehicle.


Along the way, I found this abandoned farmhouse.  I remain bemused at how many ruined or abandoned houses I see in which the yard around the wrecked house is still kept up quite nicely even if the house is not.


A few minutes later, I managed to locate the antique vehicle in question, an old Ford.  It says Ford right above the grill, but I looked a number of pictures of old Fords and couldn’t find an exact match, so I am not sure what model this is.  It would seem to be from the period roughly 1935-1946 or so.


I wish someone could/would fix this vehicle up.  It deserves to be driven again!

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