Excursion 26, Part 1 (Vortacular)

Unearthed Ohio is active again, after some time off for questionable behavior.  Unlike most blogs, where inactivity for an extended time portends doom, the extended hibernation here was deliberate.  Much of my free time this past year was spent working with a designer and a developer to create a new version of my other website, then I had to import and convert the old content, then catch up, and, well, it was a monumental undertaking.  I had to put Unearthed Ohio to the side—though I never stopped the actual photography.  Now I can catch up a bit.  With this blog entry, I present photographs from a trip I took in mid-February 2014, deep in the heart of the Polar Vortex.  As I write this intro, however, I seem to be deep in the heart of Polar Vortex 2:  Electric Boogaloo.  Two very nasty winters in a row.  The one advantage that a winter offers is winter landscapes and last year I took the opportunity of a recent snowfall to do some experimentation with snowy photography, which I present to you herewith.

[Remember that you can click on each image below to see a larger, better image.  Also, the EXIF data for each image contains GPS coordinates that you can use to locate the exact place where the photograph was taken.]

I had wanted to do some snowy photography for some time, but I needed the right circumstances.  During or just after a snowfall and the back-country roads might pose a problem.  Too late and much of it might melt or otherwise become less pristine.  I think my timing was just right on this trip, which was generally towards northeastern Ohio:  hills, forests, and farms. 


My first stop to take some photographs came a bit west of Mt. Vernon, Ohio, when I found a small abandoned church by the side of the road.  Abandoned barns and houses, as well as businesses, are far more common than churches.  When you think that they once were places where people gathered together in fellowship and love—at least theoretically—it somehow seems all the sadder when they are now abandoned and empty.


Not too much further, I came across a very ordinary barn in a snowy field, but for some reason the barn immediately struck me.  By itself, in the snow, it seemed a lonely edifice.  Later, when it came time to process and choose my photos, I was stuck in a paroxysm of indecision.  Two different compositions both gripped me and would not let me go.  The above composition, which is more distant and shows not only the barn but the field, conveys a sense of separateness and aloneness.  It also gives proper due to the trees and the tree-line.  I really liked it.  However…


With this tighter composition, I lost the context of the field, but I gained a sense of the weather, as you can now see falling snow.  I processed this photograph a bit differently, desaturating it slightly and making it seem flatter, to better capture the “weather.”  I really like this composition, too.  Photographers are supposed to choose one and stick with it, but I simply couldn’t choose, which is why I am a novice.  I decided to show you both.


There weren’t many people out on the roads in this bad weather, so I often had the countryside to myself—save for animals domesticated and otherwise, such as these cattle.  This photograph, setting the barn and the cattle on a false horizon of sorts, conveys a cold and stark sense.  I think you get the idea that even these cows are cold out here.


If you didn’t catch that feeling, perhaps this close up of a snow-spotted cow can convey it to you.


I really liked experimenting in the snow.  I especially wanted to find instances where I could find the textures in a snowy landscape as well as scenes were non-snow items to pop out from a snowy landscape.  I thought this wide shot of a snowy field with distant bales of hay gave off a sort of cold, desolate, windswept feeling.


With this shot, I put the bales front and center to give the eye something to gravitate to.  This makes the photograph a little less desolate, because there are objects of attention close to the viewer.  Until I moved to Ohio, I had never seen hay or alfalfa simply left out in the field all year long, but it is a common thing if a farmer is going to use it himself rather than sell it.  Why go to the effort of putting it all in one place if you don’t have to?  When you need a bale, just go out and grab one.


Here’s the first black and white shot (there are more to come).  I liked this composition because it caught some snow and road texture in the foreground, provided some contrast in the background with the crop remains poking through the snow, and then became a bit dramatic as the plane of the field intersected with the plane of the sky, providing a pleasing tonal contrast.  I almost sounded like I knew what I was talking about, there.


I think I must have jostled my camera GPS or something, because it did not record any GPS information to the photograph.  However, I think this frozen lake must be Apple Valley Lake.  I had a hard time taking this photograph, which I had to take out of the passenger side window, hoping my arm would be steady.  Given the circumstances, I thought it turned out well.  I liked the tracks across the frozen lake—someone was having some fun.


These cattle might not be having as much fun, but I liked the gib of that barn.


Here is a mostly frozen streambed in the forest, with some animal tracks (I presume deer, but what do I know, I’m a city boy) going up it.


This photograph of a snowy pasture is an example of the wonderfulness of snowy textures. In the foreground we can enjoy the granularity of the snow, while further back in the photo we see an empty pasture where the snow is absolutely trampled by the tracks of animals going back and forth across it.  For good measure, there’s a tiny oil well thrown in.


Here’s another example where the texture of the snow is the most important aspect of the photograph.


Anybody reading this far must have a lot of patience for pastoral scenes, because we’ve looked at a lot of farms so far!   This is no exception.  Here I wanted to catch the hay bales in the foreground to juxtapose against the farmhouse in the background.  If you’ve been paying attention, you can see that there was a lot of variety in the amount and nature of cloud cover on this day—in this place at this moment there were only some wisps.


At this point, I was kind of in the middle of nowhere in Knox County.  Among the only other travellers on this road on this day were some Amish folks, as you can see from the very fresh horse and buggy tracks in the snow.


This little stand of trees is perhaps not inherently interesting, but I liked how it looked against the snow.


Parts of eastern Ohio are festooned with giant boulders such as this snowy example here.  I do not know if they were deposited by the glaciers from somewhere else or just the product of local erosion.  But I like them.


Here is something sans cows!  This is a facility of the Briar Hill Stone Company (probably a mill) near the tiny hamlet (population 272, salute!) of Glenmont, Ohio.  The Briar Hill Stone Company quarries and processes sandstone.


I liked this little oil well positioned perfectly on the crestline of a large hill.


Another abandoned church—two in one day.  The stone over the semi-circular window in front lets us know this church was built in 1888.  It kind of looks as if it was converted into a garage or barn at some point.


Snow and icicles on a livestock barn in eastern Ohio.


I just had to laugh when I drove by this house, along a country road in Carroll County.  It is the sort of thing you only see as an Internet graphic, not in real life.  But I actually got to drive by this little joke.



My excursion ended with this photograph of an abandoned, overgrown building in Sandyville, Ohio, a tiny unincorporated community in Tuscarawas County.  The building was just too close to the road to take a satisfactory photograph and I was not very satisfied with any I took.  This was the best of the lot.  I see a lot of buildings—usually houses—that feature this sort of overgrowth, coming up right next to the building.  My theory is that birds or squirrels on the roofs (or, in this case, stairs) must drop seeds that then sprout right next to the building.  Otherwise, I cannot account for this phenomenon.

Thus endeth the lesson.

2 thoughts on “Excursion 26, Part 1 (Vortacular)

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