Follow me on my own VSCO Grid.
My work commute has kept me entertained for going on three years now.
Every day, the rural scenery is lovely – not matter what season it is. And I always pass things that I think to myself, “I’m going to pull over and grab a shot of that.”
Sometimes it takes months. Sometimes it takes a year or two. But eventually, I pull over and take the photo.
This barbed post, for instance, is something I’ve had my eye on since this summer. Now, with the autumn colors, I felt like it was the perfect time to capture it.
Patience. Weather. Observation. Scenery.
Albion, Michigan is one of those towns that was hit hard by the flight of rust belt industry. One big employer leaves and the whole town gasps.
There’s the college. And a few taverns to grab a bite to eat. A few manufacturers here and there.
But there’s also quite a few of abandoned spots in town – a glimpse at what this place used to look like, not so long ago.
Some of these structures were built to last. Strong brick and wood. It probably means they’ll last for decades.
They’ll probably outlast their original owners.
But others? The paint’s peeling. The wood is splintering. The glass is shattering.
It’s all going to hell, fading in the sun and the seasons.
There’s that old adage about one broken window in a neighborhood can’t be tolerated, or else more will appear. Here, though, people just drive past.
Jesus fading in the window. Boards protecting the inside from the sun’s rays and onlookers’ curiosity.
I don’t see this stuff as ruin porn or a fetishization of the Rust Belt Economy that’s dying (or in some places, dead). For me, it’s cool history.
Some of these places have a story, and lives attached to them. Who were they? What did they do here? How long did they hold out? Where are they now?
I don’t take many landscape photographs. Landscapes are lovely to see, when done right (read: not obnoxious HDR), but it’s probably the patience required that turns me off. You have to wait for the right combo of weather and subject.
But toward the end of summer, things line up just right, especially in my daily commute, and especially near where I live. The fall light, the earlier sunrises, the mist covering the fields – it’s all great for photos.
This one is a country block from my house. I caught it on the way home from the Jackson County Fair, in early August, and snapped it with my Canon EOS M (and edited with VSCO Film 04). Not bad for a little mirrorless camera with a pancake lens.
Landscapes still don’t interest me all that much, but I take advantage of the scenery when I see it.
As a kid, my family often went to Stagecoach Stop and Prehistoric Forest, and played putt-putt and drove go karts at the little amusement parks. Even back then there was a level of hokeyness – but it didn’t matter. Those places were tons of fun.
In high school, my dad and step mom were married at Stagecoach Stop’s little chapel, and their reception was held in the old timey tavern.
Stagecoach was a bustling place back in the day. You could watch a gun fight in the town square, grab some ice cream, pet a goat in the petting zoo, and even stay overnight in the motel. There was a working lumber mill, and horse rides, and a drive-through haunted Halloween tour.
Now those places are overgrown and fading away.
Driving down US-12 now, and passing through the Irish Hills, it feels like a ghost town. It’s almost like a run-down part of town, with all the windows broken out and no one left to protect it. Eventually, I’m sure, these roadside attractions will be mowed down completely.
Maybe the dinosaurs at Prehistoric Forest will survive. But more and more each year that place gets eaten by vegetation.
So last fall I took a drive out there, seemingly back in time, to capture some of those attractions I remembered from childhood. Before they disappeared.
At Stagecoach, I ran into a couple that was hosting a garage sale of sorts on the property. Most of the area was closed off, but I asked if I could walk around to grab some photos, and they said “yes.”
The Irish Hills Fun Center, a general amusement park with putt-putt and go karts, was completely abandoned. The kart track was still in decent shape, but the rest of the property was fading fast.
Prehistoric Forest, the true goal of my trip last fall, has been known as a target for vandalism. With motion sensors and cameras guarding the place, it was risky to try to grab photos of the place. When I drove past, there was a utility truck and a man taking measurements, so I played it safe and drove on.
Word is that the place has been sold. Who knows what will happen to it.
It was weird to see a place that was so bustling turn into such a dead spot. I may take another drive out there this fall to see what’s changed – if anything.
About every year, I need a mountain fix. To fly away from our flat-ish peninsula state and land somewhere above sea level.
Luckily, I’ve kept to that pretty consistently. I’ve used mountain states to escape, to reflect – and to drive.
The driving is therapeutic, too. I take in the countryside by mostly driving through it – with little stops along the way to get out and explore.
It’s not my style to stay in any one place for very long while traveling. I hit the highlights and move on to the next thing in fairly rapid succession.
But it’s important to absorb the highlights. Especially with mountain scenery. Soak it all up.
Michigan is a fantastic state. I love living here and traveling here. Seeing the lakes and the woods and the wilderness. Michigan, though, doesn’t have mountains.
Colorado has mountains. Virtually a whole state full of them.
And every once in a while, I get the itch to see them.
(Photos edited with VSCO Film 04.)
Nice photo series at Hudson / Hawk Barber Shop in Springfield, Missouri. (via The Lensman: Hudson | Hawk Barber & Shop)
— Fujifilmusa (@fujifilmusa) September 12, 2013
Fuji responded to my call for film makers (like themselves and Kodak) to run, not walk, into the digital film emulation and mobile photography business.
They’re right – and I said as much: Fuji is jumping into digital photography with both feet, and they should be commended. They’re making great stuff.
But in film emulation? Mobile apps? Not so much.
And Kodak? For crying out loud, they’re not even in the photography business any more.
So my point still stands: who better to do film emulations than the original film manufacturers?
And now with Totally Rad jumping into the game, the original film stock companies are getting further and further behind in the mobile/software arena.
Again, for Fuji, that’s fine. They’re doing a great business with the X-series of cameras.
For everyone else? Lots of luck.
UPDATE 9-13-13: Kodak responded on Twitter as well, suggesting that they’re still in the film business. However, my digging online found that while film stocks may have the Kodak name, they may not come from the original source. So what: film is film and it has Kodak on the box. For most people, that’s all that matters.
But again – whoever makes the film should be making the digital equivalent.
Also, kudos to Fuji for having some fun in this conversation.