Excursion 31, Part 1 (The Rules of Rusticity)

Sadly, a large part of my life has consisted of impatiently lusting after some material object, driven by an ever increasing desire to have it, only to experience great disappointment and letdown upon finally obtaining—usually at great cost or effort—said object itself.   Even when the item lived up to its allure, the wait—that damnable, endless wait—was torture.  I remember as a kid in the early 1980s when I did my first mail order.  I ordered the wargame Pearl Harbor from Wargames West in Albuquerque.  UPS only took a few days to deliver from Albuquerque to El Paso, but it seemed like an eternity to me and every time I heard a vehicle coming down the street I would rush to the door to look for the UPS truck.

Sadly, decades later I have not changed a bit.  So when camera lensmaker Tamron announced an upcoming new lens, I was hooked.

[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.]

Tamron announced a new 16mm-300mm lens, which is an “all-in-one” zoom lens with a remarkable range.  Flexible-range lenses are important for roadside photography, because a roadside photographer typically cannot move very much to change the range, so a lens that can zoom in or out is quite useful, especially as a roadside photographer often experiences conditions in which the time available to take a photograph precludes changing lenses (because the road has no shoulder and a car is coming up from behind, for example).   Of course, what such lenses have in flexibility they tend to pay for in terms of image quality.  This lens, however, made all the usual promises of sharpness, etc., and I fell for it.

The lens wasn’t out yet, so I had to pre-order it and wait for its release.  Physiologically and psychologically I am not equipped to wait.  It just makes me a bundle of nervous energy.  But wait I did, and wait some more after its release for one to be delivered to me.  I finally got it in May 2014 and in late May I had a chance to check it out.

Alas, reality—that pugilistic foe—promptly got in the ring.  I planned an excursion where I would head out on the highway east to Zanesville, then head northwest on back roads, gradually making my way towards East Liverpool.  As I began taking photographs, I discovered that the lens was very slow to focus and that it had lens drift (where the lens shifts somewhat after you depress the shutter button halfway to focus).  It also seemed to have some odd effects on sunlight.  When I got home and examined the photographs I found that, indeed, many of them were nowhere near as sharp as I had hoped they would be.  The result was that I have used this lens only a couple of times since, going back to my previous lens of choice.

However, though a number of the photographs I took turned out to be unsatisfactory, my trip was a very long excursion and I was still able to collect some nice and/or interesting images.  Which I herewith present to you.


Zanesville is a town on the border between central and eastern Ohio, so once I headed northeast from Zanesville, I was in an area of green, rolling hills with farms and pastures, terrain that at times—as here—looked downright magical.


Pigs rooting around in mud may be a little less magical, but still interesting.  Actually, these pigs were the first pigs I had ever seen in all my excursions so far—Ohio has plenty of pigs, but most of them are kept indoors in large livestock barns.  “Free range” swine are rare.  Here the road I was on was a little sunken, so I found myself at eye-level with this pigpen directly adjacent to the road.  I rolled down the passenger side window, braced myself as well as I could, and took a few shots.


I occasionally post some of my photographs to Facebook, just for the hell of it and the gratuitous egotistical instant gratification of getting “likes.”  I posted this porcine close-up to my Facebook account, quite enamored of it, only to have it garner fewer “likes” than any other photograph I have shared on Facebook to this day.  Those unappreciative Facebook bastards.  Well, what are ya gonna do.  Haters gonna hate.  I like it; so there.


Oddly, after my excursions had been swine-free until this day, just a few minutes after taking the previous photographs I came across some more pigs on another farm.  Here we see a mama pig chowing down.  Pig teats seem so less aesthetically appealing to me than cow teats—they look more like cave formations.  Stalactits.


While scooting across the countryside, I came across this tiny trailer, which was a bit mysterious.  Was this a permanent living arrangement?  Even for one person, this would be really cramped as an actual domicile.  But this little trailer in the middle of unremarkable farmland is also clearly not a fishing or hunting shack or a vacation cottage.  Just one of those little oddities you see.


Early in the morning, a horse acts as sentinel.  I didn’t notice the black haze in the background when I was taking the photograph.  There is some heavy industry in the region, and power plants, so I wonder if the haze was output from one of these facilities, as opposed to some dark-colored wispy cloud, which are not very common.


Small cemeteries dot the countryside.  I wanted to take a photograph of this cemetery, so I zoomed in on a random headstone, probably attracted by the heart-shape.  It was only after I got home that I discovered that this is the grave of an infant, who died in 1920 at the age of only six months.  I think the last name may be Carver, but I can’t make out the first name, so I do not even know of this was a boy or girl.


One of the advantages of taking photographs in eastern Ohio, as opposed to western, is that the presence of hills can give you the occasional good vantage point.


I suppose it is just me, but line of fence-posts moving away from me is something I find appealing, especially contrasted against such an attractive countryside.


A lot of times when you drive through the woods, it is nothing but trees (hey, big surprise), and there is not too much to look at.  But the woods often have surprises, as when you turn a corner and suddenly an old, abandoned home peeks out of the foliage.


Here’s another example.  It has been many years since anyone lived here.


Sometimes I think that barns are like mysterious black holes, attracting all sorts of bizarre items into their dark interiors.  On the ground floor of this barn is a large engine, perhaps extracted from a semi.  But if you’ll look up, you’ll see what I find more odd—this farmer has stored rows of stadium-style seating in the rafters of this barn.  How did he think he might ever be able to use these?


This style of porch simply isn’t being built anymore, but I would love to have this porch on my house.


Cabins and farmhouses such as the one in the previous photograph give the Ohio countryside a certain timeless impression, but in fact eastern Ohio is undergoing a period of rapid change, thanks to the fracking boom.  From 2013-2015, much of eastern Ohio’s landscape has been torn up by oil companies sinking pipelines underground.


Here is the township building for Monroe Township in Guernsey County, Ohio.  Townships are a bizarre level of government in Ohio (and much of the midwest, stemming originally from the Northwest Ordinances of the late 1700s).  They are sort of like mini-counties within a county.  Depending on the area, they may provide some road maintenance services, fire services, police services, or other functions.  Some townships in Ohio operate police departments that exist for no purpose other than to run speed traps in order to bring in money; some of these have been disbanded by the legislature after scandals, but others still exist.  Unlike cities or counties, nothing precludes townships in different counties from having the same name, so confusingly, there are 22 different “Monroe Townships” in Ohio.  This particular township is in an entirely rural area and has a population of less than 600.


The further east one goes (except in far northeast Ohio near Lake Erie, the more pastureland and less farmland one encounters, as the terrain becomes less hospitable to farming.


Here we see pastureland and farmland happily existing side by side.


Guernsey County and vicinity has an Amish population, as illustrated by this Amish house in the traditional style in Ohio.


Here’s a little shot of a red-winged blackbird.  This is a common bird, but for some reason I personally rarely see them.


Now, well into Ohio Appalachia, wooded hills were much more common, often surrounding little outposts of farm or pastureland nestled between hills.  More Appalachia, as well as the old steel town of East Liverpool, lay ahead…

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