Excursion 30 (Rider on the Storm)

In mid-May 2014 I had to travel to Chicago for work.  I brought my camera with me so that, on the way home, I might be able to take a few photographs once I crossed back into Ohio.  As I actually did so, I found myself in front of a major spring storm heading east from Indiana into Ohio.  I wasn’t storm-chasing—the storm was chasing me.  As I drove home, this game me some nice opportunities to turn around and take some photographs of the oncoming storm.  Which I now present to you.

[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.]

Eastern Ohio, with its hills and forests, is generally more visually interesting than the flat farmlands of western Ohio.  But throw in a huge rainstorm and all bets are off, because the wide open spaces and big skies of western Ohio can provide observers with some incredible stormy visions.


Northwestern Ohio has a fair amount of wind turbines and on a day like this, I am sure you can imagine how busy they were.  I have always found wind turbines attractive and impressive, and they are a good renewable source of energy.  But I have noticed that in Ohio (probably elsewhere, too), there is a lot of NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard-ism) going on regarding them, with people putting signs on their lawns proclaiming “No Wind Turbines.”  I have little patience for this sort of attitude.  People want the conveniences of modern life, but they seem to think that such conveniences simply are conjured up out of the aether.


The wind turbines stand sentinel against the storm.


This shot is looking north-northwest and we can see the storm looming ominously.  The photo above and the photo below are different versions of the same photograph; I used two different processing strategies to see which one better captured what I experienced watching this scene.  For those who are not familiar with digital photography, digital cameras take photographs that are rather dull-looking and unsharpened.  All cameras can take those basic images and automatically apply contrast, sharpening, color enhancement and other processes to the image; these are saved as JPEG files, the basic image file.  “Advanced” photographers (or those, like me, who aspire one day to be such) can shoot in another file format called RAW.  RAW files do not have any of that automatic processing applied, so the images don’t look good right out of the camera.  They require you to do all those finishing touches manually, using post-processing software.  This means that the same photograph might come out looking very different if two different photographers each post-process that image, because they might have different strategies or visions in mind.


With this second version of the photograph, I used a technique called HDR, which combines several shots at different exposures.  You can see that there are no major differences between the two, but a lot of more subtle differences that combine to make the photograph seem different.  Both seem equally good (or bad, depending on your opinion).  If these photos were animated GIF files, you’d see the grass whipping back and forth in these shots.


The local equine population was not nearly as excited about the storm as I was.


Storm or no storm, that grass looks good.


For some, there are other types of food available.


By this point, I had still just barely crossed over into Ohio.  Halfway through Van Wert County, on the Indiana border, is the town of Van Wert (population 10,846, salute!).  Van Wert was founded in what once was a huge swamp encompassing large chunks of northwestern Ohio (actually, five previous towns were founded and sunk into the swamp, but the sixth one STOOD UP).  Van Wert reached a peak of population in 1960 and has had a very slow but still pretty steady population decline since then.  Still, it is reasonably prosperous.

In Van Wert, I encountered the Fountain Inn.  It is a small (fewer than 20 rooms) motel-style venue dating back at least 60 years, but family-owned and very community-minded.  At one point in the past it seems to have been called Smitty’s Motel and at another the “Sunset Inn.”  A lot of old motels like this have gone to seed, and this was more or less true at one point for this establishment, but owner Dee Makwana seems to have turned it around and it actually seems cheery and nice; I hope it prospers for a long time.


In the background of the previous photograph, and more up close here, you can see the clock tower of the Van Wert County Courthouse, a very attractive building that is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.


One of the coolest things I saw in Van Wert was the sign for Balyeat’s Coffee Shop, advertising “young fried chicken,” which I didn’t even know was a thing.  Balyeat’s has been around nearly a century—since 1924.  When I come across things like this, I want them always to survive.  Four hundreds years from now I want to fly to Van Wert on my jet pack, walk into Balyeat’s, take off my spacesuit, and have some young fried chicken.


My dawdling in Van Werts allowed the storm to catch up to me.  I love storms—perhaps it is because I grew up in the desert—and they always fill me with a positive nervous energy.  Indeed, storms themselves always seem full of energy—and I think it must be infectious.  When I see angry clouds swirling around, my insides start to swirl around.


I think this photograph, of all the ones here, most successfully captures the pure energy of a storm.  To me, at least, there is so much inherent energy in this photograph that you can almost see the clouds churning.  I have been posting occasional photographs to my facebook profile over the past several months and, to date, this is the one that people seem to have liked the most.  I like it, but I’m biased.


You can see the waving grass in this photo, too, of an old one-room schoolhouse repurposed into a storage shed.  You can see, above the sliding door, a little stone embedded into the building.  It reads “Dist. No. 1, Jennings Tp [township], 1899.”  So this storage shed is actually 116 years old.


This abandoned old house has weathered a lifetime of storms.


This barn has probably seen its fair share of storms, too.  Notice the line of lightning rods across its roof, a common barn accoutrement.


But we can end this excursion on a slightly more sunny note and give a nod to this 1956 DeSoto Adventurer.  I would love to see someone restore this automobile to its original glory.

7 thoughts on “Excursion 30 (Rider on the Storm)

  1. Love this excursion! Your storm photos are so cool. I especially like the one where you see the entire storm over the farm. I appreciated your showing us a couple of versions of photos, after you had worked on them. Interesting how it changes the look.

  2. Terrific photos of my home town, Van Wert. It was a pleasure seeing these and I remember as a kid enjoying the wide view we would have of these Spring and Summer storms.

  3. Mark, that photo of the grey barn beneath the sky gone crazy (the one so many people like) is truly a fine work of art. A picture that good doesn’t need words to explain it…other than to say that it is visual eloquence of the highest order.

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