Lurking in the darkness of the power plant, lost in a lonely corner I see a flash of color in the beam of my flashlight.
Under the pale beam of diffused sunlight pouring in from the broken ceiling, the machine waits.
Today we visit the basement of an abandoned steam power plant in the south suburbs of Chicago. From the paperwork we found it went into operation in the early 50s only to be shut down in the late 70s.
I have to wonder who emptied the shelves, the former employees, or later visitors?
The shadow of the spring startled me, as I thought the shelves were empty. Then it fascinated me.
Glass rods left on a shelf, invaded by algae and rust. I would have never noticed them if not the bottle ammonium something left there are well.
So often I find myself in the dark, nothing but the gleam from a distant window or the power of my trusty little flashlight to illuminate my way, or subject.
At this point I think I have made a tripod and long exposure a way of life.
Often, in the dark, you see more then you would otherwise.
This particular location has an air of disquiet all its own. After parking in a suburban neighborhood and crossing a playground and empty field you enter the woods until you come out on a dirt road. Of course, you could walk up the dirt road in the first place but that is a great way to get noticed.
The building complex itself consists of three grain silos, and 3 large red brick buildings connected by questionable walkways and rust. We started by walking around the building which has easy access on pretty much every side. The property is unposted but no one in their right minds would spend too much time in it. Which is why we spent about 4 hours there, twice.
Sometimes you find the damnedest things in the woods.
On our first trip it was exceptionally windy, so all you could hear was the wind howling through the building shaking and banging various pipes, along with the occasional bird call and trains from the nearby railroad tracks. The second visit provided us with with much less wind so it was even quieter, until the children showed up on the playground.
The old boiler has grown a coat of moss and vines, the better to blend in to surroundings.
During my wanderings around the exterior I find myself feeling like I was in some weird fairy tale straight from the mind of Neil Gaiman. I think the light quality had a lot to do with it.
Holes made of rust.
Motor made of rust.
Gears made of rust.
Bucket elevator, made of rust.
I’ve been trying out this HDR everyone has been yammering on about and while perhaps I could have made better choices on what my subject was, so far I’m not too unhappy. So while I will not be shooting all or even mostly HDR, I am tentatively on the bandwagon at the moment.
After all, without HDR this photo would either have been all darkness with a little bit of light shining through, or a single wall with bright blown-out shapes in the darkness. While I feel like this might be a bit over much for the HDR effect I am generally pleased with what I got.
I am enjoying the deep range it offers, but I’ve seen so many photos that are so heavy on effect that I am a little leery of going overboard myself. Even though part of me enjoys the crazy effects I don’t want to detract from the subject. Of the photos I have processed thus far I think this one came out the best.
This area was near impossible to photograph, either the windows were blown-out or almost everything was too dark to see or make sense of. HDR seems like a great tool for urban exploring in particular because it allows you to more closely capture the level of depth a person sees in places that are generally very dark with extremely bright highlights. We have more trips planned before (and after) the snow starts flying here, so I will continue to attempt to learn this new tool. And while I am at it I think I have some photos from previous trips that I composed with the thought of trying HDR at some point, so we’ll see if there is anything there.
I’ve already learned lesson number one: Trees will always give you a bad halo effect. Next time I go back this location I have a plan for a shot that I tried while there which turned out horribly in HDR due to halo effect. Next step is figuring out how to cope with exterior building shots and fast moving clouds.
On our way home we decided to stop by Dinosaur National Park since I had not been there in almost 30 years. I could hardly remember the place to be honest, other than “Dinosaurs!”. Inside a building there is a giant wall of fossils, left embedded in the rock for all to see and appreciate. Here we see a Camarasaurus skull and neck vertebrae frozen in time. It is a humbling and awe inspiring place to stand, in the grave site of creatures that existed millions of years before humans did, yet we can still touch their bones and learn about the world they lived in.
Now it is time to head back to Chicago, I’ve done several photo trips since my Utah vacation and the urban exploring photos are piling up, waiting to be posted. Not to say I couldn’t find a location or two to poke my nose into while in Utah, that is.
In Zion National Park I took a moment to deviate from one of the paths at a bridge and follow a set of steps down to the creek. There wasn’t an actual path at the creek, I think the steps were there so you could cross it on some stepping stones as there were another set of steps on the other side, but I took several minutes to explore up and down the creek bed to see what I could.
Dragonflies, a profusion of dragonflies! And not a picture to show of them! There were little darting red ones, giant orange dreadnaughts, elegant bright blue and ominous iridescent black. The creek itself was full of little fish and despite the speed of the water there were even Water Striders. I found myself wishing desperately I had a better macro lens, but I am ok with the simple memory even if I can’t share the photo.
As I worked my way upstream (and seriously pissed off a ground squirrel by standing right in front of it’s bolt-hole) on a tumble of fallen tree I saw a flicker of movement. It was too small to be another ground squirrel, too big to be a bug. I crept closer and was treated to this sight.
Talk about adorable! I spent a good 15 or 20 minutes watching him sun himself and catch a few bugs while trying to take a good picture of him. I was careful to stay back enough to not disturb him too much though. Back at the visitor center a ranger helped me identify him a splotch sided lizard, but he mentioned that they are also known locally as “fence post lizards” which I think is some what more pleasant name.
Just look at that little face, I want to hug him!
Wherever I go I try to take wildlife photos, this trip was marked by the lack of wildlife photos. In no small part this was due to not hitting too many hiking trails since my father is unable to climb up and down hills and canyons like he used to, and many of my pictures are roadside shots. One notable exception was the begging ravens at Bryce Canyon, who stopped begging and started grooming since we were not feeding them.
Such a handsome bird.
As it turns out, while ravens are rather common all throughout the west these were the only two who I was able to take a decent photo of. Most the ravens we encountered looked to steal from you, rather than asking for handouts.
They were not the only beasts we had the pleasure of observing, pronghorn were pretty much everywhere, but as usual I failed to take a decent photo of one. Mule deer were also bountiful and I managed a halfway decent photo of one rather less than robust individual.
On the way out of Zion National Park we were treated to the sight of desert big horn sheep. Smaller in stature and horn than their mountain cousins seen here they are an endangered species who brought traffic to a virtual stand still early one morning by standing on steep slope and looking all dramatic.
On the way home we passed through Rocky Mountain National Park, right at the start of rut season for the elk. All the big bull elk declined to bring the ladies up where we could see them clearly, and the rangers were keeping people safe by not allowing them out into the fields to harass/be mauled or killed by the elk. Luckily this little fella wandered up and gave us his best side.
He did give us a bambi pose too, the show off.
Welcome to Cedar Breaks, the highest national monument in the United States. The wind was strong and cold and my fear of heights challenged by a total lack of safety rails (which is a bit of theme in the Utah Parks) but I still managed to get a couple of photos.
Of course, I simply must share a dead tree with you all, being that I haven’t posted one in a bit.