In which our intrepid hero finds himself transported to days long past…
I am always aware of my photographic limitations. Not only does the methodology I employ (roadside photography) have many drawbacks that limit the number of good photographs I can take, but my own inherent limitations reduce that number still further. As of this writing, I have been taking these sorts of photographs for only around eight months; these particular photographs were taken after only three months. So much of my photography is either of the “even a broken clock is right twice a day” variety or of the “interesting subject, not so good photograph” variety. I acknowledge that. On the other hand…
[Remember that you can click on each picture below to see a larger, better version]
…I do try to get better. Part of that is the easy way: I have been steadily improving the photographic equipment that I have. I now shoot in RAW, rather than JPEG. I just recently (a few weeks ago) purchased my first DSLR and have been learning how to use it. Of course, you can buy more expensive golf clubs and still be a crappy golfer. So I have also for some time been reading books on photography and absorbing many of the lessons therein. And I have purchased photography, such as Adobe Lightroom, that allows me to post-process and enhance the photographs that I do take so that I can improve them.
The images taken here, the fourth and final set from my June 15, 2013, excursion into a near corner of northeastern Ohio, speak to both my limitations as well as my desire to improve. At the time these images were shot, I had very little ability to shoot in low light conditions and produce good exposures. However, as I mentioned, I purchased Adobe Lightroom and the images from this excursion were the first that I used this program on (I may go back and improve some older photographs if time permits). Lightroom allows a photographer to tweak many different aspects of a photograph, ranging from exposure to highlights and shadows to white balance to colors, among many others. It is really designed for photographs shot in RAW, which is a file format that preserves far more information than JPEG files do, but it can work to a lesser extent with JPEG files as well.
By this time in my excursion, as I had begun to head back in the direction of Columbus after a very long day, the light was beginning to dim as the early summer evening finally turned into a true evening. Ordinarily at this juncture, I would have put the camera away and driven home. However, I kept coming across fascinating (to me, anyway) images or vistas, so I kept reaching for my camera regardless, hoping against hope that some of the images would turn out okay. When I got home and examined them I discovered that most did not turn out all that well. Most were under-exposed, while others had other problems. I was naturally disappointed. But months later, in November after I purchased Lightroom, I decided to use these photographs as guinea pigs to discover what if anything could be salvaged from them.
Well, I was frankly amazed at how much Lightroom could do with some of these photographs, even as JPEGs. They helped make several photographs I thought completely unusable to be actually attractive and they improved the appearance of almost all of them. It was a practical object lesson for me of the advice that some digital photographers give, which is that if faced with the possibility of overexposure or underexposure, choose underexposure (i.e., darker photographs), because more can be salvaged from them in post-processing than with overexposed photos. So if you like any of the photographs in this set, you probably have Lightroom to thank more than me.
I will start with this rather mundane image of an abandoned house being reclaimed by foliage. It is not a great photograph, but I include it here because the presence of the satellite dish helps us understand how quickly vegetation can reclaim something like a house. One tends to think of that in terms of ruins in some place like Cambodia or Vietnam but that can happen in temperate America very quickly, too.
In the middle of summer, I was still very much into my “ice cream shack phase” (if you are tired of pictures of ice cream shacks, I understand your pain, but these taper off as the year wears on), which is how Chilly Willy’s Dari Bar of Newcomerstown, Ohio, shows up here. The interestingly-named Newcomerstown, a village of some 3,822 (salute!), was a former Native American village. The hamlet is supposedly named after Chief Newcomer (Netawatwes), a leader of the Lenape people in the 1700s, although there are other explanations booted about. Ohio State University football coach Woody Hayes hailed from this village, as did baseball star Cy Young.
Also in Newcomerstown is this abandoned factory. I tried, but failed, to find out what this used to be.
It might have been part of the Heller Brothers factory, which made files (acquired in the 1950s by Simonds). Half of the large abandoned Simonds factory burned down not long ago, so this may be something different.
I saw some interesting houses in the area, one of which is this well-kept and imposing old house.
I passed by this house more or less accidentally. Far more mundane and modest than the previous house, it nevertheless was remarkable in that I could not help but notice a huge number of cats milling about the front lawn of this house. I count no fewer than eleven cats in this photograph and there may have been more around. With something like this, your mind can’t help but start constructing stories and explanations. Perhaps a woman lives there who started feeding a neighborhood “stray” cat and more and more started showing up. This might be right around mealtime for these felines and they are waiting for her to open the door and give them some food.
Twilight in the countryside. Here an old farmhouse in the background is framed by the large barn and small corral in front of it. I confess I quite like this shot.
I like this one, too. A dirt road winds past an abandoned barn in front of two wooded hills. I added vignetting to the photograph, which is a darkness in the corners that helps highlight things in the center. To me, it also provides a sense of distance to outdoor subjects, almost as if we are looking through the window of a time machine. This photograph produces just the lonely and desolate feeling that I love to get.
If my wobbly memory serves me correctly, this abandoned house was on the same piece of property.
If you drive in eastern Ohio you tend to regularly transition between woods, farmland, and towns. Here is a shot of the center of the town of New Philadelphia (population 17, 288, salute!). I was struck by the brotherly love exemplified by this large welcome sign in the town square: Welcome To Our City. I don’t think I have ever seen anything quite like that before and I was charmed by it. New Philadelphia is an attractive town and I’d like to take more pictures of it under better conditions. The town is somewhat unusual for the region in that it has seen slow but pretty consistent growth for some time. Somehow this town also boasts Woody Hayes as among its natives. In what I suspect is an amusing incidence of Wikipedia vandalism, the town also apparently boasts of “Mic Horvath, Freelance Vigilante and Defender of Justice.”
Even low hills can offer nice vantage points and vistas, as in this shot of the Ohio countryside on a summer evening.
Conversely, if you are lower and the surrounding terrain is higher, you might also get a good view, as in this case of some cows grazing on a verdant hill.
Another ice cream shack? Yes. This time of a group of Mennonite women waiting in line at the Dover Road Dari, in Sugarcreek, Ohio (population 2,220, salute!).
Ohio also has the occasional bit of marsh or swampland. Coming from the desert, I find swamps pretty fascinating.
I think these may be nuphar advena, or swamp lilies (though obviously not in bloom).
Here’s another nice (to me, anyway) shot of the Ohio countryside at twilight. I like the intersecting planes in this picture: fields going one way, the slope of a hill going the other, etc.
Some curious cows staring at me from the horizon of a hill. There’s a Far Side cartoon in here somewhere, I can feel it.
I liked this pasture with unshorn sheep in it. The ones on the ground remind me of Cordwainer Smith’s classic novel Norstrilia. Much of the output of Smith, a wonderful writer who died relatively young, was devoted to a future history in which an immortality drug called “stroon” plays an important role. Stroon is derived from chemicals produced by giant “sick sheep,” the source of the infinite wealth of the eponymous planet Norstrilia.
I took this photograph, which is nothing but cornfields, precisely because it is nothing but cornfields. This was the one time I have ever been able to say that I could see nothing but corn all the way to the horizon. Fields in Ohio tend to be relative small and they are often bordered by woods or at least lines of trees. Then there are frequent farmhouses, barns, and other outbuildings. So views like this are actually very rare in Ohio, at least to my experience. In some place like Iowa or Nebraska I suspect they are far more common.
Here’s a shot of dilapidated—but inhabited—old farmhouse nestled against a wooded hill.
And now we get to the last couple of pictures, which are favorites of mine. I just love this shot of an old car framed by the plant, the rock wall, and the even older house. It is one of my favorite shots. Someone told me that the car in the photograph is a Packard and I think he is right. It looks an awful lot like a 1954 Packard Cavalier. This image seems like it could have come from decades ago (there is one tiny but noticeable anachronism for the eagle-eyed). I realized that this image would be a good candidate for a black and white photograph, so I tried it:
I think the result is excellent and I like the black and white version even more than the color version. I was originally only going to include the black and white image in this blog entry but decided to provide both, so that you could be the judge.
I saved this image for last, though in doing so it is slightly out of order. Chronologically it should be third to last, not last. But I wanted to end with this image because the original picture was so dark as to be unusable. Originally, I was not going to include this image at all. But I decided to try to salvage it with Lightroom and was amazed at the results. Through Lightroom I was able to take what was originally a photograph I wouldn’t even want to share with someone else and actually make it (in my opinion) attractive. I feel like Lightroom actually gave me a present here and allowed me to create an image I am actually quite fond of.