Our first urbex stop was a bust so we stopped at this abandoned car dealership today.
Click the images to enlarge them.
Our first urbex stop was a bust so we stopped at this abandoned car dealership today.
Click the images to enlarge them.
"The winter of my discontent" is how I should frame this story, because that’s the capital “T" truth. I was living in Oswego in a small, barely heated, basement apartment. I thought I was going to freeze to death, and used every burner on the electric range as my fireplace. My friends had all moved home, or gotten lives and there I was- alone- in a sterile, unfinished apartment that used to be a computer store. After teaching, I would return home to the same plain white walls as my classroom, cold from the bluish tint of florescent lights. I was commuting everyday in brutal snowstorms, to Liverpool, and some-what teaching. I say some-what teaching because it was survival, plain and simple. The teacher part was killing me. I was imprisoned in a small room with four desks, thirty kids, no books, no tools, no supplies. Basically, all the things a Technology Education teacher needs to survive.. I had none. The best part was that I student taught the exact same group of kids a few months earlier, but now I did not have the soft, warm protection of the master teacher. I was fresh meat and they smelled the blood. The kids hated me, and I was starting to think they were right and I was wrong. I screamed, I pleaded, I guilted, but mostly I was ashamed. Forty minutes later the cycle would repeat. It wasn’t that I didn’t try, but teaching was the first thing in my life that didn’t work by thinking it through and working hard. Every other problem in my life I steamrolled by either ingenuity or sheer volume of hard work. Neither worked. I learned my first hard lesson: you can’t manipulate the human condition.
The day this picture was taken was the bottom of a series of events that reached the depths of all I had. I had thanked God for the snow day, as hours earlier I had decided that if something didn’t happen soon I was going to have to make a change. The scariest moment in your life is real clarity without options, and I got all I needed that morning. We had received a huge amount of snowfall overnight and there was so much snow the piles were above the roof of my truck. The family next door woke me with their snowblower, and I grabbed a shovel and a camera to capture the ridiculous amount of snow we had. As I stood there admiring my shoveling job the neighbors dog walked over and stared up at me, peering into my soul. He lingered, staring up at me, and I snapped this picture. If you look close enough you can see a reflection of me in 2004, in his eyes.
I’m not sure what he saw, or what he understood from looking at me. But minutes later the sun came out, and my life slowly started to change. Shortly after, I moved to Liverpool, got a personal trainer, and connected with some friends. I always think back to that day, to that dog, and wonder why he needed to see me hit the bottom, why he needed to see it in my eyes to be sure. I’m not sure I received any guidance that day, but I definitely knew someone was watching out for me.
LeMoyne Manor was one of those explores that is right under your nose as you're searching the internet for abandoned buildings. I had driven by it every single day, dropping my daughter off at daycare. So glad Jordan and I got to tour the building a few times before it came down.
The property was steeped in history. Built as a mansion by the famous architect Ward Wellington Ward in 1916 it was a beautiful property overlooking the lake. Later it became a banquet hall and motel where many people in CNY had their wedding. In the 1990's the property also served as a halfway house for recovering drug and alcohol addicts. Plans for the space include retail and luxury apartments starting in 2019.
I tend to go on a lot of tangents, and lately, maybe it's my age but I have been listening to and reading a lot of philosophy. Whether it be Alan Watts, Wayne Dyer, or Bucky Fuller I am fully engrossed into it now in my life. Why at this point in my life am I falling down this rabbit hole is a whole other story.
The big idea said many ways is:
1. The universe is rigged in your favor.
2. The universe is conspiring to fulfill your wishes.
3. Stop trying so hard and just let it happen.
So this brings me to this set of photographs. I went down to the city to continue my Syracuse street project and I decided that instead of hunting for street photos I would fish for them. This involves finding a cool scene or location and waiting for interesting people to walk through it. This is definitely different than the way I typically do street photography, where I typically hunt for images by walking many blocks looking for interesting things to photograph.
I found a cool scene with a set of stairs and sun peeking down the alley just to the south of the courthouse. I set up on a small bench and just waited with my camera. The problem was everybody who was coming through the scene was taking a ramp down instead of the stairs I wanted them too.
About the time I said, "OK I will give it five more minutes and I will move on," a national grid truck pulled up onto the sidewalk blocking the other ramp, even going to so far as to put cones up. It was magic! Now people were forced down my set of stairs and I sat there shooting pictures every few moments in glorious succession.
So here are the photos from that outing and a few more to explain the space. I threw a few others in from the day at the end of this series.
I crossed out the 2018 as soon as I did the math for the new dishwasher. The small crayon drawing of our future camper had been hanging on our fridge for 3-4 years and we looked weekly at Craigslist but at this point, it was over.
Our pocketbooks were exhausted because we were deep into a bathroom remodel, it was the end of summer, and our dishwasher finally threw in the towel.
All we were looking for was a used Rockwood Roo, 19' or less, with a dinette and couch, in incredible condition.
No big deal, nothing specific!
The problem was after searching season after season, people either held on to the Roo's or they were destroyed. We had looked at a few with holes in the floor, soft spots or complete water damage. I just didn't want another headache.
On Tuesday night at 11 pm I spotted Mike's Roo, and it could not be in better condition. It was almost too perfect. I emailed and set up a time to see it the next day. Unbeknowst to Jen, I also booked a one night stay camping trip, because I just knew we were going to buy it.
That Saturday afternoon we pulled into Fillmore Glen State Park, for our first camper experience. It was more of a, "OK we need to figure this being a camper person thing out, kinda trip." I kept referencing the huge pile of user guides and manuals for each system. We packed simple- hotdogs and smores and those tiny little boxed camping cereals- and headed off. Everything went amazingly well and we had figured out each system, and on Sunday we headed home, but unfortunately our education was not over.
Just after I said, "Wow, look at how bad the roads are as soon as you get to Syracuse," I heard a loud boom, and the trailer swerved. We hit a huge pothole and it blew the tire and rim apart. I limped to an offramp but could not get off the highway so I had to change it while the cars on 81 blew by us. Everybody was ok, but that tire and rim have seen better days.
I guess we got a thorough education. Here are the images from that trip.
Another free style shooting day that ended checking almost every box.
I was able to do some landscape photography, and also find an abandoned building and get some outside shots of it. I filled up with gas station coffee and I focused my efforts on the area around Montezuma Wildlife Area, Mentz, and Port Byron.
"The first hour is the rudder of the day."
-Henry Ward Beecher
I walked past him and instantly noticed the pipe. I paused knowing I had to ask for a portrait, and cataloged for a connection.
3, 2, 1, Go.
"I don't see too many people smoking pipes around here anymore."
My old roommate was Irish and smoked a pipe every Sunday and the smell was the same so I lead with that. He agreed to a photo and said he too was an Irishman and loved his pipe.
Nice guy. Took it this morning on our Sunday walk.
We were driving around Crawford Texas with the GPS off just enjoying the gravel roads and the beautiful scenery. Our Jeeps AC unit was struggling to try to compete with the 102 degree heat outside. The earth was dry and parched except for small masses of low trees like mesquite and live oak. Each homestead was landmarked by fencing and some type of large metal gate.
Every once and awhile a truck would pass us and the white stone gravel would create a cloud that carried off long in the distance. More vehicles than not were large pickups with lifted tires and cattle catchers on the front. I looked deeply into each cab hoping to see a cowboy, but they were just regular looking people, going about their day.
I had my small fuji x100t with me, and Jen was driving letting me jump out to get pictures whenever I spotted something. Just about the moment she said something I was wishing for- a truly Texas picture. I was thinking of what would really sum up our time driving and the ideas of gravel roads, long fence lines, or big iron gates moved through my mind. A second later I was thinking about symbols of Texas and, of course, my first thought was of a longhorn. Sadly all we had been seeing were horses or traditional dairy cows and they were mostly way out in the fields or hiding under the low trees.
A second later she said, "Um, there is a cow back there with big horns."
"Really?" I said. "Let's go back and see it, I was just thinking how cool it would be to see one."
She turned around and we saw this big guy and I shot maybe 10 photos of him as he posed. What I loved was how perfectly framed he was, with dark foliage in the back and a small delicate tree above him that was perfectly lit by the sun. The tree was almost glowing and he stood perfectly still as I shot a few images. I need to keep processing these images but I got a few I am happy with.
My wife and I started a tradition 6 years ago where instead of gifts for our anniversary we would alternate planning a secret trip for the other person. We alternate every year and this year was Jen's year to plan. This year she picked Austin, Texas and the surrounding areas as I have talked about going to Texas since we started watching the Fixer Upper show on HGTV. I wasn't really enamored by the show, as much as those cut away shots of the wide open countryside. Here are the images we took in Austin, Waco, Crawford, McGregor, and Taylor, Texas. Each section has a small description above it.
First a few big ideas:
1. Austin is hot in the summer. Like, really hot, above 100 everyday, sometimes 110. Our Uber drivers said stay inside between 1-6 pm and bring water everywhere. We napped.
2. Austin is about food trucks, and live music, and you can find them almost anywhere, at almost any time.
3. Austin is also known for bats. They have the largest population of urban brown bats in the country and seeing them leave at dusk from under a bridge is spectacular. PRO TIP: Go to the Four Seasons hotel and sit outside under the live oaks and drink till dusk, then walk down to one of the floating docks to watch them fly out. It's awesome.
4. Austin has a lot of HefeWeizen beer. It's light and fruit forward, so a few local people said it was very popular for the hot summer days. I really liked one called Live Oak.
Our Hotel - A small boutique hotel called the Heywood in East Austin - great location, amazing attention to detail. Minimalist modern.
Our day in Waco at Magnolia. Notes:
1. Waco is huge and so are the lines at Magnolia unless you go in the off season, like we did. We got up at 5:30 am to drive in and had a plan. A cop working crowd control I talked to said the worst time to go is between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We tried to get into the Magnolia breakfast spot in Waco but the line was 2-4 hours long at 10:00am.
2. Magnolia is smaller than we thought and isn't in the actual silos. Most of it is a shopping experience, with some food trucks and outdoor activities. The bakery was good, but again that line.
3. The cheapest thing at the Silos is a coffee cup at 18 dollars, so be prepared to pay for your experience.
4. The Dr. Pepper museum and some antique shops are right around the corner so that is nice.
5. Parking is available in the gravel lot behind the silos, but get there early if you want a spot.
6. Joanna's vision for the space was and is incredible, while there wasn't much for me to do besides shop, I did marvel at her designing an old industrial space into the destination that it has become. Impressive.
My favorite part of the whole trip was turning off the GPS in the rental Jeep and heading out to Crawford, McGregor, and Taylor, Texas. Small towns with gravel roads after gravel roads. Such a nice afternoon. Jen and I took turns driving as I hopped out taking pictures. We got lunch in McGregor and it was straight out of a movie set. I had fried chicken and lemon icebox pie, of course. Here are some shots from that day:
On our last day- and our anniversary- I got up early to shoot some street images of the Mexican neighborhood where our hotel was, then we drank French press on the porch. After it got too hot we headed to Barton Springs where a natural spring creates a reservoir for the locals to cool off in the constant 68 degree waters. The water is a cold contrast to the heat, as everyday we were there it was between 100-104 degrees.
Here is another batch of look up/architectural/street photos from our last walk in the city. It was early Sunday so not many people were out to actually photograph.
As many of you know, Jordan and I have been going down to the city to do street photography for almost a year or so to stretch our photographic skills. It hasn't been without its challenges and I can remember sitting in coffee shops drying off or hiding from snow/wind. Photographically, it has become one of my favorite genres, because I get to spend time with Jordan, and create photos, while feeling more connected to something bigger. This type of work is hard to do as introverts, but I feel both of us growing.
Last month, Jordan found out about a program called Art in the Windows and asked if I would be interested in applying for a grant. I said I was, but I was so busy with landscaping and drawing that he would basically have to do all of the leg work. He did and we were awarded a 750 dollar grant and now have our artwork on display on Salina Street in downtown Syracuse until September.
To celebrate, we would like to have a small get together at the Evergreen on Water Street around 6 pm on August 3rd. Our thoughts are to gather there, then take a gallery walk to view the images, which should not take long as there are only 6. Then, go back to the Evergreen to share a few drinks. We would love for you to join us!
Street photography is such a hard genre to pin down.
Is good work photos of people in spaces, and what is a good ratio of humanity to space? What if you capture a lonely street scene with only one person, vs a street filled with onlookers? What percentage is the right percentage?
Anyway here are few images from our last outing where, incidentally, very few people passed by early on a Sunday. So this is "street-ish."
In the time it took for us to take a few steps toward William, I thought about how truly lucky I am for all of the things I have been given and how generous life has been with me.
He looked up from his seat and asked, "Can you spare some change?", as I dug clumsily for my wallet.
I handed him some money as I asked what his name was.
"William Wallace," he said in a deep, muffled tone.
I asked if I could take his picture and I tried to get him to smile a few times as I knelt down and took three frames, but each time he kept his hand at his pocket, and gave me the same stare.
As I am leading up to the evening where Jordan and I are having a small gathering to show off our street work used for the Art in the Windows grant I wanted to reflect on something that has become so apparent lately.
Getting the ideas for anything is the easy part, and you can say anything that someone will let you, but the real work of this world is still a physical one. Hitting the streets every single week, camera in hand in good time and in bad is what the essence of photography or dare I say life is.
I almost want to tell people who have such positive comments about my photography that it simply isn't the eye or the training or the gear, it is just going out to do the work. I want to be honest, I come away with far more terrible pictures than usable ones and I am no different than anyone reading this story.
To be as honest and transparent as possible I will post some images from the more recent outing on Sunday. These are not instagram bangers, but are so important to the constant march of practice.
My alarm went off sometime before 4:00am, but I'm not really sure. When your alarm goes off that early, you jump awake as if something is wrong. It took me a second to realize why I was getting up. Bryant pulled up in his white pickup at 4:45, but heroically he had already been up for hours. Urbex is a labor of love.
Last night we had decided that today would be a "School Day," and that we would go to 2 locations, both beautiful abandoned schools. One gritty and one pristine.
My plan was to just enjoy the work, move slower, and break out of my comfort zone by using mostly a 50mm prime lens. On your second time around these places you are afforded few luxuries except maybe taking a deeper cut photographically. I decided to really work the details and to notice the finer points. I would read the text, and see things I had not seen on the first go around. I let the lens shape me and the work.
Also I knew Bryant was really good at what he does, and it would be hard to compete with his photographic skill. I wanted to compliment the images he was taking, and maybe take the less obvious images. Enjoy the images below, I will add more as I process them. Jump over to nightfoxcreative.com to see more of Bryant's work!
You can't take practice, especially photographic practice, for granted. Not only is it wonderful to walk and experience this world, this world, is one of action. There really is no substitute for putting good stuff in front of your lens. No new gear, no matter the features, the sensor size, or the click of the shutter will move you forward faster than good old fashioned practice.
Today I went out for two hours and did my usual setup. 2 hours, in 2 locations, one hour per location. I started down on a side street near SU, for the first hour and then followed up, with an hour near the Niagra Mohawk building.
Did I come up with amazing images? No, not really. But that isn't the point.
Jordan had been trying to talk me into this one for quite awhile. We had scouted it, but for some reason I just wasn't really into it. Well I have to say he was 100% right. What an amazing spot! We went through an overgrown lot to a small local gift shop that closed about 10 years ago. Jordan wanted to get into this spot for years as it has been rumored to be torn down soon for new development. We just could not let this place get demolished without documenting a spot as special as this. This location specialized in Christmas decor and also farm fresh fruits and vegetables. Sadly spray paint and damage from young people had taken it's toll on this place.
Story behind the Photos: “ Signs” We wanted to take an RV trip across New England but that got scrapped as soon as we saw the price. It was cheaper to fly to San Francisco and spend a week exploring the Bay and going to wine country. She had no idea I was going to propose. She loved wine, lights, and fancy dinners and I knew if she was going to be my wife, this was the perfect place for us to start. Weeks previous I had landed a huge landscaping job and I was stressed from the pressure cooker to exceed my own expectations. I was distant and I blamed it on the job, but I was nervous about a ring, a proposal, and the resulting marriage. A loner by birth, I was scared. How does one even go about proposing? I have to admit, I wanted a book, or a concise Youtube video on the topic, but the way someone else does it is irrelevant. How you propose has to be about you, and her, and the time has to be right. You just have to know, you have to feel it with every ounce of your being. I leaned against her parents kitchen counter and asked if it was ok if I married their daughter, and they said yes. I secured a diamond, and the trip to here began. On the trip, I was acting really weird, paranoid, and a bit distant; it was hard not to. I thought I would lose that dam ring. I kept checking my bag, almost like someone who is nervous about setting their alarm for work the next day. Checking, rechecking, every time she went to the bathroom, I double checked that damn ring. We spent a few days exploring San Francisco, then rented a car to drive up to Napa Valley for the night. At Sterling Winery we rode a gondola up to the top and I knew this was the place. She had a beautiful dress on and looked so good, I lost my train of thought. Every time I went to drop down on a knee, someone would come by. I was sweating, and gave up; I couldn’t do this with anyone else around. On the way back down on the gondola I gave myself a mental pep talk and came up with a plan. Closer to the car there was a secluded vineyard and I could lure her out there with the bait of taking a few pictures. She agreed and we spent a few minutes taking picture of each other. I saw my chance and got down in that soft dirt, and here we are today, married with a beautiful daughter. I wondered back then if I had seen a sign, or knew, that it was right. How in this life of endless choice do we choose a direction? When I got home I developed my images and saw this grape leaf that overlooked our proposal. If you look closely you can see a perfect heart shape cut out of the center of the leaf. What cosmic energy had caused nature to leave us that sign? I’ll never understand, I just know to trust it.